49ers at Falcons: 3 key matchups

Three key matchups

49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Falcons MLB Curtis Lofton: Gore leads the 49ers with 22 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown. He's off to slow a start rushing this season, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry (52 carries for 193 yards). Since 2006, Gore has 7,049 yards from scrimmage (5,146 rush, 1,903 receiving), most in the NFL. There should be some good collisions between the hard-running Gore and Lofton, who leads the Falcons in tackles with 27. Gore was held to 43 yards rushing last week by Kansas City. The Falcons are giving up 101.3 yards rushing per game, but if you take out the 50-yard run by Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall and the 80-yard run by Arizona's Tim Hightower, that average drops to 58 yards per game.

49ers TE Vernon Davis vs. Falcons SS William Moore: Davis is the 49ers' most dangerous weapon in the passing game. He's second on the team with 15 receptions for 173 yards. He doesn't have a touchdown catch this season, but since the start of 2009, Davis has 13 receiving touchdowns, the most among tight ends in the NFL. Moore, the Falcons' second-round draft choice in 2009, is set to make his third start in place of Erik Coleman, who suffered a medial collateral ligament strain in the season opener against Pittsburgh. "His speed and power is going to be a challenge for us all evening," Moore said.

49ers LG Mike Iupati vs. Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux: Iupati and the rest of the line gave up five sacks last week against Kansas City. Iupati, who played at Idaho and was the 17th player selected in the 2010 NFL draft, is set to make his fourth start. A native of American Somoa, Iupati is massive at 6-foot-5, 331 pounds. The rookie will have his hands full with Babineaux, who put a lot of pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees last weekend. He has two sacks this season. His quickness and penetrating rushes could give Iupati trouble.

History lesson

  • San Francisco leads the series 44-28-1 in the regular season. The Falcons beat the 49ers 20-18 in the playoffs on the way to the Super Bowl in 1998.
  • The Falcons have won the past three matchups, including last season's 45-10 victory at Candlestick Park.
  • The two teams were foes in the NFC West from 1967-2001. The NFC South was created in 2002, and the Falcons were placed in the new division.
  • The 49ers' last victory over the Falcons was a 37-31 overtime game in 2001.