1. No mistakes from QB Matt Ryan
The 49ers went 11-4-1, which means there are five games they didn't win -- and those games have something in common: Efficient play from the opposing quarterback. In losses to the Rams, Giants, Vikings and Seahawks (and a tie with the Rams), opposing quarterbacks combined to throw nine touchdown passes and one interception against the San Francisco defense. That's 1.8 touchdown passes per game and 0.2 interceptions. In San Francisco's 11 wins, opposing quarterbacks threw 10 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. That's 0.9 touchdown passes per game and 1.2 interceptions. The Falcons shouldn't need a career-day from Ryan to beat San Francisco, but they will need him to avoid costly interceptions, something Ryan has had trouble doing in the playoffs. In four career postseason games -- including last week's win over Seattle -- Ryan has thrown six picks and six touchdown passes. If Ryan can play mistake-free football, which won't be easy to do against the league's third-ranked defense, the Falcons could well be headed to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
2. Contain 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
If the Falcons are going to stop Kaepernick -- or at least slow him -- they're going to have to put pressure on him. The Packers had trouble pressuring Kaepernick last week and the responded by throwing for 263 yards and rushing for an NFL playoff quarterback-record 183 yards. The health of Falcons DE John Abraham will most likely play a big factor in Atlanta's ability to slow down Kaepernick. Remember, Abraham only played a half against the Seahawks last week and that was the first half when the Falcons held Seattle scoreless. With Abraham sitting out the second half with an ankle injury, the Seahawks were able to rally from 20 points down. Keeping Kaepernick in the pocket will be important as well, just ask Packers coach Mike McCarthy, "We did not do a very good job of keeping [Kaepernick] in the pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket for a number of big conversions."
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3. Don't forget about 49ers RB Frank Gore
After Kaepernick's record-setting game against the Packers last week, no one will blame Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for designing a game plan that focuses on the QB. But what the Falcons can't do is forget about Gore. Atlanta had trouble stopping the run during the regular season -- it ranked 21st -- and the Falcons are going to get a confident running back on Sunday in Gore, who ran for 119 yards against Green Bay. Last week's game marked the first time since October that Gore crossed the 100-yard mark. If the Falcons can't hold Gore under 100 yards, its most likely going to mean a loss. Dating to 2010, San Francisco is 10-0 when Gore has run for more than 100 yards.
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