49ers face fierce challenge vs. Falcons receivers

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013
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Marshall caught two passes for 21 yards in Chicago's 32-7 loss at San Francisco. Fitzgerald hauled in seven passes for 65 yards in two losses to the 49ers. And Johnson had 8 receptions for 94 yards in a Detroit's 27-19 loss to San Francisco, although most came with the game already out of reach.

Grounding the Falcons' air attack could prove more problematic.

White (92 receptions, 1,351 yards, seven TDs) and Jones (79 receptions, 1,198 yards, 10 TDs) make up one of four duos to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving this season. Atlanta nearly became the only team with three players to surpass the 1,000-yard mark, with Gonzalez finishing with 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns.

"They're certainly up there as one of the best tandems in the league, if not the best," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "But the whole crux of their offense is not just those two guys, it's all 11. You talk about defending the receivers and you have to, well how does that affect Gonzalez? How does that affect the running game? So you've got to have a good plan and a good mix to stop this offense. It's not just the receiver-driven offense."

All-Pro linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman might draw the toughest assignment.

Both will have a big hand in defending the 36-year-old Gonzalez, who has caught more passes than anyone in NFL history except 49ers Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Gonzalez is likely to retire at the of this season but is still a matchup nightmare, showing so much when he caught a 19-yard pass from Ryan to set up Matt Bryant's winning field goal in the final seconds against Seattle last weekend.

Willis said everybody will have to be focused on their role or Ryan and his receivers will carve up San Francisco's defense.

"The thing that guys once told me when I first got here, they say it's all good and dandy when you come in, you can run as fast as the fastest and move as quick as the quickest," Willis said. "They told me the older you get the more you have to have it up (in your head) and I didn't understand that as much then as I do now."

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NOTES: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he has not had any conversations with Randy Moss about next season but made no secret about how he feels about the wide receiver. "I, for one, definitely want Randy to come back. Hope he feels the same way," Harbaugh said. Moss, who is on a one-year contract, turns 36 years old on Feb. 13. ... The team released K Billy Cundiff, signed on Jan. 1 to compete with David Akers. Cundiff was inactive against Green Bay last week.

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