FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Roddy White warned San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner and tag-team partner Dashon Goldson there will be "consequences'' for taking the type of game-changing knockout shot Whitner laid on New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas in last January's divisional playoff game.
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On the first drive of the game, Thomas took a swing pass from Drew Brees inside the San Francisco 7-yard line, and Whitner blasted the running back, knocking him from the game on a fierce helmet-to-helmet hit that set the game's tone.
White and running mate Julio Jones will be looking to make San Francisco's hard-hitting, hard-charging safeties pay for being overly aggressive in Sunday's NFC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome.
"Those guys do come downhill and they try to knock you out, and anytime you do that, if you miss, there's going to be consequences,'' White told USA TODAY Sports Friday. "It's going to lead to explosive gains on offense. We're looking forward to that.
"We've got big strong guys who are used to contact after catching and used to getting after people. As long as we can catch the ball and get our pads turned downfield, we'll break tackles.''
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White said there are big pass plays to be had against the league's second-ranked scoring defense, though the 49ers allowed only 38 pass plays of 20 or more yards, third fewest in the league.
"We're watching film. We've seen a lot of things -- people have made plays,'' White said. "With their front seven, they're getting after the quarterbacks and not giving them a lot of time, (but) we just figure if we can go out there and hit those plays, that puts a lot of pressure on them.
"They've never been in position where they have to play catch-up. That's one thing we want to do, get off to a good start and see how they play football catching up.''
While Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said the plan is to prepare for a 60-minute battle, the Falcons (14-3) have been known all season for their quick-strike, pass-first offense. They've posted 56 points on drives lasting four or fewer plays.
It will be key to establish a running threat early to set up play-action strikes downfield that can help the offensive line keep a fierce 49ers pass rush at bay.
"We want to start the game fast and when you're playing against a really good team like San Francisco, it's important,'' Ryan said. "We have extremely talented wide receivers and tight ends, guys who can go up and win one-on-one matchups. Regardless of who we're going against, we feel like we have to take those chances.
"Our guys have done a great job all year, when I've given them a shot, they've gone up and made a lot of plays for us.''
Ryan said just "by the sheer numbers of the guys we put out there,'' somebody is going to have a one-on-one opportunity whether it's underneath or over the top. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers said it is key to hit those shots early.
"When you've got safeties like they have who play downhill, you'll have a chance for a big one,'' Rodgers said. "Both safeties are big hitters and they play in the box.''
No better way to earn respect from their many doubters than by putting added pressure on second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, forcing him into catch-up mode early on.
"You win 13 games, and every week you get picked to lose," White said, although that's a gross exaggeration. "We're used to it. I guess (when we) win a Super Bowl, then everybody will take us serious."