I don’t even need to look at the loss of Julio Jones and offer some sort of smidgen of optimism on the San Francisco 49ers’ chances against the Atlanta Falcons. Falcons wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu is coming back and he may be all that team needs for a big game and their quarterback was in the MVP conversation at one point this season.
I think my PC shares the horror as iTunes is playing the soundtrack to Resident Evil 2 as I write this. Not a good sign.
Let’s see if Madden throws us a bone this week.
Quarter Length: 6 minutes
49ers: Torrey Smith (WR), Joe Staley (T)
Falcons: Julio Jones (WR), Nick Williams (WR), Jalen Collins (CB), Adrian Clayborn (DE) Robenson Therezie (S)
The 49ers received and began their offense on the 25 yard line. And the game began...with a Colin Kaepernick sack and a loss of 7 yards, courtesy of Brooks Reed. The second play wasn’t much better with a -2 yard loss of a Carlos Hyde run. The batted pass to close out the series resulted in a punt and the Falcons got to have their first try at this offense thing.
The Falcons couldn’t open much better. A 2-yard pass to Taylor Gabriel didn’t help get things going, and the 4 yard run from Devonta Freeman didn’t get much traction. A dropped pass led to another 3 and out.
Another uneventful 3 and out from the 49ers led to the Falcons FINALLY getting some traction with the running game. Devonta Freeman had his way with the defense, toting the rock to the 50 yard line. The Falcons tried a pass at midfield, but Aaron Lynch knocked it away, so it was back to Devonta Freeman for his 4 yard carries. At the 49ers’ 35 yard-line, Tevin Coleman gave it a shot on 3rd and 3 and wasn’t as successful, leading to a Matt Bryant field goal.
Score: 3-0, Falcons
The 49ers got the ball and did pretty much nothing again, until 3rd and 9 when Kaepernick hit Quinton Patton for 12 yards and a first down. The quarter came to an end.
Carlos Hyde and Colin Kaepernick brought the run game alive to start the second quarter. A 5 yard holding penalty on Tyson Jackson helped the ball move past the Falcons’ 40 yard line and a new series. Unfortunately, the 49ers decided to try passing 3 times. This was a mistake since the ball got batted away on every play. Regardless, it was enough for Phil Dawson to make a field goal and tie things up.
Score: 3-3, TIE
The Falcons tried the passing game and nailed Taylor Gabriel for 15 yards and Devonta Freeman for another 13. Using the running game, they crossed midfield to the 35, and were stopped one yard short on 3rd down. They elected to kick a field goal rather than push on (why? Against the 49ers defense, one could guess), which was made.
Score: 6-3, Falcons
The 49ers went 3 and out, sending the ball back to the Falcons. With a balance of running and passing, the Falcons quickly ran across the field within a minute and hit Justin Hardy for the 11 yard touchdown pass. And here we go...
Score: 13-3, Falcons
After trading 3 and outs with Atlanta, the 49ers offense had one more try with 1:02 left. Kaepernick hit Patton immediately for 30 yards to cross midfield, and followed it up with a nice 13 yard pass to Rod Streater. He wasn’t done as Carlos Hyde caught a quick pass and turned it into 23 yards and put them on the Falcons’ 7 yard line. Kaepernick nailed Streater on the next play for the touchdown pass. Wow.
Score: 13-10, Falcons
The Falcons made one quick running play to draw the clock and then went to the locker room.
The Falcons received and tried to stop this close game nonsense that was happening. They opened with an offsides penalty, given by Deforest Buckner. From there, they managed to cross midfield, but a holding penalty on Chris Chester put them back on the 49ers’ end. Chester followed it up with another holding penalty on the next play. The 49ers were prepared for the obvious shift to passing and kept the Falcons from getting their needed 26 yards.
Not like the 49ers offense could do anything though, a quick 3 and out and the ball was back to Atlanta. The Falcons offense managed getting a 1st down, but struggled picking up big yardage after. A facemask penalty on Quinton Dial helped them cross midfield and an 18 yard reception to Mohamed Sanu got them to the redzone. The Falcons continued chipping away and got to the two yard line. Devonta Freeman fumbled the ball on a straight run through jumbo and it was scooped up by Rashard Robinson.
Starting from the 10 yard line, the 49ers went 3 and out and sent the ball back to Atlanta. This time, they strictly used Devonta Freeman to run the ball, get chunks of yards, and end the 3rd quarter on their own 45-yard line.
The 4th quarter began with one more running play before a 24 yard strike to Taylor Gabriel put the Falcons just outside of the redzone. A coulpe short passes to Sanu and Gabriel put the team on the 4-yard line and Tevin Coleman plucked the final pass for a touchdown.
Score: 20-10, Falcons
I was about to just go right to the Falcons’ next drive (since a 3 and out seems to be common) but Kaepernick hit Garret Celek for 15 yards and Quinton Patton for 9 the very next play (they got a first down).
The yardage continued with a 15 yard catch and run by Jeremy Kerley, and a nice Kaepernick rush to take them deeper into Falcons territory. Celek caught a nice 18 yard floater to put them at the 25-yard line, and the running game came into show what it could do by inching itself closer and closer to the goal line. On the 2-yard line, Carlos Hyde strutted in to keep this game close.
Score: 20-17, Falcons
The Falcons went into clock-chew mode and ran the ball repeatedly, mixing in a short pass or two along the way across midfield. San Francisco started using their two time outs far too early and a Devonta Freeman run after the two minute warning was enough to let Matt Ryan start kneeling.
This is odd. The Falcons were in field goal range and decided to kick a field goal on 4th down with 35 seconds left. The kneeling made no sense, and while the field goal was good, that gave possession back to San Francisco with 35 seconds left.
Well, the 49ers didn’t even get to midfield before the clock ran out. I guess the Falcons knew what they were doing.
Final Score: 23-17, Falcons
Madden definitely threw us a bone with this game, even if it was trolling us hard towards the end. If the 49ers manage to keep this a 6-point game with that defense they have, and the offense Atlanta has, there’s something very very wrong with the Falcons offense and some good progression with the 49ers defense.
Keep in mind, with as much gruff Jim O’Neil has gotten for his defense, these games at this point in the season are a great measuring point for how well the team has adapted and come together. The Falcons offense is no-joke, even without Julio Jones. If the 49ers can manage to keep this within a touchdown, I’d consider that a victory for the defense and an indication they are taking steps in the right direction.
But I sincerely doubt it’s this close.