Player who must play well

Running back Michael Turner: He rushed for 98 yards against the Seahawks last Sunday and helped the Falcons control the tempo of the game for the first half. More important, Turner, right, averaged 7 yards a pop, almost twice his season average (3.6). His success running the ball makes the Falcons offense even more dynamic and opens up the passing game, especially the play-action.

Offensive keys

1. Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers need a game similar to the one they turned in against the Seahawks, when they combined for 162 yards rushing (6.8-yard average), so that the 49ers don't tee off on quarterback Matt Ryan.

2. Ryan has to make tight end Tony Gonzalez, right, a focal point of the passing attack, knowing full well the 49ers will be preoccupied with wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.

3. The Falcons have to commit as many blockers as possible to slowing down linebacker Aldon Smith, who recorded 19½ sacks the first 13 games.

Defensive keys

1. Defensive ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann have to secure the edges of the line at least long enough to make sure Colin Kaepernick doesn't fake the handoff and take off running.

2. Cornerbacks Dunta Robinson, right (center), and Asante Samuel have to be certain that they tackle Michael Crabtree as soon as he catches a pass or else they run the risk of seeing Crabtree doing what he has become so adept at: making the first defender miss and tacking on extra yardage.

3. Free safety Thomas DeCoud, right (far right), needs to find a way to make some of the big plays -- he has six interceptions -- that he has a penchant for making as a means of slowing the 49ers' dynamic offense.

Special teams factor

Matt Bryant has been around long enough to know how to handle pressure situations. He kicked a game-deciding field goal with 8 seconds left against the Seahawks to get the Falcons to Sunday's game. Yet, all five of his misses came from inside of 50 yards. For his career, Bryant is 17 of 18 on game-tying or go-ahead field-goal attempts inside the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime (regular season only).

Secret weapon

With so much attention paid to the Falcons' starting wide receivers, Jones and White, it's easy for defenses to overlook third receiver Harry Douglas, below, who caught 38 passes for 396 yards.

Strategic advantage

The Falcons played their so-called Cover 3 against Seahawks tight end Zach Miller a great deal of the time last week and got burned repeatedly. The 49ers no doubt will try to exploit that defense. Don't be surprised if the Falcons change up their scheme by covering Vernon Davis with a safety or linebacker most downs in an attempt to take away that option.

Key numbers

85 Falcons quarterback Ryan, right, is 34-6 (85 percent) in home games as an NFL starter, the second-best won-loss percentage in the Super Bowl era, behind Tom Brady (85.1). That figure includes an 8-1 mark at the Georgia Dome this season.

2 Two of Matt Bosher's punts this season were blocked. 49ers special teams coordinator Brad Seely has this filed away and likely will take a shot or two at blocking a punt.

6 The past six No. 1 seeds in either conference to reach a conference championship game have won. The Falcons are seeking to become the seventh straight top seed to win since the 2004 season.

4 The Falcons are 43-1 under coach Mike Smith when they take a lead into the fourth quarter. So, it's imperative the 49ers get to the Falcons early because Smith's team knows how to close out games with ruthless efficiency.