FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Akeem Dent loves the unprecedented zaniness.
“Last week, our crowd was crazy at times,” the starting middle linebacker said inside a relatively subdued Atlanta Falcons locker room. “We could barely hear. This week, we're going to need that.”
Clearly, Sunday's NFC championship game comes down to two things: noise and silence.
The Falcons, underdogs inside their own Georgia Dome, want the place as ear-jamming loud as it was during last week's playoff victory over Seattle. But they must keep 49ers boy wonder quarterback Colin Kaepernick quiet.
“Loud as possible,” cornerback Asante Samuel said Thursday at the Falcons' practice facility. “Red and black, that 12th man.”
From Toccoa to Locust Grove and beyond, Georgia has a serious case of Falcons Fever.
Dawg fans and Yellow Jacket fans unite.
This Braves' new world belongs to “Matty Ice” and James Island native Roddy White and Super Bowl dreams.
Sometimes the fans get too excited.
Players had to wave their hands and plead for calm when the Falcons had the ball during the Seattle game.
The Kaepernick plan
It's the first NFC championship game in Atlanta, and only the third in the traditional South (the Los Angeles Rams won at Tampa Bay in 1980 and New Orleans won at home against Minnesota in 2010).
But hosting is bittersweet if Kaepernick gets rolling to the tune of 181 rushing yards, as he did last week against the woefully unprepared Green Bay Packers. That's a great way to take a road crowd out of the game.
“They're a run-first offense but they use their deep shots and their play-action to set up their run,” Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. “Most offenses are vice-versa.”
The 49ers opened as a 3-point favorite and the Las Vegas wagering line has nudged up a point or two.
The Falcons had their hands full with versatile Seattle rookie Russell Wilson, whom Atlanta head coach Mike Smith compared to former Vikings (and University of Georgia) quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Smith compares Kaepernick to Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, a mention meant to inspire his defense. The Falcons went 14-2 during the regular season but one of their losses was to the Panthers in Charlotte.
Note that Kaepernick didn't have to break tackles against the Packers; they rarely touched him.
But he struggled in December losses at St. Louis and Seattle.
“There are ebbs and flows to anyone's season,” DeCoud said. “We just have to key in what those defenses did well against him, and stay gap sound and try to recreate those things.”
Otherwise, wide receiver Julio Jones said, “We just have to go out and play Falcon football.”
It's a unique blend, an acquired taste. While NFL postseason tradition is about “smashmouth” boasting, that's only the half of it here.
“We do whatever it takes to get the job done,” fullback Michael Turner said. “We have that physical element but, of course, we have some finesse elements, too.”
Dome field advantage is no guarantee, as experienced Falcons fans know. Atlanta's lone path to the Super Bowl — a loss to the Denver Broncos in January of 1999 — included an NFC championship game upset of the Vikings at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Still, loud is good.
“We feed off it,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “I encourage the fans to come early again this week.”
Just what Colin Kaepernick doesn't want to hear.
The Post and Courier's Gene Sapakoff can be reached at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff
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