NFL: 49ers-Falcons preview

The Examiner breaks down the 49ers-Falcons game, including what it will take to win, the matchups, a word about the coaches, our humble predictions and broadcast information.

THREE KEYS TO A VICTORY

1. The Atlanta Falcons appear to have slightly more talent than the Niners. Warrick Dunn and Jerrious Norwood haven’t done much this season. But the Niners’ defense has given up an average of 110 yards rushing in its last four games and also also gives up seven catches per game to opposing RBs. That means Mountain View’s Tully Banta-Cain and the linebacking corps must stay on their toes.

2. Running back Frank Gore will likely be less than 100 percent after injuring his ankle against the Saints. But whether it’s Gore, Maurice Hicks or Michael Robinson getting the carries, the Niners must put together at least a decent running game to set an early tone. And the Falcons’ run defense allows 4.3 yards per carry. So, moving the ball on the ground isn’t unrealistic.

3. Niners quarterback Alex Smith showed grit and toughness when he stayed in the game despite his shoulder still hurting during a blowout. If he insists on staying in the game, he needs to make the big plays — otherwise, he might as well sit and let his shoulder heal.

KEY MATCHUPS

ADAM SNYDER vs. JOHN ABRAHAM

Snyder: Left tackle gets his second straight start in place of the injured Jonas Jennings.

Abraham: Former Jet hasn’t made much noise this season. Has just one tackle in each of the last three weeks.

WALT HARRIS vs. RODDY WHITE

Harris: Pro Bowl cornerback was picked on often by the Saints. Will seek redemption.

White: Falcons’ WR coming off eight catches for 110 yards and a TD last week. Should be active.

AUBRAYO FRANKLIN vs. JOEY HARRINGTON

Franklin: Nose tackle has done nothing to intimidate opponents. He has just 13 tackles this season. Ugh.

Harrington: QB threw for 200 yards and had two interceptions in his only game against Niners (a loss in ’03).

COACHES' CORNER

We still think it’s way too early to call for Mike Nolan’s head on a platter. But if the Niners can’t get anything going soon, fans won’t be blaming offensive coordinator Jeff Hostler much longer.

It’s hard to place blame on first-year coach Bobby Petrino for what has happened to the Falcons this season. He thought he’d have Vick and even backup Matt Schaub, who is now in Houston.

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS …

You can throw the records out the window for this one — which is probably something these two teams would certainly love to do. Good thing everyone will be talking about the Colts and Patriots no matter what happens in this stinker special. FALCONS 5, 49ers 3

49ers at Falcons

Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: KTVU (Ch. 2)

Radio: KNBR (680 AM)

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