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Atlanta Falcons need to run over San Francisco 49ers

It's hard to find many holes in the San Francisco 49ers. One slight concern: They occasionally were gashed on the ground this season.

The Seattle Seahawks rushed for 176 yards on them in Week 16. The St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants all topped 145 yards against them. That yardage was partly because of game situations -- the 49ers were trailing -- but the team gave up some big runs.

The Green Bay Packers even were able to get the ball moving on the ground last week. They rushed for 104 yards on just 16 attempts. San Francisco's defensive line had a so-so game defending the run and rushing the passer.

If Atlanta Falcons fans are looking for something to believe in this Sunday, they can look to their offense's revived running game.

After struggling all season, the Falcons ran well early and often against the Seahawks. Michael Turner set the tone early. Our friends at NFL Films allowed us to break out some coaching film:

This is vintage Michael Turner. Linebacker Bobby Wagner just bounces off Turner. Safety Earl Thomas bounces off Turner. Cornerback Brandon Browner gets bowled over. It takes a fourth player -- Kam Chancellor -- to finally knock down Turner.

Turner isn't going to make people miss (although he picked through holes very well last week). But he needs to run with aggression, and that showed up against Seattle. He also added a 33-yard run. Turner's aggression seemed to rub off on his buddy, Jacquizz Rodgers.

Rodgers has been mislabeled a "scat back" because of his size. Perhaps he's not big enough to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he has routinely run defenders over in short-yardage situations. Rodgers is a fine receiver and blocker. He's capable of making "attitude" runs.

This isn't about scheme, although the Falcons' offensive line needs to play well. This is about Atlanta's running backs getting extra yards after contact.

We make football complicated, but the key to the Falcons' offense might be simple. It needs to be tougher than the San Francisco defense Sunday. The Falcons need to run through the 49ers.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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