The Union Recorder

Local Sports

January 2, 2013

All 12 playoff teams have flaws to fix

(Continued)

ATLANTA —

"We'll play in the parking lot," linebacker Dwight Freeney said. "We just want to go out there and play football and be in this dance."

—Cincinnati: Andy Dalton. The young QB has made it in Cincinnati. Now, can he make it in his hometown? As a rookie last season, he took the Bengals to the playoffs and faced the Texans back in Houston — he grew up in suburban Katy. He had one of his worst games with three interceptions, including one that J.J. Watt returned 29 yards for a TD.

"He's a guy that's grown," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said of Dalton. "He's matured. I think he's ready for his opportunity."

NFC:

—Atlanta: Ground(ed) game. The Falcons earned the top seed in the NFC despite ranking 29th running the ball. They made up for that lack of success and a 23rd-ranked defense thanks to QB Matt Ryan, who threw for 4,719 yards and 34 TDs even with spotty protection. Their loss to Tampa on Sunday, though, snapped an 11-game home winning streak.

"We really thought we were going to pull it off," cornerback Asante Samuel said. "But we have bigger fish to fry."

—San Francisco: The 49ers' kicking game is suddenly a big question mark for the two-time defending NFC West champions after David Akers' prolonged funk a year after his near-perfect season. Akers was just 29 for 42 this season and found himself in a competition with Billy Cundiff this week to see who will be kicking in the playoffs.

"Kickers go through, at times, slumps. You see a guy go through it and sometimes he'll come out of it quickly and sometimes it lingers a little bit," coach Jim Harbaugh said.

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