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49ers game plan: Matchup with Tony Gonzalez is one to watch

Published: Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013 - 10:25 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013 - 10:45 pm


•  Opponent: vs. Atlanta

•  Time: 5:40 p.m.

•  Line: 49ers by 13

•  Records: 49ers 10-4, Falcons 4-10

•  TV/radio: ESPN (Mike Tirico play-by-play, Jon Gruden color), 680, 1320


Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez vs. 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis

Gonzalez insists he’s retiring at the end of the season, but his statistics suggest he can play at least another year. The 17-year veteran has 71 catches and leads his team with seven touchdown catches. Meanwhile, the 49ers have had trouble defending tight ends the past two weeks, first the Seahawks’ Luke Willson and then the Buccaneers’ Tim Wright last week. Both had touchdown catches, and Wright led all receivers in Tampa. The task of covering Gonzalez mostly will fall to Willis and safety Donte Whitner. In last season’s NFC Championship Game, Gonzalez had eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.


• The 49ers must come up with a replacement for do-everything fullback Bruce Miller, who is out for the season. Anthony Dixon will get the first crack. The question is whether Dixon is physical enough for the job.

• Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is out for the year with an injury, but the 49ers shouldn’t relax. Backup receiver Harry Douglas leads the Falcons with 73 catches for 963 yards. Douglas doesn’t have Jones’ size, but he’s very slippery.

• The 49ers’ Phil Dawson has kicked an amazing 24 consecutive field goals this season. It’s important that he stays hot as the weather turns cold. The 49ers’ first-round playoff game could be played outdoors in a wintry city.



• Questionable: G Mike Iupati (knee), WR Mario Manningham (illness, knee), TE Vance McDonald (ankle), LB Dan Skuta (foot)

• Probable: LB NaVorro Bowman (wrist), CB Tarell Brown (ribs), WR Michael Crabtree (ankle, wrist), C Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), RB Frank Gore (ankle, knee), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)


• Out: WR Darius Johnson (ankle), S Zeke Motta (hand, neck)

• Questionable: TE Tony Gonzalez (toe), RB Antone Smith (knee), LB Sean Weatherspoon (knee)

• Probable: S Thomas DeCoud (concussion)

– Matthew Barrows


Date Opponent Results
Sept. 8Green BayW, 34-28
Sept. 15at SeattleL, 29-3
Sept. 22IndianapolisL, 27-7
Sept. 26at St. LouisW, 35-11
Oct. 6HoustonW, 34-3
Oct. 13ArizonaW, 32-20
Oct. 20at TennesseeW, 31-17
Oct. 27at JacksonvilleW, 42-10
Nov. 3BYE
Nov. 10CarolinaL, 10-9
Nov. 17at New OrleansL, 23-20
Nov. 25at WashingtonW, 27-6
Dec. 1St. LouisW, 23-13
Dec. 8SeattleW, 19-17
Dec. 15at Tampa BayW, 33-14
Date Opponent Time
TodayAtlanta5:40 p.m.
Dec. 29at Arizona1:25 p.m.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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