More than almost any other team in the league, the San Francisco 49ers employ an effective power rushing attack to move the ball down the field methodically and control the clock.
The 49ers' ability to capitalize on traps, sweeps and wham plays with their tight ends used as blockers in motion explains why few opponents have been able to stop their running game over the past two seasons. A signature statistic from Pro Football Focus quantifies the 49ers' success on short runs.
While yards per carry is often used as a metric to assess running backs, the figure often gets distorted by long gains. Consequently, the website has measured the “pulse rate” of running backs throughout the league by examining their yards per carry on runs of 10 yards or fewer.
Two 49ers running backs -- Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore -- are ranked in the top 15 league-wide. By comparison, the Falcons' top backs -- Michael Turner (2.93 yards per carry) and Jacquizz Rodgers (3.14 ypc) -- are each ranked 60th or below. Hunter, meanwhile, ranks first with a pulse average of 4.49 ypc, while Gore is 11th (3.87 ypc). It could be a concern for the Falcons heading into Sunday's NFC Championship.
The Falcons, though, could benefit from defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's familiarity with the 49ers. Nolan served as the head coach with the 49ers from 2005-08. And last week, the Falcons held bruising Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch to 46 yards on 16 carries.
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“He (Nolan) is one of the brightest defensive minds in the league,” 49ers owner Jed York told the Associated Press. “He knows our team fairly well. It's definitely going to give them an advantage.”
On offense, Atlanta rushed for a season-high 167 yards on 6.4 yards per carry against Seattle. The 49ers ended the regular season ranked fourth against the run (94.2 yards per game).
“We will have a plan… it will have nothing to do with last week,” Falcons OC Dirk Koetter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Their front seven is as tough as it gets. Their safeties are very physical.”
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