For the first time ever, the NFC Championship trophy has made its way to the city of Atlanta, and soon the Falcons will host their first ever NFC Championship Game.
Key Matchup: Sam Baker vs. Niners' Smiths
The Falcons' offensive line did a fantastic job keeping Matt Ryan on his feet against the Seahawks, and they will have to do the same once again this week versus the 49ers. San Francisco, who has one of the more intimidating defenses in the league, has two defensive ends—Justin Smith and Aldon Smith—who could be wreak havoc on Atlanta's backfield. Sam Baker, who has had a heck of a season and played one of the best games of his career last week, will once again be tasked with protecting Ryan's blindside, and over the course of the day, he'll face off against both Smiths.
If Baker and the rest of the Falcons O-line can contain the 49ers pass rush and give Ryan ample time to distribute the football, Atlanta should be able to put up the points necessary to come away with a win—and a trip to the Super Bowl.
Mike Nolan Ready to Face Old Team
Falcons Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan, who was fired from the head coaching position in San Francisco several years ago, will have a chance to exact revenge on his old team come Sunday. While he may claim to have no ill will towards the 49ers organization, who was let go in the middle of the 2008 season, this game certainly has a little extra meaning for Atlanta's DC.
"A lot of good things happened there," Nolan said, pausing briefly before adding, "Obviously, getting fired is not a good thing...It doesn't change the competitive nature of the game and what we're doing. I don't want to sit here and tell you it makes it any sweeter or not whether we win or lose. It really doesn't."
Dominique Davis Helps Falcons Prepare for Read Option
The Falcons have struggled considerably this season playing against mobile quarterbacks—with last week being no exception—but they do have one tool to help them prepare for next week's task of Colin Kaepernick: Dominique Davis.
Atlanta's third string quarterback, a rookie out of East Carolina University, is an elusive, speedy player—much like the man who will be lining up under center next week. Given his skill set, Davis has been able to run the read option in practice against the Falcons No. 1 defense, giving them important training against the type of action they'll surely see on Georgia Dome turf this Sunday.
"He's fast and helps us get an idea of what to expect," Falcons corner Dunta Robinson said.
DeCoud Faces Grandfather's Former Team
Falcons' safety Thomas DeCoud wasn't the first member of his family to play in the NFL, as his grandfather, John Thomas, once suited up for the San Francisco 49er's—Atlanta's upcoming opponent. Despite his root's, DeCoud's grandfather is ready to support his grandson—not his former team.
"It's great for me because family is No. 1," Thomas, 77, said. "So I don't care about the Niners that much. I would like for them to win up until this day. So everything as far as I'm concerned is with my grandson – no matter who he plays."
Bartkowski Praises Matt Ryan
Former star Steve Bartkowski recently spoke about Matt Ryan, praising Atlanta's current QB.
"Our guy has been special from Day 1," Bartkowski told the San Francisco Chronicle in an interview this week. "He came into the league mature beyond his years. He's incredibly competitive, can make all the throws.
"Let me just say it like this: There's nobody in the league that I'd rather have quarterbacking our franchise than Matt Ryan."