NFC: 49ers (12-4-1) at Falcons (14-3)
Both teams seek their first Super Bowl berth since the 1990s. The 49ers have great balance. They have a hard-nosed defense that makes moving the ball tough and an offense that can make plays through the air and on the ground, led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick who stunned the NFL with 181 yards rushing and 444 total yards in last weekend's division win over the Packers. The Falcons present problems with their litany of playmakers, led by their core stars of quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. They combine to give the Falcons perhaps their best offense in franchise history.
Time: 3 p.m. today TV/radio: Ch. 13; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM
Coaches: 49ers — Jim Harbaugh (24-7-1, 2-1 playoffs); Falcons — Mike Smith (56-24, 1-3 playoffs)
Breaking it down
49ers game-breaker: Fourth-year receiver Michael Crabtree is enjoying a breakout season, living up to his status as the 10th overall draft pick in 2009. He is finishing strong, with three 100-yard games over his past six outings, including 173 in the regular-season finale against the Cardinals.
Falcons game-breaker: Michael Turner's 98 yards rushing against the Seahawks in Atlanta's division win last weekend was one of his best games this season. If the Falcons, who haven't run well this season, get him going, it changes the complexion of today's game.
Why the 49ers will win: Their offensive balance and unpredictability will put too much strain on a much-improved Falcons defense that hasn't faced this kind of attack.
Why the Falcons will win: The defense learns some important lessons from previous games against dual-threat quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson) and shows the discipline necessary to make Kaepernick one-dimensional.
Look out for: Falcons defensive end John Abraham is a key to slowing Kaepernick. He has a sore ankle and might not be himself, but the Falcons need everything he can muster.
49ers 28, Falcons 23
Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer
Rushing yards allowed
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total yards allowed
* Final regular-season stats