Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR color commentator Gary Plummer previews the 49ers opponents every week of the 2009 season on 49ers.com. For this week's "Points of the Game" column, Plummer breaks down the 49ers week five opponent – the Atlanta Falcons**
When you look at the Atlanta Falcons and their quarterback Matt Ryan, he plays like a 10-year veteran. They're certainly asking him to do more this year and he's been counted on to do more this year.
There's a little bit more for him to do with the football now that he has Tony Gonzalez as his tight end. That has turned out to be a great acquisition for the Falcons. It turned out to be great for both parties.
A lot of people might say the Falcons gave up a lot for a guy in his 12th year, but he's got the body of a 25-year-old. He's a workout fanatic. And the Falcons wouldn't have went out to get him if they didn't think he could be one of the final pieces to their puzzle.
They were 11-5 last year and adding Gonzalez speaks volumes to what Atlanta thinks they have and what they think of Gonzalez. He's proving it again as their leading receiver. He's leading them in touchdowns catches too. I think he's still as good as there is in the NFL at the tight end position.
I think that's going to be really fun for the fans to watch Gonzalez, a guy who is headed to the Hall of Fame already and a guy everybody has been talking about with all the tools and that's Vernon Davis.
Atlanta's defense with Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson have really been playing well. Peterson came from the Jaguars where he played for Mike Smith, and he and Lofton are two of their best players. Also, defensive end John Abraham is also one of their best players on defense. Another guy who is playing well is Jonathan Babineaux at the defensive tackle position.
When you have Abraham and Babineaux up front playing fantastic football and then you have excellent linebackers and corners who have players very well – you have a solid defense. The Falcons have a guy in Brian Williams who was cut at the last minute, but they picked him up and he's surprising people. He's been playing well for them at corner.
They play very similar to the 49ers in the sense that they haven't been called for a lot of penalties and they're 3 in the turnover margin. They play smart football which exactly what Mike Singletary has been preaching to the 49ers.
When you look at the 49ers, a big key to this game is offensive line play. They've struggled and it has been both on the road and at home.
You could say Arizona and Minnesota were loud places, but they struggled last week against the Rams in terms of protection. It's something that they have to get corrected because teams are going to continue to blitz. They're not just blitzing the quarterback on passing downs, teams are blitzing on run downs as well.
The 49ers have to make adjustments to handle that. I think that will come with time as they continue to play with each other. It hasn't been a bad effort by all of the players, some have performed well. But the group always gets judged as a whole and so they need to play better.
In the NFL when it's on game tape, everyone sees it and they're going to continue to do the same things to you until you correct it. The 49ers should expect run blitzes and pass blitzes until they show they can handle it. Really 13 sacks is too many and so the 49ers must protect Shaun Hill.
I also think special teams are going to be very important in this game.
When you have two teams who both play smart football and they been dominant in special teams it will make for a great game. Every special teams situation could end up having a major impact on the game. If the 49ers special teams can play like the group they were last year, then they should be successful against Atlanta.