Perhaps the best weapon the Atlanta Falcons will have on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers come to the Georgia Dome will be the Georgia Dome itself.
Or the absence of the Candlestick Park, at least.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is getting a lot of love this week due to his incredible performance against the Green Bay Packers a week ago. He deserves it — it’s been a very successful season for San Francisco, especially after head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to bench Alex Smith and start Kaepernick. They’re 6-2-1 since the 25-year-old Kaepernick took the reins.
But in those nine games, they were winless in two tries against the St. Louis Rams and were dealt a 29-point loss by the Seattle Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest. In other words, they’re not perfect, and neither is their quarterback.
He’s still pretty darn good, though.
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Kaepernick has thrown four interceptions in those nine games, including a pick-six in the first drive of last weekend’s game against the Packers. His response was uncanny for a first-year player — 263 passing yards and 181 rushing yards don’t usually follow a massive blow like an early interception that gets returned for a touchdown. If that happens again in the Georgia Dome, however, momentum might swing a little further in the Falcons’ direction than it did for Green Bay last Saturday. It’s tougher to stop the train from running off-course when the crowd isn’t behind you.
Here’s the weird thing about those games the 49ers didn’t win: Kaepernick actually played pretty well. He had his two best rushing games of the regular season against the Rams, and he didn’t throw an interception in either contest. In the blowout loss to the Seahawks, it would appear the blame was more on the defense. The 49ers might have only scored six points in the first half of that game, but they allowed 28 points during that 30-minute span. For the Falcons, it might be more about containing Kaepernick in any way possible and getting a first-half lead like they did last Sunday.
With Kaepernick, San Francisco was 2-2 on the road. One of those wins was a 41-34 nailbiter in New England, where they choked away a 31-3 lead and had to score twice in the final seven minutes of the game to hold on. This team isn’t the perfection you’re supposed to believe they are. Should they be favored based on the games played last week? Maybe, but you have to consider their struggles on the road and wonder if they’re favored by too much.
I believe the Falcons are going to benefit from home-field advantage over a West Coast team for the second week in a row. I’m not guaranteeing the Falcons will win, but I definitely think they have a better shot than most people are saying.
But to advance to the Super Bowl, the Falcons will have to contain the opposing quarterback, because if he performs like he did against the Packers, Atlanta’s road to the Big Game might be a dead-end route.