This Week in Niners Nation: Conference Championships 2013 Edition

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

This Week in Niners Nation, a weekly revisiting of Niners Nation content. With many questions facing the team answered in spectacular fashion against the Packers, the team has a full head of steam heading into the NFCCG vs the Atlanta Falcons.

There were quite a few uncertainties heading into last Saturday's meeting with the Green Bay Packers. Would Justin Smith be his usual self after missing the last two and a half games with a partially torn triceps? Would Colin Kaepernick be able to outplay yet another MVP-caliber quarterback, or would the magnitude of the moment get to him? Were the Packers, favored by a majority of experts in this game, despite losing in Week 1 at home to the Niners, actually the better team? The 49ers could not have come out of the game looking any better as they thoroughly dominated an overmatched Packers squad en route to a 45-31 victory behind Colin Kaepernick's record-setting performance.

By now you would have read plenty about what Kaepernick accomplished in the encounter. 16 carries for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground to go with 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air. That's 444 yards of total offense with 4 touchdowns. It's hard to imagine a better playoff debut for a quarterback making his 8th career start. He was amazing on third down, which you all know was our undoing in last season's playoffs, and the Packers defense had no answer for his unique skillset.

I couldn't be happier with the state of the team going forward. What I learned from the Packers game is that when we play our best football, nobody will beat us. What we've learned from the first 17 games of the season is that we tend to beat ourselves every third game. Let's get that W-W-L monkey off our back.

49ers 45, Packers 31

Let's start things off with Fooch's video recap of the Packers game. After Kaepernick's shaky start on his second throw, the second-year signal caller went absolutely bananas on the Packers. B-A-N-A-N-A-S, to quote Gwen Stefani. | 49ers vs Packers recap video: How 'bout them Niners? (Fooch)

Some of the players reactions said it better than any of us scribes ever could. So we'll let them have the microphone for a moment. | Post game quotes from Harbaugh, Roman, players (Fooch)

We mentioned this was a record-setting performance and you didn't believe us. Fooch is going to set you straight with some stats, charts and the like. | Post game notes from a record-setting night (Fooch)

I wanted to note that the defense only played 58 snaps! Remember our games against the Patriots and the Seahawks? The defense played over 90 snaps in each of them and looked absolutely haggard by halfway through the Seattle game. If we're going to win the Super Bowl, we must be fresh. | 49ers snap count vs Packers: What to glean for the NFC Championship Game (Fooch)

Liberty_JAC takes a look at everyone's hero, Justin Smith, and his inspiring role as Robo-DE, in the Divisional Round matchup against the Packers. He notes that, while Green Bay had 31 points, 7 were scored by the defense and 7 were in garbage time (they shouldn't have occurred as Tarell Brown's interception would have negated them, had it not been for the phantom PI call). That's 17 meaningful points by the GB offense. Smith's game was not particularly well-received by the folks at Pro Football Focus, but just having him there is like a security blanket for Linus. It should also be noted that dudes with bionic arms went 2-0 last weekend (see Ray Lewis) | All-22 look at Justin Smith's NFC Divisional Round game (liberty_JAC)

NFCCF: 49ers at Falcons

Before we get into all of the analysis of the ensuing game, and there will be plenty, here's a bit of history for your perusal. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We lost our only ever playoff encounter to the Falcons, 20-18 in 1999. The Falcons went to the Super Bowl that season, behind Jamal 'third person' Anderson. Aaron thinks things will be different this time. | 49ers-Falcons history and the last time they met. (Fooch)

If CK7 was clearly the offensive MVP in the Packers game, Tarell Brown was the man on defense (though Patrick Willis can stake a claim). Brown will need to have another monster game against the Falcons as he's likely to be matched up with Julio Jones, who's quickly becoming one of the best receivers in the league. The 49ers secondary has done a wonderful job at keeping teams' passing games in front of them and will be required to do it again against another high-octane passing attack with more targets than an archery range. | The importance of Tarell Brown for the 49ers (DeSimone)

Does anyone ever think about the Mike Nolan era anymore? Was it even an era? I tend to lump all of those years in together as the 'crappy era'. Nolan will have his hands full this weekend as the Falcons defensive coordinator trying to stop Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, and the 49ers running game. The Falcons were less than spectacular against the run, ranking 21st in the league. That may even be inflated as Atlanta played with a lead more than most other teams, forcing opponents to pass more often. | The 49ers and the return of Mike Nolan (Hanson)

Anthony Ly's Booth Review notes some things about the Falcons. They are a very similar team to the Packers, but even worse on the ground. They did have some success on the ground against the Seahawks last weekend, though. On defense, the Falcons were atrocious against the run, as noted above, and gave up a lot of passing yards, but few passing scores. Ly notes that facing Drew Brees twice a year will doom your passing yards against total. It even makes their run D all the more shocking as New Orleans doesn't run the ball...hmmm... | The booth review - NFC Championship Game: "Five things about the Falcons" (Ly)

Michael Crabtree will be a key in this game, as he has been in so many of the contests since Colin Kaepernick took over as quarterback. Dylan looks at three of his main attributes: Blocking, YAC, and sure hands. His play on third down has been crucial to our success, and with Kaepernick coming into his own the tandem looks to be formidable for some time. His downfield blocking only adds to his value on third downs. | Michael Crabtree is built for this (DeSimone)

What could possibly go wrong for the 49ers Sunday? Well, lots. Kaepernick is still inexperienced, we've got few options emerging to take some of the pressure off of Crabtree in the passing game, and of course, there is the whole W-W-L pattern that's haunted us all season long. | Biggest concerns for the 49ers heading into Atlanta (DeSimone)

When we've played top-ranked passing attacks that don't have a run game, we've had little trouble in shutting them down. Atlanta's run game averaged a measly 3.7 yards per carry on the season and ranked 29th in the league in rushing. They are, however, coming off of their best rushing performance of the year against the Seahawks. | 49ers D vs Falcons rushing game (Fooch)

Who amongst our lesser stars might have a monster game against the Falcons. Delanie Walker, Ahmad Brooks and David Akers are mentioned. Walker especially should be kept in mind, following Zach Miller's success against the Falcons for the Seahawks. Now all we need is for 'Droptimus Prime' to hold onto that ball. If he drops another pass, I'm going to fly from Australia and wedge the ball into his facemask. | Biggest under-the-radar impact players for the 49ers (DeSimone)

Hot Topics

I hope you like Fooch, cause he's back at it with another post. He's always at it. The dude eats 49ers news for breakfast. How did the 49ers get so good? The answer lies in two of their recent draft classes. Looking at the 2007 draft class, it's impact on the franchise stands out straight away. The 2011 class may be even better. It's success always has and will hinge on the development and success of Colin Kaepernick and until the last 8 games, remained more of a mystery. Mystery solved. Thanks Scooby Doo. | The 2007, 2011 NFL Drafts got the 49ers here (Fooch)

Michael Crabtree. Enough said. The numbers that he put up this season in an offense that relies so heavily on the run is amazing. His numbers are comparable to both Roddy White and Julio Jones of the Falcons but he's done it on far fewer routes run and fewer targets. | Putting Crabtree's breakout year in perspective (Tre9er)

Colin Kaepernick's rise to stardom has been a surprise to even the most blindly-loyal 49ers fan. He's on quite a run to begin his career as a starting quarterback. He's made 8 starts, which means its time to project his stats over a full season, if for no other reason than it's never going to get any easier than taking yards and multiplying it by two. | Colin Kaepernick x2: A projection of a 16-game regular season (DeSimone)

This post can be described as nothing less than an ode to Frank Gore. I think that's all that needs to be said. | Frank Gore's official appreciation story (Hanson)

Here is one of the biggest differences between this years playoff team and last season's failed attempt at glory. There's still a lot left to accomplish, but in the first playoff game, our third down play was spectacular. The threat of Kaepernick taking off with his feet cannot be overstated. Dylan has a look at all of our third downs from the Packers game. 8 of 13 is good on its own, but a dropped pass and the setting up of the end of the half field goal account for two of the 'failures.' | Colin Kapernick and third down situations (DeSimone)

FanPosts

Here we go with the FanPosts. ChesapeakeBay9er wins the award and all the prizes and acclaim that go with it for earning the top spot. They've put together a comprehensive look at what this coming 49ers' offseason could look like, both in regards to FAs lost and gained as well as draft picks. The one thing I'd change is taking a DT earlier in the draft. This is all up for debate and speculation, as is any forecasting of an NFL offseason, but you gotta give an 'A' for effort. | A look at the 49ers' offseason (ChesapeakeBay9er)

We've got Graham Moles and their take on the phases of Alex Smith. It's a lot like lunar phases in that....OK, it's nothing like that. Whatever happens with him this offseason, I think all of us wish him the best of luck, and, seeing as the 49ers won't win the Super Bowl every year from now to eternity, I wish him a championship. | Phases of Alex Smith's reality (and NFL's) (Graham Moles)

A look at Tom Brady's early career and the ever-present comparison to Colin Kaepernick. It's unfair to compare Brady to one of the all-time greats at the position...wait, am I getting this mixed up. If Kaepernick wins a Super Bowl this season, it'll be one more than Brady has ever won without cheating (Spygate....oooohhhh....snap!). | The early career trajectories of Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady (cyph)

Being a Sheep

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