Greg Cosell spoke on KNBR on Monday and Tuesday. Here’s what he said about the NFC Championship game.
Q: How do you think Colin Kaepernick performed as a passer against the Falcons?
COSELL: I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well. I thought he did a really good job of stepping up in the pocket, which younger quarterbacks – particularly ones that run – sometimes struggle to do because as soon as they step up they want to run. I thought he did a terrific job stepping up and making stick throws into voids in zones. The Moss throw down to about the six yard line stands out to me. They got some great matchups. They really did a great job stressing the coverage with vertical routes, which opened up the intermediate areas. I thought that Kaepernick was well aware of the impact those routes were having on the defense, and knew immediately where to go with the football.
Q: How did Vernon Davis get so open on his 27-yard catch? It was third and seven on the 49ers first touchdown drive.
COSELL: The Falcons played Man Free, they delay blitzed with a linebacker and Davis easily beat DeCoud on a crosser and had a ton of room to run. And I’ve got to tell you, that James 15-yard touchdown run – what a great concept off the read option principle. It was almost like a jet sweep concept for James and power for Kaepernick. They sort of turned the read option principle on its head, because Kaepernick became the inside threat with power and James became the outside threat with that quick sweep. It was really a great concept and a great play call.
Q: How did Justin Smith play against the Falcons?
COSELL: I thought he played against the run really really well. They didn’t really get much pressure on the quarterback. I thought the Falcons did a really good job with their formations and chips on Aldon Smith to eliminate him, and at times they did the same thing with Brooks. I thought that they’re game plan really was outstanding. Therefore Matt Ryan, for the most part, was pretty secure in the pocket.
Q: How important is fullback Bruce Miller on the 49ers’ read option plays?
COSELL: I think he’s critical, because what they do out of the pistol is different from the way other teams do it. They really have a lead blocker with Miller. He’s responsible for a block, and that makes this offense really difficult to defend. What it does is it compromises defenders who are trying to figure out what they’re looking at. That’s the first thing they’re trying to figure out – what do I see in the backfield? How do I play my assignment based on that? And then all of a sudden, here comes Miller and he hits them. I think he’s absolutely critical to what they do with the pistol.
Q: What was the 49ers’ defense able to get done in the second half against the Falcons that they weren’t able to get done in the first half?
COSELL: Mostly it had to do with the run game, because the Falcons lined up in base personnel more in the second half, and therefore the 49ers lined up in their base 3-4, and I thought Sopoaga was tremendous in that game. He ended up playing about 20 snaps. Against Green Bay I think he played three snaps, because Green Bay never lines up in base personnel. But to be honest with you, the 49ers defense didn’t really stop the Falcons. Ryan throws a pick in which Roddy White falls down. It wouldn’t have been a completion to White, but it wouldn’t have been an interception if White doesn’t slip. Ryan fumbles on a fluky play when they’re going in after a long drive. I don’t think the 49ers just clamped down on them and shut them down.
You could argue Ahmad Brooks made the play of the game. That was Sprint Right Option, and Roddy White was open for a first down. That would have taken the ball to the three yard line. It would have been first and goal on the three with plenty of time left. And then Ahmad Brooks hits that pass, and then it’s fourth and four. Roddy White was wide open and Matt Ryan had him. All of a sudden you have a different conversation about the game.
The fourth down play was very interesting. They lined up in a three-by-one set and White was the inside guy on the three-receiver side and they got the matchup they wanted, which was White on Bowman. Gonzalez was the single receiver on the other side, and he won quickly off the line of scrimmage. But I think the play was designed was designed to go to White on Bowman. The play didn’t work, but the matchup made sense. It was a three-step drop timing throw. Ryan wasn’t scanning the field. It’s easy to look at the tape and say Gonzalez was open.
The other play that was really interesting was the Harry Douglas play. We can debate whether that was a catch or not a catch – the point is, if Douglas doesn’t slip coming out of his break that could have been a touchdown.