Time of possession crucial to Atlanta Falcons 

click to enlarge Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56) and the Falcons will be careful to defend Niners scrambling QB Colin Kaepernick. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP File Photo
  • Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56) and the Falcons will be careful to defend Niners scrambling QB Colin Kaepernick.

Michael Turner’s trademark high-pitched laugh filled the Falcons’ locker room.

Asked about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Turner grinned Thursday and said “I’m glad I’m not on defense.”
Turner, the big running back, and the Falcons’ offense want to hold the ball and limit Kaepernick’s time on the field in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

The Falcons have seen enough in Kaepernick’s eight starts to respect the versatile quarterback with the long stride and strong right arm.

Kaepernick comes to Atlanta after running for 181 yards — an NFL record for a quarterback — with two touchdowns in last week’s win over Green Bay. Kaepernick also threw for 263 yards with two touchdowns. He became only the third quarterback, after Otto Graham and Jay Cutler, to run and throw for at least two touchdowns in a postseason game.

It’s little wonder the Falcons are impressed, even after facing such other dual-threat quarterbacks as Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson this season.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon says the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kaepernick is unique.

“I think he’s just a different guy altogether,” Weatherspoon said. “He’s a taller guy, obviously. He broke the record last week, so that makes him special and different. I think he has a lot more speed. Russell is more of a quick guy. Colin is a faster guy.”

Wilson and Griffin are scramblers. Kaepernick looks more like a 200-meter sprinter with his unusually long stride.

“That’s the thing,” Weatherspoon said. “You look at him and you think long striders are not fast, but then you look and he’s covering a lot of ground and passing a lot of people. You can tell he can run. Speed won’t be a surprise to us. We’ve watched the tape. We’ll be ready to go.”

The 49ers don’t have to be told they’ll bring an unusually gifted quarterback to the Georgia Dome. In only half of a season, Kaepernick has given the San Francisco offense a facelift.

“He’s super-fast, athletic and he can throw the ball,” said 49ers running back LaMichael James. “Once he breaks the pocket, he’s always looking downfield. He’s looking to throw the ball more than run the ball. But once he takes off, he’s faster than a lot of running backs and linebackers. He’s an incredible athlete.”

Kaepernick has avoided the big hits that have made it difficult for such other running quarterbacks as Griffin and Michael Vick to avoid injuries.

He said his strategy is “Run where they’re not.”

“You want to run away from where the defensive players are,” Kaepernick said. “When they get close, get down.”

NOTES: Falcons coach Mike Smith said cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring), who hasn’t played since Dec. 22, “looked well-rested and recovered from his injury” in practice. ... Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder) and defensive end John Abraham (left ankle) had limited participation in practice for the second straight day.

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