When the Atlanta Falcons' beleaguered run defense faces the 49ers in Sunday's NFC championship game, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's unit will encounter one of its most daunting challenges of the season.
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The Falcons will face an emerging star in 49ers dual-threat QB Colin Kaepernick. In Saturday's 45-31 win over the Packers, Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards -- an NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback. The Falcons ended the regular season ranked 29th in the league in rushing yards allowed per play (4.8 yards). Atlanta also is ranked last in running yards allowed after contact (2.1), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“You want to put some tags on him if he keeps the ball in his hands,” Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud told USA Today Sports. “Somebody has to have eyes on him to make sure we keep him in the pocket.”
It will be critical for the Falcons to contain Kaepernick on runs to the outside. Packers OLB
Falcons DE John Abraham practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday with a sprained ankle. Though Abraham's injury could limit his snap count, Falcons coach Mike Smith expects the 13-year veteran to start against the 49ers.
The Falcons have had mixed results in 2012 against dual-threat quarterbacks.
Last week, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson finished with 445 total yards in the loss to Atlanta, including 60 rushing yards on seven carries. In two regular-season games against the Falcons, Cam Newton had 18 rushes for 202 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run. Robert Griffin III had 98 total yards in a Week 5 loss to Atlanta, before leaving the game early in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms.
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