Falcons-49ers matchup No. 1: Worrilow vs. Dixon

Falcons-49ers matchup No. 1: Paul Worrilow vs. Anthony Dixon

Falcons-49ers matchup No. 1: Worrilow vs. Dixon
December 23, 2013, 11:30 am
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Frank Gore, who gained 1,017 yards in 14 games mostly with Bruce Miller in front of him, said he has confidence in Abthony Dixon’s ability. (USATSI)

Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Falcons matchups to watch Monday, 5:40 p.m., at Candlestick Park.

49ers FB Anthony Dixon vs. Falcons LB Paul Worrilow

Tale of the tape
Dixon (24): 6 foot 1, 233 pounds, fourth season, Mississippi State
Worrilow (55): 6 foot, 230 pounds, rookie, Delaware

One player is making the first NFL start of his four-year career. The other player is an undrafted rookie from Delaware.

There might not be a lot of splash with the No. 1 matchup, but how fullback Anthony Dixon performs as Frank Gore’s lead-blocker against middle linebacker Paul Worrilow, the Atlanta Falcon’s second-leading tackler, is a huge key for the 49ers down the stretch.

[RELATED: Falcons-49ers matchup No. 2: Gonzalez vs. Willis]

Dixon is being pressed into service after starter Bruce Miller sustained a fractured left shoulder blade in last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Miller has been placed on injured reserve, making him ineligible to play until the 2014 season.

That means the responsibility now falls to Dixon, who volunteered to play fullback during the offseason in 2012 when his spot on the team's roster appeared tenuous.

“I told him to just be him,” Gore said. “He had a great camp at fullback. I know that. He is physical, very athletic and to be a fullback in this offense, you have to be athletic, so that’s a plus for him.”

Gore, who gained 1,017 yards in 14 games mostly with Miller in front of him, said he has confidence in Dixon’s ability because of what he saw in training camp during the padded practices. Gore said Dixon was able to do well while going up against All-Pro inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.

[RELATED: Falcons-49ers matchup No. 3: Holmes vs. Smith]

“During camp, he had a great camp,” Gore said. “And, especially, he was going against probably the two best linebackers in the league, and he was doing a great job with them.”

Dixon rushed for nearly 1,400 yards as a senior at Mississippi State. Gore’s advice is to take the same mindset to his new role. Instead of trying to avoid linebackers, such as Worrilow, Dixon’s job is to run into them.

“Whenever we run a play, I just tell him, ‘Read it like a runner.’ If he reads it like a runner, he’ll be all right,” Gore said. “He’ll be fine. He’s a football player.”

Said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh: “Frank's right, Anthony's been doing both fullback and tailback. And, core special teams player for the last 12 months, so he's been good. That's why we have confidence in him.”