NFC Championship Game preview: Colin Kaepernick, solid defense will lead 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013 Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga. Aside from Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan serving as the 49ers head coach from 2005-08, there are not many story lines or much of a recent history between the two combatants for the NFC Championship Game. The last time the two teams met was in the 2010 regular season, with the 49ers jumping out to a 14-0 lead before the Falcons stormed back to win 16-14 on a last minute field goal by Matt Bryant. The Falcons and 49ers are former NFC West rivals, however, with San Francisco holding a 44-29-1 advantage in the regular season, while the Falcons defeated the 49ers 20-18 in the 1998 divisional playoffs. When the 49ers have the ball : As the Green Bay Packers learned last Saturday night, the 49ers offense flows through Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers ran 75 offensive plays and the 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada had his hand on the ball 48 times, or 64 percent of the plays. Kaepernick completed 17-of-31 pass attempts for 263 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and was sacked once. Kaepernick added 16 rushing attempts for 181 yards - an NFL single-game record for a quarterback - and two more touchdowns. That should frighten the Falcons, who last week were granted a read-option reprieve from Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who elected to not employ that strategy with Russell Wilson, a smaller, less dynamic athlete and runner than Kaepernick. The 49ers can be expected to try and run on the Falcons, who ranked 21st in rushing allowed per game and were 29th in rushing yards allowed per play. With John Abraham missing most of the divisional playoffs win over the Seahawks after aggravating a left ankle he originally injured late in the meaningless regular season finale loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 49ers will find where the 34-year-old Abraham is on each play and run in his direction with Kaepernick or Frank Gore, who quietly ran for 119 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over the Packers. When Kaepernick puts the ball in the air, it is most likely going to either Michael Crabtree, who caught nine passes (on 11 targets) for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week and has (finally) emerged as the No. 1 receiver many thought he'd be when the 49ers selected him with the tenth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. With Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson in the secondary, Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics had the Falcons ranked in the Top 10 against their opponents' top two receivers in the regular season, but were weakest (21st) against their opponents' tight ends. That could result in the 49ers involving Vernon Davis more in the passing game. Ever since catching six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in Kaepernick's first NFL start on Nov. 19, Davis has just seven receptions (on 17 targets) for 105 yards in seven regular and postseason games.