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Week 20 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 28, Atlanta Falcons 24


San Francisco 49ers

QB Colin Kaepernick, Pass: 16 - 21 - 233 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 21 - 0

In the first two drives, Kaepernick and the 49ers offense looked like they were on the verge of getting blown out of the building. Despite the two three-and-outs and an early 17-0 deficit on the road, Kaepernick did not flinch. The run game and short passes in the second quarter gave Kaepernick some momentum as the game turned into a track meet leading up to halftime. While Matt Ryan was posting a game's worth of passing statistics in the first 30 minutes, Kaepernick held his own with two vital touchdown drives to trail at the half only 24-14. His pocket movement began to impact the Atlanta defense as the game wore on, including the read option, which worked far better with LaMichael James in the game instead of Frank Gore. In the second half, it was more Frank Gore in the read-option running game as the 49ers moved the ball at will outside of turnovers and a missed field goal. Kaepernick looked like a seasoned veteran instead of the first-year starter he is on the final drives. He was decisive in his decision-making and has one of the strongest arms in the entire league when he lets it rip. Kaepernick threw only 21 passes on the day, but completed all by five and did not turn the ball over. Those are tremendous achievements for a young quarterback on the road. He never wavered and, outside of the first two drives of the game, moved the offense nearly at will. On a team with playmakers in all three phases of the game, Kaepernick has a great chance to finish off his second NFL season with a Super Bowl ring in two weeks.

RB Frank Gore, Rush: 21 - 90 - 2

In a game that quickly became a track meet affair, Gore was not a consistent part of the offense in the first half; it was LaMichael James that saw significant action in the spread attack. Outside of a stretch with four straight carries for 21 yards, Gore was very much held in check for the first 30 minutes. The first drive in the second half, however, was a different story. Gore saw three straight carries on that drive alone, including a read option carry at the goal line which opened up a huge hole in the defensive front seven. As the second half played out, Gore's physical running style wore down the Atlanta defense. The battle of the line of scrimmage was eventually won by San Francisco. Gore ended up with 21 carries, despite only 50 offensive plays for the 49ers. Gore finished with the ultimate game-winning score on a read-option carry in the red zone to take the 28-24 lead in the final minutes. Kaepernick's skill in the spread running attack has aided Gore all year with bigger holes than he has enjoyed in years.

RB LaMichael James, Rush: 5 - 34 - 1, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0

After a fumble on an early kickoff, which was ruled down, James found his groove in the spread attack in the second quarter. He found open running lanes outside the tackles on the read option, including a red zone touchdown that pulled the 49ers to within 17-7. In the second half, James saw minimal action as Frank Gore was the lead back. James was efficient with his touches, however, logging seven and eight-yard gains on outside runs down the stretch.

WR Michael Crabtree, Rec: 6 - 57 - 0

Crabtree's involvement in the offense started slowly with a series of smoke screens and short targets as the 49ers struggled to establish a rhythm. As San Francisco's offense gained ground, Crabtree made more plays down the field, including an impressive deep crossing route in the fourth quarter. After finishing the catch in the red zone, Crabtree had a chance to cap off the drive with a touchdown. After catching a slant route, Crabtree fought hard for the end zone, but was stripped and fumbled at the one-yard-line. After another promising drive in the second half, San Francisco came up empty. Later in the fourth quarter, Crabtree redeemed himself with yards-after-the-catch on another smoke screen, this time in the red zone. Overall, it was an up-and-down game for Crabtree, who will get a chance for Super Bowl glory to cap off his breakout season.

WR Randy Moss, Rec: 3 - 46 - 0

Moss was used on situational snaps against Atlanta, but still made an impact. After just a single catch in the first half, Moss caught two deep targets as the Atlanta secondary showed respect for his deep speed with a big cushion on most plays. After failing to win a Super Bowl with the undefeated Patriots team in 2007, Moss will get another chance for a ring this season.

TE Vernon Davis, Rec: 5 - 106 - 1

Just when the offense looked stale in the early second quarter and the team was down 17-0, Vernon Davis came to life. The Falcons seemed to roll coverage away from the tight end as he collected four receptions and came wide open on every one of them in the second quarter, including a play-action touchdown catch. As the 49ers mounted their successful comeback in the second half, Davis was surprisingly silent after his strong first half. Davis logged a single catch (and target) in the final 30 minutes, coming wide open yet again on a deep corner route. After a disappointing close to the regular season, Davis has been efficient in the playoffs, which will continue in the Super Bowl after the 49ers' comeback win.

TE Delanie Walker, Rec: 1 - 20 - 0

Walker was minimally involved in the offense as Colin Kaepernick threw just 21 passes against Atlanta. Walker caught his sole on-target pass in the early third quarter on a deep crossing route. Later in the second half, Walker found tight coverage on a seam route and Kaepernick delivered one of his few inaccurate passes on the play.


Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, Pass: 30 - 42 - 396 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0

In what looked like a glorified seven-on-seven drill for the first half, Ryan put up a game's worth of statistics in just 30 minutes. He was rarely pressured, faced just four third downs, and put up 24 points with 297 total yards of offense in the process. Whether it was Roddy White, Julio Jones, or Tony Gonzalez, the entire passing game was firing on all cylinders. Despite that offensive domination, Atlanta had just a three-point lead when they got the ball early in the third quarter. While Ryan was the veteran quarterback of the matchup with Colin Kaepernick, it was he who flinched first (and last) in the tightly-contested second half. After an interception when Roddy White slipped on a comeback route, Ryan fumbled a routine shotgun snap. The 49ers controlled the clock in the second half with long drives, but Ryan and the offense had their chance on a fourth quarter drive, down by four points. They drove the length of the field, but failed on a fourth down in the red zone to essentially end the game. As Roddy White ran a crossing route at the first down marker, the tight coverage broke up the play. It was a tale of two halves for the Falcons, who were a handful of yards away from their first Super Bowl berth since the storied 1998 team. As Atlanta heads to the offseason, it is worth noting that Ryan landing directly on his left shoulder late in the game and was favoring it as the game concluded.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Rush: 10 - 32 - 0

Rodgers was in a dead heat with Michael Turner for playing time in the first half. Turner injured his ankle in the third quarter, giving Rodgers the opportunity for a larger role, which he shared with Jason Snelling. In the second half is when Rodgers actually had some success with two nine-yard runs, breaking multiple tackles on each occasion. His best chance for a big play in the passing game came on a wheel route early in the game. The late throw killed any chance Rodgers had to haul in the potential red zone touchdown pass.

RB Michael Turner, Rush: 8 - 30 - 0

After seeing just eight carries in a split role with Jacquizz Rodgers, Turner sustained an ankle injury early in the second half. He did not see the field again as Jason Snelling and Rodgers saw the running back action for the remainder of the game. Considering that one of Turner's carries totaled 11 yards with a wide open running lane, Turner's production was nearly non-existent this week against San Francisco.

RB Jason Snelling, Rush: 2 - 12 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0

Snelling saw an increase in his playing time with Michael Turner leaving the game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Outside of a well-blocked 12-yard run, Snelling's impact on offense was minimal.

WR Julio Jones, Rec: 11 - 182 - 2

The second-year receiver looked more focused than ever in the biggest game of his NFL career to-date. He put on a show with 100 yards and a long touchdown in the first quarter alone and added another beautiful touchdown catch to open the second quarter. Jones showed a full arsenal of skills in the early going by boxing out a defender on a short contested catch, blowing past a confused safety on a deep route, and showing good hands with defenders on his hip. Jones continued his impressive performance in the second half with two clutch receptions. One came after a big hit on a deep in-cut route and another on a key third down comeback route. While finishing with over 180 yards and two touchdowns on the day, Jones had a deep target broken up by a defensive back in the fourth quarter, potentially adding 40 or more yards to his total. After a huge second season, the sky is the limit for Julio Jones as a top-5 receiver in 2013.

WR Roddy White, Rec: 7 - 100 - 0

While White took a backseat to Julio Jones with the big plays, he had a very solid game in his own right against San Francisco. White was the possession receiver as always, making the key receptions against single coverage. Like the rest of the Falcons' offense, White struggled in the second half. After 91 yards in the first 30 minutes, White had just a single reception in the second half. He saw a deep target, a likely touchdown, but it was broken up by the defensive back in tight coverage on the play. On what was essentially Atlanta's last chance to win the game, a fourth down play in the red zone, White was well-covered and could not haul in a short crossing route target. With Michael Turner fading in 2012 and Tony Gonzalez possibly not returning in 2013, White and Julio Jones could be even bigger parts of the offense in 2013.

WR Harry Douglas, Rec: 3 - 31 - 0

Douglas did not see a target until the fourth quarter, but made three receptions, including one of the few controversial plays of the game. After the defensive back fell on the play, Douglas made a diving catch that was challenged. The ball was moving as Douglas rolled on the ground, but remained a catch, sending Jim Harbaugh through the Georgia Dome roof in disbelief. After Douglas' final catch, a quick out, he came up limping. He stayed in the game following that play.

TE Tony Gonzalez, Rec: 8 - 78 - 1

In what could have been Gonzalez's final NFL game, he did not want to go quietly. With his signature savvy route running and elite hands, he owned the short area of the field versus the San Francisco linebackers and safeties. One of his highlight plays came to finish off the two-minute drill in the first half. Gonzalez faked a block on a linebacker as if it were a receiver screen, only to loop past him and find the end zone for the touchdown. The timing and execution between Gonzalez and Matt Ryan was absolutely perfect to take the 24-14 lead into the half. As the 49ers controlled the clock in the second half, Gonzalez's impact on the game waned. As the camera focused on Tony Gonzalez as the time ran out on Atlanta's Super Bowl hopes, one had to wonder if that was indeed his final game. His 2012 season was arguably his best in Atlanta and they were just a handful of yards away from a potential game-winning score late in the game.


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