Seahawks vs. Falcons: Atlanta Needs RBs to Perform Well to Secure Super Bowl Bid

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

Michael Turner and the Falcons running game will be the deciding factor against the 49ers
Michael Turner and the Falcons running game will be the deciding factor against the 49ersKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers need to repeat their performances next week against the San Francisco 49ers.

Matt Ryan will get much of the credit for the Atlanta Falcons' 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round, but it was the running game that drove the win.

Ryan's performance wasn't all that much to write home about. He got that playoff monkey off his back; however, he only threw for 250 yards and two interceptions to his three touchdowns.

Turner and Rodgers combined for 162 yards on 24 carries. Turner, especially, was a workhorse, putting up his third-best rushing performance of the season with 98 yards.

Without Ryan, the Falcons wouldn't have gotten into field-goal position to win the game. Without Turner and Rodgers, though, the game wouldn't even have been close enough for Matt Bryant to decide it.

Seattle would have found itself with an unassailable lead.

In order to get past the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, Atlanta will need to continue maintaining a multidimensional offense.

San Francisco really did well against Aaron Rodgers in its 45-31 divisional round win. Its defense held Rodgers to just 257 yards and two touchdowns, which were both below his regular-season averages.

The 49ers didn't need to respect the Green Bay Packers' run game, because it is largely nonexistent for Green Bay.

The Packers only ran for 104 yards, and Rodgers accounted for 28 of them.

2012 was Turner's worst season in Atlanta. He ran for the fewest yards and had the lowest yards per carry as a Falcon.

Carrying the ball more than 300 times in three of the past four seasons will do that to you. Turner is a very stocky player, but there's only so much punishment he could take before his talent would begin to wane.

That why Rodgers can play such a key role as well. With his size and ability, he provides a nice change of pace from Turner.

Rodgers' role in the receiving game can also keep the 49ers defense on its toes.

In addition, a steady running game serves another vital purpose: It keeps Colin Kaepernick off the field. Green Bay knows all too well how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands, as Kaepernick's record-breaking 181 rushing yards would attest.

The Packers' running game couldn't keep the offense on the field. Green Bay was 16 minutes behind the 49ers in time of possession.

Atlanta's defense looked extremely shaky in the second half against the Seahawks. Russell Wilson finished the game with 385 passing yards and 60 rushing yards.

Kaepernick is a much better dual-threat QB, so you can bank on him carving up the Falcons in an even bigger way should Atlanta give him the ball as much as Green Bay did.

For these reasons, Turner and Rodgers, not Ryan, hold the key to the Falcons' chances of making the trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.