49ers-Falcons key matchup No. 1: 49ers CBs vs. Falcons WRs

49ers-Falcons key matchup No. 1: 49ers CBs vs. Falcons WRs
January 18, 2013, 1:00 pm
Share This Post

Julio Jones added 79 catches for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns in the 2012 regular season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

This is the final part in a series that spotlights five 49ers-Falcons matchups to watch Sunday, noon, at the Georgia Dome in the NFC Championship Game.

[RELATED: 49ers-Falcons key matchup No. 3: Roman vs. Nolan]

[RELATED: 49ers-Falcons key matchup No. 2: Kaepernick]

49ers cornerbacks vs. Falcons wide receivers

Tale of the tape
Carlos Rogers (22): 6-foot, 192 pounds, eighth season, Auburn
Tarell Brown (25): 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, sixth season, Texas
Chris Culliver (29): 6-foot, 199 pounds, second season, South Carolina

Julio Jones (11): 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, second season, Alabama
Roddy White (84): 6-foot, 211 pounds, eighth season, Alabama-Birmingham

Michael Crabtree had an outstanding season for the 49ers. He rolled up 1,105 yards receiving to become the first San Francisco player since Terrell Owens in 2003 to eclipse 1,000 yards.

For some perspective . . . the Atlanta Falcons had two wide receivers who accounted for more yards than Crabtree and a tight end, Tony Gonzalez, who had more receptions. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a lot of different targets from which to choose.

That should provide a gauge on the scope of the challenge that awaits the 49ers' defense on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

Roddy White caught 92 passes for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns, while Julio Jones added 79 catches for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"They're certainly up there as one of the best tandems in the league, if not the best," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "But the whole crux of their offense is not just those two guys, it's all 11.

"You talk about defending the receivers and you have to, well, how does that affect Gonzalez? How does that affect the running game? So you've got to have a good plan and a good mix to stop this offense. It's not just the receiver-driven offense, although they are two of the best receivers in the league. They have good weapons all over the place and obviously a really good quarterback in Ryan running the show."

There were only three sets of wide-receiver teammates with 1,000 yards or more receiving this season. Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and New Orleans' Marques Colston and Lance Moore were the others.

Clearly, the 49ers' cornerbacks will have the biggest challenge.

Right cornerback Tarell Brown is coming off a strong showing in the 49ers' 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round. He recorded an interception and had another nullified on a questionable late-game penalty.

Left cornerback Carlos Rogers will see a little of both players when the 49ers have their base defense on the field. Rogers will also move inside to cover slot receiver Harry Douglas when the Falcons go with three wide receivers.

Third cornerback Chris Culliver also figures to match up against both Jones and White.

"Eleven (Jones) is better than Roddy because he can come out of breaks," Culliver told CSNBayArea.com earlier this week. "Julio can come out of breaks quicker than Roddy. Roddy is a good receiver. He can compete when the ball's in the air, too. They're good. But it ain't nothing I haven't seen before."

Fangio did not necessarily agree with Culliver's assessment.

"They're both really good," Fangio said. "They've got size. They've got speed. They can run good routes. They catch it well and they're both good threats running after the catch. To quibble over which one of those two is better, you're (splitting) hairs one way or the other."

Regardless, the 49ers' secondary will need help from the pass rush. Defensive tackle Justin Smith returned to the lineup last week, a month after sustaining a partially torn left triceps tendon. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who recorded a team-leading 19.5 sacks during the regular season, came close a couple of time against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who generally got rid of the ball quickly.

Ryan likes to throw deep, but he is not easy to sack. Ryan was sacked just 28 times in 16 regular-season games.

More Team Talk