Today's NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons features an electric matchup between two very talented quarterbacks. Colin Kaepernick is coming off of a record breaking performance in which he torched the Green Bay Packers on the ground and through the air en route to his first playoff victory (in as many starts), while Matt Ryan was able to finally shake the proverbial monkey (see: King Kong) off his back and produce his first playoff win in four career starts.
So, with a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on the line: let's take a look at what each quarterback brings to the table.
Kaepernick has made a tremendous impact on the 49ers since taking over the starting role from Alex Smith in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears. He brings a new dimension to the 49ers offense with his dynamic running abilities; as well as his rocket of an arm. Since taking the reigns, Kaepernick has had seven 200-plus yard passing games, has had at least one touchdown pass in all but two of those games and only has four interceptions.
We all saw what he did against the Packers last week, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for an NFL Playoff Record 181 yards and two more touchdowns. Now, its obvious he has the ability to have similar numbers week in and week out if the rest of the offense is performing as well as they were last week; but it’s unlikely he’ll have such crazy-impressive numbers again this week. San Francisco is hurting for healthy receivers
and Atlanta’s secondary has the ability to do a decent job of shutting down the 49ers’ receivers. If this is the case, San Francisco is likely to lean heavily on Kaepernick and their running backs to dissect the Falcons’ suspect run defense.
In his limited time as a starter in the regular season, Kaepernick’s best numbers in terms of yards per game, touchdowns and passer rating have all come on the road; on turf fields. But, he also threw all three of his regular season interceptions on turf, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Statistical Average: 17/28, 234 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, two touchdowns 0.5 interceptions and a 97.9 rating.
Statistical Average: (Away): 18/30, 226 passing yards, 43 rushing yards, 1.8 touchdowns, 0.8 interceptions and a 91.8 rating.
Statistical Projections: 18/26, 204 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 102.08 passer rating, 126 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
Ryan had another good season, racking up 4,969 passing yards and 35 touchdowns; good for third and fifth place respectively. He led Atlanta to a 13-3 record, the NFC’s No. 1 seed and finally notched his first playoff victory. But, despite these impressive numbers, Ryan had a very up-and-down second half. He hit a mini slump in Weeks 11-13, where he threw six interceptions and only two touchdowns, but Atlanta was still able to win all three games. Then after a loss to the Carolina Panthers in which he threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns; Ryan proceeded to torch the New York Giants and Detroit Lions the next two weeks for a combined 517 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
In his first career playoff victory last week, Ryan had an impressive, two touchdown first half. But in the second half, Ryan and Atlanta came out flat; he threw two costly interceptions and if not for a late touchdown pass, the Falcons may have lost that game.
The 49ers’ goal this weekend will be to completely shut down the Falcons’ running game, and force them to rely on Ryan and the passing game. If they can do that; San Francisco’s impressive front seven will have a field day blitzing and putting pressure on Ryan. But, if the Falcons’ line can give Ryan a few seconds in the pocket; his talented receivers should be able to find the space they need, and it will be up to Ryan to get the ball out quickly and accurately.
Regular Season Average: 26/38, 295 passing yards, two touchdowns, 0.88 interceptions and a 99.1 passer rating.
Regular Season Average (Home): 24/37, 269 passing yards, 1.4 touchdowns, 1.13 interceptions and a 86.2 passer rating.
Statistical Projections: 29/46, 281 passing yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 76.45 passer rating.