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This day in 49ers history: Defense dominates Falcons in blowout win

It’s been 28 years since the San Francisco 49ers put a beatdown on the Atlanta Falcons.

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

It has been a tough year for the San Francisco 49ers. The team had Super Bowl aspirations coming into the 2020 season but injuries have ravaged the Niners, leaving them in limbo. Since we haven’t had too many positives to talk about over the last few weeks, let’s take a look back at a dominating defensive performance by San Francisco from the 1992 season.

It was 28 years ago today that the 49ers were taking on the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC West showdown. The Niners were coming off an embarrassing 24-14 to the lowly Phoenix Cardinals and sat 6-2 going into the game.

This was the second meeting of the season between the two teams, with San Francisco pummeling Atlanta 56-17 in Week 7. The Falcons swept the 49ers one season earlier, so the Niners wanted to get their revenge — and they did — in a big way.

San Francisco drew first blood off an Atlanta turnover. Keith Jones fumbled at the Falcons 48-yard line, which led to a 12-yard touchdown pass from Young to receiver Odessa Turner. The two teams played each evenly throughout most of the first half.

The Niners doubled their lead late in the second quarter when Young connected with Ricky Watters for a 21-yard score. Atlanta got a Norm Johnson field goal with two seconds remaining to cut the 49ers’ lead to 14-3.

The rout was on in the second half. Mike Cofer connected on two field goals to extend the lead to 17. On the ensuing kickoff, San Francisco recovered a fumble by Deion Sanders, setting up the offense with excellent field position.

Tom Rathman capped off the short drive with a two-yard score, putting the 49ers up 27-3. The defense shut down the Falcons’ offense the rest of the way. On the next drive, Eric Davis picked off Billy Joe Tolliver and even though the Niners couldn’t take advantage of the turnover on the next drive, it was a sign of things to come.

The man with the longest neck in history — Merton Hanks — intercepted Tolliver’s on the next Atlanta possessions, and this time San Francisco made them pay. Young connected with the GOAT, Jerry Rice, for a 19-yard touchdown just under three minutes into the third quarter to put the 49ers up 34-3.

Hanks would put the bow on the victory less than two minutes later when he returned a punt 48 yards for the game’s final score, giving San Francisco a 41-3 win.

Atlanta actually had more total yards than the 49ers (304-303), and despite holding Young to just 143 yards passing, the six turnovers killed the Falcons. Tolliver finished with three picks, and Atlanta had three fumbles. San Francisco finished with 24 points off the six turnovers.

“It’s not a pretty sight when you turn the ball over and over,” Falcons Coach Jerry Glanville said after the game. “We committed occupational suicide.”

The 49ers went on to win their final seven games of the 1992 season, finishing first place in the NFC West with a 14-2 record. San Francisco’s offense finished first in the league yards and points per game. Linebacker Bill Romanowski knew that Young, Rice, and the rest of the offense would make the opposing team pay when the defense forced turnovers.

“Whenever you can turn the ball over and give it to our offense, that’s usually points on the board,” Romanowski said.