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Position-by-position grades from the 49ers 28-14 road loss to the Falcons

The depleted 49ers missed another opportunity in Sunday’s 28-14 loss to the Falcons.

San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 49ers went into Atlanta with a chance to solidify themselves atop the NFC West standings. Depleted by injuries, the Niners needed their stars to deliver on Sunday against the Falcons to lift them to a 4-2 record. While a couple of players had great performances, San Francisco’s depth was tested in a mistake-filled game, resulting in a 28-14 49ers loss.

Here are position-by-position grades for the ugly loss that dropped the Niners back to 3-3:

Quarterbacks: B

I went back and forth on this grade for Jimmy Garoppolo, oscillating between an A- and B before settling on the low end of that spectrum.

For the second-straight week, Garoppolo delivered one of the best performances of his career (worth noting these grades aren’t adjusted for the individual players but are an attempt to put their performances on the same scale as players at the position around the league). And for the second consecutive week, the rest of the offense let him down.

His overall numbers were mediocre, finishing 29-for-41 for 296 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. However, that ignores several drops and penalties. Garoppolo had impressive throws downfield to Ray-Ray McCloud, Charlie Woerner, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle that were either dropped, called back by penalty, or incomplete because of a bad route. Those mistakes easily cost him at least another 100 yards and a score.

Garoppolo deserves a lot of credit for preventing the Falcons from recording a sack. He did an excellent job moving in the pocket and gave his receivers several opportunities to get open downfield.

His first interception came at the end of the first half and required an impressive play by Falcons defensive back Isaiah Oliver. His worst throw of the day led to his second interception, but it was a catchable ball and easily could have been erased by a pass interference penalty. He also had a fumble wiped off his final line by a defensive holding penalty. Still, despite those mistakes, he delivered enough big-time throws to make up for it. The rest of the offense just didn’t capitalize.

Given what we know about Garoppolo, the 49ers cannot expect to get this caliber of performance from Jimmy every week, which makes this loss even more frustrating.

Running backs: F

Playing from behind, the 49ers running backs didn’t get a lot of opportunities on Sunday to make an impact. Of course, Jeff Wilson Jr.’s fumble that was returned for a touchdown played a big part in that. Overall, Niners backs amassed just 28 rushing yards on 11 carries. Kyle Juszczyk did haul in every one of his targets for four receptions and 33 receiving yards. While the offensive line did not do the 49ers backs any favors on Sunday, Wilson’s fumble was too costly to avoid the lowest grade, especially since it immediately gave the Falcons seven points.

Tight ends: F

George Kittle was mostly solid on Sunday, amassing five catches for 53 yards before the final garbage time drive, when he added a trio of catches to his statline. With that said, he also cost the 49ers a touchdown on their penultimate drive.

It’s hard to knock Kittle too much, given Garoppolo’s inconsistency throwing the ball 20+ yards downfield over the years. However, this time, Garoppolo made a perfect throw to bring the 49ers within a touchdown and Kittle was in the wrong place.

Charlie Woerner dropped the only other target for a tight end on the day, costing the 49ers a field goal and possibly more on their second drive of the third quarter.

The 49ers tight ends usually have an opportunity to make up for any mistakes as receivers in the run game, but they did not have an opportunity to do that this week.

Wide receivers: B-

Aiyuk may have been the only player on the team who played better than Garoppolo on Sunday. He finished the day with eight receptions for 83 receiving yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns and should have had even more. Aiyuk hauled in a 39-yard reception with more than seven minutes left in regulation, but it was called back by a holding penalty on center Jake Brendel.

Deebo Samuel was a solid second option, combining for eight touches (six catches and two carries) for 69 yards prior to a big catch on the last drive when the game was out of reach. Granted, those numbers are a bit inflated by how often the 49ers threw the ball on Sunday.

The rest of the Niners pass catchers, though, were absent on Sunday. McCloud dropped one of the best deep throws of Garoppolo’s career on his only target of the day and the normally clutch Jauan Jennings was targeted just three times and managed just two receptions for 18 yards.

Offensive line: C

As previously mentioned, the offensive line was unable to generate any push on the ground but also did not get a lot of opportunities to prove otherwise. Garoppolo went unsacked on Sunday, and the line avoided the massive errors that have plagued them this season. However, Brendel’s costly holding knocks them down to an average grade.

Defensive line: C+

The 49ers were down their entire first-string defensive line on Sunday, and it showed in their inability to stop the run. Drake Jackson and Charles Omenihu each recorded sacks while Samson Ebukam added a pair of tackles for loss. With that said, the 49ers backups struggled mightily against the run, surrendering more than four yards per carry on 40 attempts. The Falcons had success running up the middle but also took advantage of overaggressive play by the Niners' backups off the edge, giving Marcus Mariota a chance for some big runs.

Linebackers: C-

The defense’s performance was a far cry from what fans have come to expect from the 49ers, but they allowed just 21 points on Sunday, right in line with a league-average performance.

Of the positions on the defense, the linebackers easily missed the most opportunities to take the unit’s performance to the next level. Someone forgot to pay attention to Mariota, allowing him to scramble for a huge third-and-13 conversion in the first half. Fred Warner missed another tackle that could have stopped Atlanta on another third down later in the game.

Cornerbacks: C

The 49ers defensive backfield took another big hit when Mooney Ward went down in the first half, but San Francisco’s secondary never looked particularly dominant. Despite the defensive line generating good pressure, Mariota went 13-for-14 for 129 yards through the air with a pair of touchdowns.

Safeties: C

On a mediocre defensive day, Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson had mediocre performances. They were no better or worse than the 49ers corners. They combined for 15 tackles but failed to record a turnover or tackle for loss in a game for the first time this season.

Special teams: A

McCloud the receiver had a costly drop, but on special teams, he had a pair of fantastic returns, including a 35-yard punt return that led to one of the 49ers two touchdown drives. Robbie Gould and Mitch Wishnowsky weren’t asked to do too much, but Gould made his two extra-point attempts and Wishnowsky averaged 52.7 yards per punt on three punts (although he did outkick his coverage on one).