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49ers opponent Q&A: Atlanta Falcons Examiner Daniel Cox

October 10, 12:42 PM San Francisco 49ers Examiner Samuel Lam

As the 49ers prepare to face the Falcons this Sunday, I checked in with Atlanta Falcons Examiner Daniel Cox.

We exchanged a handful of questions with each other about our teams.

Here's what I asked:

Last year the Falcons became one of the surprise teams of the NFL, making the playoffs from the leadership of rookie Matt Ryan. What does Ryan mean to the team’s success?

Long-term, he’s as critical as any piece with the franchise. He’s one of the once-in-a-decade, face of the franchise type of quarterbacks—and he’s a character guy that probably won’t create much controversy. That’s just off the field stuff. He appears to have all the skills to be one of the best and wants to keep working to get better. So far in his career, he’s studied Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and tried to do as many of the things they do—everything from post-game appearance and behavior to being accurate with the football. He’s more critical than anything else. You don’t have to look far in the NFL to see what making the wrong decision at quarterback can do to a franchise.

The Falcons have made two big off-season acquisitions in the past two years with RB Michael Turner in 2008 and TE Tony Gonzalez. Have the Falcons built themselves into one of the elite offenses with these signings?

On paper—absolutely. The thing is, nothing is won that way. Turner, Gonzalez, Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Jerious Norwood—they’re all playmakers. But they’ve got to make plays. So far Gonzalez has lived up to his end of the deal, even though New England game planned him out two Sundays ago. So far they’re not an elite offense. In fact they’re only the 23rd best offense. They’ve got some work to do, but the tools are there.

In three games, the Falcons rank at #30 in terms of yards given up (381.3 yards a game). The 49ers offense has been growing in recent weeks. Would this be a bad matchup for the Falcons defense?

Right now I don’t know if there is a good matchup for Atlanta’s defense. They have not been great, but they may not be as bad as advertised though. They’re the epitome of bend but don’t break right now. While they’ve given up all those yards, they’re averaging 17.7 points per game, good for eighth in the NFL. I think the 49ers will struggle to run the ball with Gore out, or at least that part of the offense won’t be as effective as it could. That helps Atlanta. I think the secondary could be improved if recent cornerback acquisition, Tye Hill, can get on the field. The matchup that I believe troubles Atlanta the most is with the tight end Davis. He looks like he’s come into his own this season and may be the best, but certainly one of the best, in the NFL.

Mike Singletary is in his first full season as 49ers head coach and turned the franchise around. Last year, Falcons head coach Mike Smith did the same in Atlanta. What has Smith meant to the organization since his arrival?

When I think of San Francisco and Atlanta, I see them trying to be built in similar ways: strong running games and tough, physical defenses. I think the 49ers have an edge in the defense category over Atlanta right now, but the direction is there and in both instances it was set by the head coach. Smith has come to Atlanta and provided a calming presence. He helped lead the organization out of some really tough times. It’s a testament to his patience and his will, very similar to Singletary in San Francisco. Simply put, Smith was the right man at the right time for the Falcons.

Who wins this game and who is the game MVP?

Tough to say. I think this could be a really enjoyable game. Atlanta comes off their bye week with extra time to prepare for a 49er offense without its key piece in Frank Gore. Smith and his staff work hard at improving each week and you can at times see the improvement one week to the next. I’d be shocked if Atlanta didn’t come out prepared to play a strong defensive game against San Francisco. I’ll say Atlanta wins. San Francisco’s secondary looks a little questionable to me. This will be the game Matt Ryan breaks the offense out. It’ll be won through the air off the Ryan’s arm. Ryan’s the MVP.

===

Check out the questions Daniel asked me at the Atlanta Falcons Examiner page.

http://www.examiner.com/x-2712-San-Francisco-49ers-Examiner~y2009m10d10-49ers-opponent-QA-Atlanta-Falcons-Examiner-Daniel-Cox

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Atlanta Falcons opponent Q&A: San Francisco 49ers Examiner Sam Lam

The Atlanta Falcons resume their 2009 schedule, following last Sunday's bye, with an NFC showdown in San Francisco against the 3-1 49ers on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers Examiner Sam Lam fielded some questions regarding Atlanta's Sunday opponent:

1) How critical is the loss of Frank Gore? Is the rookie Coffee capable of picking up the slack behind what appears to be a pretty talented offensive line?

Gore’s loss hurts the team a lot. Gore is clearly the team’s best offensive weapon and him being sidelined adds a lot of pressure to an offensive line that looks great many times, but also has a lot of lapses. Rookie Glen Coffee will have a huge task to run against the Atlanta defense. Last week he was OK in his performance, but against the Falcons, he needs to step up his game. With Gore, the 49ers have already established a strong running game. But with Coffee, he has to earn that throughout the game to get the Falcons on their feet. It will be a tough task for Coffee. He can pick it up, but we have yet to see him breakthrough in an NFL game just yet.

2) Is Shaun Hill really this good and efficient? I don't think anyone expects him to be Manning or Brady, but he seems to be managing things really well. Is there a feeling that he's the future at QB? Beyond that, is there a sense that it's just a matter of time before he falls back to Earth?

The 49ers drafted QB Nate Davis in April so I don’t know if Hill is the guy of the future. But right now, he has done more than enough to tell the team that he is for real. I am very surprised at how he has done so far with the 49ers, especially his perfect home record. What I find impressive about Hill is that he is a leader. Rather than be a quarterback that just does what he is told, he has the smarts to operate the offensive in crunch time. He doesn’t have the nice numbers but he has enough weapons to help the offensive go. Obviously down the stretch the team might have to ask more from him. But right now, he’s doing just enough.

3) How happy is San Francisco to have Mike Singletary at head coach?

It seems like the team has taken on the attitude he had as a player, which is physical and tough. Singletary is the perfect coach for this team. After a very soft Mike Nolan era, the 49ers are now taking a strong, physical team unity approach. The team is running high and a lot of this has come from Singletary’s attitude toward building a football team on discipline and fundamentals. Singletary is one of those coaches that you don’t want to disappoint because you know that he can provide greatness. We haven’t felt such confidence in a coach in San Francisco since Steve Mariucci. And since Singletary’s arrival, the team has gone up. So I think the happiness level is at a very huge high right now.

4) How has Patrick Willis' time with Singletary affect his play?

He was already one of the best, but it looks like working for Singletary could make him one of the all-timers. Mike Singletary’s background as a Hall of Fame linebacker already makes him a coach that everyone should listen to. He helped mold a great linebacker in Ray Lewis and upon his arrival here in San Francisco as the linebackers coach, he knew what he wanted in his linebackers. He took a young Willis and molded him into a smart player. Willis already presented the physical attributes to be a great linebacker, but under Singletary, he has become one of the most intelligent defenders in the game. Willis has given a lot of praise to Singletary as a teacher for him. Willis also credits defensive coordinator Greg Manusky for his help. The 49ers defense with Willis has grown stronger every year and I am very glad that Willis and Singletary have this great opportunity together.

5) How is the city and the team's fans responding to this type of 49ers team?

They seem pretty far removed from the Montana and Rice days where offense was king. This version seems built on toughness and remaining physical. Do the fans identify with that or is a win good enough? The response has been positive. I have seen a lot more positive reactions from fans all across the Bay Area. Billboards of Singletary’s quotes are seen all over the place. The city is sold on the movement that is going on right now. Obviously, the fans hold onto the old days of Montana, Rice and Young. But if the 49ers return to the playoffs, a new generation of belief will grow. We understand that there are many different ways to win football games and what Singletary has prepared for the 49ers is exactly what the team had to do. The 49ers don’t have the great talents to run an explosive offense. But with the players they do have, they can play physical football. That models the style Singletary played with while with the Bears and it is a perfect fit here in San Francisco. Fans are excited about the new change. Wins are great, but fans realize that something bigger is at hand and they want to be on the great journey that the 49ers are on right now.

49ers Q&A with the Atlanta Falcons Examiner

http://www.examiner.com/x-1778-Atlanta-Falcons-Examiner~y2009m10d10-Atlanta-Falcons-opponent-QA-San-Francisco-49ers-Examiner-Sam-Lam

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