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Point-Counterpoint: Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers


Every week there's a rush of information in the days leading up to gameday. Bloggers, TV analysts, reporters, fans … everyone has an opinion, and in the age of hyper-speed new media, everyone's got a chance to share it.

But sometimes it's tough to focus through all the noise.

Here we examine three storylines entering Week 4 that you'll surely hear all about. We present the flipside — the ideas from inside the walls of team headquarters — to suggest what the Atlanta Falcons are thinking of the popular headlines.

What they will say:San Francisco is reeling, but with their backs against the wall and a cross-country trip to Atlanta, they'll bond together to put up a fight. The Falcons, after two big wins, may be primed for a letdown.

What we're saying:A team often takes on the persona of its head coach and Atlanta's is as even-keel as they come. Mike Smith approaches every day, week and situation with a fair and balanced approach, and his players follow suit.

"We want guys on our football team, and I think we have guys on our team, that know how to appropriately deal when things go well and when things go bad," Smith said on Monday. "I think that the thing that you have to have is you've got to make sure that you stay the course and work like we have been working since training camp started. We've preached from the very beginning that it's always about the little things and there's a bunch of little things that we can improve on from last week's ballgame as we move forward to this week."

Level-headed and never too high, never too low are trademarks of the Atlanta Falcons, and regardless of the fight the 49ers put up Sunday, the Falcons have shown they will always fight back.

What they will say:With new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson at the helm, the San Francisco 49ers offense will go through some growing pains.

What we're saying:A new coordinator means new wrinkles in an offense that, despite its production, has playmakers.

Johnson may look to incorporate some players that haven't been used heavily in San Francisco's offense to date. Players like running back Brian Westbrook and deceptively fast tight end Delanie Walker could be X-factor-type of players for the 49ers, much like New Orleans used wide receiver Lance Moore in Week 3 against the Falcons in running back Reggie Bush's absence.

Running back Frank Gore has shown he's a very versatile back, running for 112 yards in Week 2 and getting another 102 in receiving in Week 3. Westbrook made a career in Philadelphia catching passes out of the backfield, and a Gore/Westbrook backfield could be a useful look for San Francisco.

What they will say:The Falcons' offense will be licking its chops to face a defense that gave up 31 points to the Chiefs in Week 3.

What we're saying:Many may have already forgotten the 49ers' tough play against the Saints in Week 2 on Monday night, but the Falcons haven't.

The real San Francisco defense may be found somewhere between the unit that held New Orleans to 287 yards and the one that gave up 31 last week.

Whatever defense shows up, the Falcons will respect what they bring and game plan accordingly, starting with the one-man wrecking crew, linebacker Patrick Willis.

Atlanta won't drastically change its approach because of what the 49ers have shown in the past two weeks.

Against the Saints, San Francisco limited the rushing attack to 50 yards, but last week they allowed 207 yards on the ground to Kansas City.

The Falcons will look to pound the ball and work off that regardless of how stout the 49ers are against Atlanta's running backs.

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