NFC Championship Game 2013: Falcons offensive cheat sheet

Gregory Shamus

We take a look at the different aspects of the Atlanta Falcons offense heading into Sunday's NFC Championship Game

During the season, we try and do a variety of interaction with the blogs of 49ers' opponents. Normally this just focuses on the "Five Questions" and "Ask Blog X" FanPost on each site. This week I wanted to try something a little different. I spoke with the folks at The Falcoholic, and we decided to try and provide a bit broader preview.

With that in mind, we have put together a rundown of the various positional units on each team. Each section includes a rundown of the starter and reserves (with jersey numbers in parenthesis). Then we wrote up a short paragraph on each unit to provide some storyline and context. We'll likely do some "Five questions" as well, but this can act as a sort of Falcons cheat sheet.

Today, we are looking at the Falcons offensive units. I put together a write-up on the 49ers offensive units, so feel free to head over and discuss at The Falcoholic. In the meantime, here is what Alex Welch had to say about the Falcons offense.

Quarterback

Starter: Matt Ryan (2)
Reserves: Luke McCown (12)

The leader of the team and the face of Atlanta sports, basically, Matt Ryan continues to prove he can hack it under immense pressure. Last week he put the Falcons in field goal range with the game on the line after connecting on just two passes downfield. Sure, his game can be erratic at times (see: Week 11 vs. Cardinals). Even under pressure, Ryan completes 51.9 percent of his passes, good enough for fifth-best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Never count him out. All he needs is 31 seconds to win a ballgame. If it's under 30, though, we're screwed.

Running back

Starter: Michael Turner (33)
Reserves: Jason Snelling (44), Jacquizz Rodgers (32), Antone Smith (35), Mike Cox (FB, 42)

Watching Michael Turner run this year was like watching Men in Black 3. There were good moments here and there, but at the end of the day you just complained and reminisced about good it used to be. Then, out of nowhere, he averaged seven yards per carry against the Seahawks and looked like The Burner of old. Jacquizz Rodgers provides a change of pace back who will easily break your ankles given the chance. Jason Snelling isn't a huge part of the game plan, but he gives 110 percent every time he touches the ball. The Falcons finished 29th overall in the run during the regular season. Considering the 49ers are pretty stout against opposing ground games, the Falcons may turn to short dump offs and screens to make up for a rushing attack if things get rough.

Wide receiver

Starters: Roddy White (84), Julio Jones (11)
Reserves: Harry Douglas (83), Drew Davis (19)

The best wideout duo in the league (biased observer here) creates a nightmare for any secondary. Roddy White and Julio Jones both saw 10 targets against the Seahawks. When Julio was double-covered, Roddy stepped up. You can't completely take away both receivers without leaving a mismatch somewhere else. Richard Sherman was targeted eight times in coverage on Sunday. He only gave up two receptions, but one was a 47-yard touchdown to White. The Falcons need to keep testing opposing corners, because as we saw in the divisional round, eventually one of these two takes the top off the defense. Harry Douglas will show up here and there, but he stays quiet most of the time.

Tight end

Starter: Tony Gonzalez (88)
Reserves: Michael Palmer (81), Chase Coffman (86)

Aside from a beautiful sideline catch from Chase Coffman against Seattle, Tony Gonzalez is really the only Atlanta tight end you need to worry about. He's a future Hall of Famer, we can all agree there. Even though he's 36 years old, he's still capable of making the highlight reel every week. Gonzalez dominates in single coverage. He'll sit on a short route over the middle, make a wide turn upfield and pick up a first down often. We see it every week. Referencing his basketball playing days, Gonzalez has no problem boxing out defenders.

Offensive line

Starters from left to right: Sam Baker (72), Justin Blalock (63), Todd McClure (62), Peter Konz (66), Tyson Clabo (77)
Reserves: Mike Johnson (79)

They're not a dominant front five, but they get the job done. Sam Baker has really stepped up his game in 2012 after drawing severe criticism in years past. He may need help, though, with Aldon Smith, so expect an extra tight end or running back to chip on that side. The Falcons only gave up seven hurries and one hit on Ryan against Seattle (keep in mind that was without Clemons). Run blocking was a huge success last weekend. We'll see if they can sustain that impressive play against another tough defense.

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