FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Michael Turners trademark high-pitched laugh filled the Falcons locker room.
Asked about San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Turner grinned Thursday and said, Im glad Im not on defense.
Turner, the big running back, and the Falcons offense want to hold the ball and limit Kaepernicks time on the field in todays NFC championship game.
The Falcons have seen enough in Kaepernicks eight starts to respect the versatile quarterback with the long stride and strong right arm.
Kaepernick comes to Atlanta after running for 181 yards an NFL record for a quarterback with two touchdowns in last weeks win over Green Bay. Kaepernick also threw for 263 yards with two touchdowns. He became only the third quarterback after Otto Graham and Jay Cutler to run and throw for at least two touchdowns in a postseason game.
Its little wonder the Falcons are impressed, even after facing such other dual-threat quarterbacks as Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson this season.
Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said the 6-4, 230-pound Kaepernick is unique.
I think hes just a different guy altogether, Weatherspoon said. Hes a taller guy, obviously. He broke the record last week, so that makes him special and different. I think he has a lot more speed. Russell is more of a quick guy. Colin is a faster guy.
Wilson and Griffin are scramblers. Kaepernick looks more like a 200-meter sprinter with his unusually long stride.
Thats the thing, Weatherspoon said. You look at him and you think long striders are not fast, but then you look, and hes covering a lot of ground and passing a lot of people. You can tell he can run. Speed wont be a surprise to us. Weve watched the tape. Well be ready to go.
The 49ers dont have to be told theyll bring an unusually gifted quarterback to the Georgia Dome. In only half a season, Kaepernick has given the San Francisco offense a facelift.
Hes super-fast, athletic, and he can throw the ball, 49ers running back LaMichael James said. Once he breaks the pocket, hes always looking downfield. Hes looking to throw the ball more than run the ball. But once he takes off, hes faster than a lot of running backs and linebackers. Hes an incredible athlete.
Kaepernick has avoided the big hits that have made it difficult for such other running quarterbacks as Griffin and Michael Vick to avoid injuries.
He said his strategy is run where theyre not.
You want to run away from where the defensive players are, Kaepernick said. When they get close, get down.
The Falcons defense has reason to worry about the matchup. Atlanta survived its 30-28 divisional playoff win over Seattle last week despite Wilsons fourth-quarter dominance. The Falcons led 27-7 at the start of the quarter but trailed 28-27 before winning on Matt Bryants late 49-yard field goal.
Wilson passed for 385 yards with two touchdowns and led Seattle with 60 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Falcons coach Mike Smith said he is preparing for the 49ers traditional offense that were used to seeing as well as the pistol formation with read-option plays that Kaepernick ran in college at Nevada.
Were going to have to be prepared to stop him, Smith said. Were going to see things we havent seen in terms of what theyll do with their formations.
Wilson found open room when he took off on long runs after first looking to pass. Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said Kaepernick shows more determination to run.
With Kaepernick, I think once he tucks the ball, hes looking to run, DeCoud said. There will be a few rare instances where he has his eyes looking downfield. More times than not, if hes dropping back and tucks the ball, hes taking off to run, where Russell, he had his head up looking downfield and wasnt really looking to cross the line of scrimmage. He was just trying to buy time for his guys to get open.
Kaepernicks big game last week earned him the promise of more attention from the Falcons defense.
We definitely have to have somebody accounting for him, DeCoud said, adding defensive backs have to be ready to leave their assignments to help contain Kaepernicks runs.
Last week, we kind of bought into plastering the receivers if (Wilson) broke containment because of the fact he likes to find the open receivers, DeCoud said. This week, well have to be cognizant of maybe coming off coverage if he crosses the line of scrimmage to thwart him making a big play on us.
Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson said the one obstacle Kaepernick cant dodge with his speed is inexperience. Todays game will be Kaepernicks first playoff game on the road.
Youve got to get in his mind and change the looks up on him, Peterson said. Hes a great quarterback, doing a lot of good things for his team, but the common denominator is that hes still a young quarterback.
He cant run from that.