Week 16/Game 15: Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers
When: Monday night, December 23rd 5:30pm PT/8:30pm ET
Where: Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Ca.
TV: ESPN (National)
Northern California: KPIX 5 San Francisco
Northern Georgia area: WSB 2 Atlanta
Announcers: Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden
Candlestick’s Final Act- The 49ers will host the Atlanta Falcons this Monday night in what most likely to be the final event at Candlestick Park. Having opened in 1960, the 49ers moved to the windy confines in 1971 from the old Kezar Stadium and have called Candlestick their home for the last 42 years. That all comes to a close Monday night before a national television audience via ESPN who will share what will be the end of an era in San Francisco 49ers history. There are too many memories at Candlestick to list here and not near enough time. The old stadium has seen many events both good and bad, and has been the stage for many 49ers successes and even failures. As the 49ers bid farewell to their home for over four decades, there is also business at hand to take care of in the name of the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
Un-Falcon Believable- That’s probably the bet way to describe the Falcons’ 2013 season as they enter this game with a 4-10 mark nobody would have ever dared predict. This is the same Falcons team that a year ago was the top seed in the NFC and hosted the 49ers in the NFC title game deep in the heart of Georgia. The 49ers won the game 28-24, but not before getting all they could handle having rallied from a 17 point second quarter deficit. The 49ers had to hold off one last Falcons push which in the end left Atlanta just 15 yards short of their second ever Super Bowl appearance. Fast forward to 2013 and simply put nothing has gone right for the Falcons this year. You can argue the Falcons are better than their record and they may very well be. Whether it’s injuries or just a great deal of bad luck and misfortune very little has gone the Falcons way in 2013. That said the Falcons are still professionals and will show up for this game. It may be only for pride, however the 49ers have to handle this game as if the Falcons were 10-4 and be ready to bring their best game to the field. Playoff positioning is still at stake for the red and gold and if they want to climb above the number six seed they will need this game for certain.
Falcons Overview- Quarterback Matt Ryan by all accounts has had a tough year yet statistically he still has very strong skills and can duel with any other quarterback on any given game day. Ryan has complete 67% of his passes and enters the game with 374 competitors for 3887 yards to date. Ryan has some good targets to throw to in veterans Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzales, Roddy White and Julio Jones. Jacquizz Rodgers has come out of the backfield to give Ryan another option with either the run or pass. Former Rams running back Steven Jackson makes his home with the Falcons now and is the main go to man in the backfield alongside Jason Snelling. Overall the Falcons the way the season has gone for them this year rank in the lower third of the NFL offensively however are eighth overall in passing yards gained. On defense it’s a different story as Atlanta is in the bottom third of the league in all major defensive categories. The Falcons are prone to giving up chunks of yardage on the ground in addition to in the air. This may very well be where the Falcons troubles have lied all season. The Atlanta defense is led by Paul Worrilow who has 109 tackles this season. William Moore, Desmond Trufant, Robert McClain, Thomas DeCoud and Joplo Bartu are amongst a group that has had a rough year yet still make plays and have never quit on a play this season. They way things have gone for their defense in particular, their units are all but earning combat pay at this point and time. Veteran kicker Matt Bryant handles the field goal and extra point duties while Matt Bosher takes care of the punts.
What 49ers Need To Do Here- The 49ers despite their opponents short comings this season cannot afford to even think of taking the Falcons lightly. Atlanta certainly has nothing to lose here and that’s what makes them most dangerous. The 49ers need to handle their business here in much the same way they did in Tampa last Sunday. Keep the game plan simple and basic enough on both sides of the football. On offense Colin Kaepernick needs the offensive line to give him the time he needs to orchestrate the 49ers offensive attack and they should be able to do that here. The Falcons rate 29th in the NFL in rush yards allowed meaning the 49ers should be able to get an effective run game going with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, and just maybe even have some options with Kaepernick and the read option. The Falcons rate 25th in passing yards allowed which means Kapernick given time should be able to get the ball distributed evenly to Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and maybe even use Gore, Hunter or LaMichael James out of the backfield. Again, it’s all about keeping the game simple. On defense the 49ers may be the highest ranked defense the Falcons have seen this season next to Seattle. The Falcons who have had their offensive woes amongst may this year are facing a 49ers defense that is in the top five of the NFL in three of the four major categories and 6th in the fourth category (rush yards allowed). If the defense does their job Atlanta will have a tough time moving the ball effectively. The key will be getting plenty of pressure on Ryan early and often. Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NoVarro Bowman and Justin Smith are amongst those who Ryan will probably see more of than he wants to. In the secondary Donte Whitner, Eric Reid, Trumaine Brock and company have the job of locking down a talented Falcons receiving corps. If in need of field goals Phil Dawson has been red hot and has gotten better with each game.
Kingshark Line- This 49ers team is the one closing Candlestick Park. There will be a lot on their shoulders as they are not only representing themselves but all 49ers teams who have played their since 1971, long before anyone on the current team was even born. There is a responsibility that comes with this, and at the same time you cannot lose sight of the task at hand. If the 49ers are able to establish their game (and they certainly should be able to) they should have a good evening. The 49ers should be able to close out Candlestick Park on a high note. Yes, they will have to work for it. If they do what they are capable of they will be fine. 49ers 27 Falcons 16.
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