Here are the grades for the San Francisco 49ers’ 17-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
GABBERT: B-. He won the game – give him credit. He threw two interceptions, but the first wasn’t his fault. That pass bounced off of wide receiver Jerome Simpson’s shoulder. The second pick – an underthrown pass right to defensive end Vic Beasley – was ugly. But this mistake didn’t cost the Niners the lead. And when Gabbert had to make a play on third-and-four near the end of the game, he ran for five yards and slid in bounds to keep the clock running. The other 49ers’ quarterback, what’s-his-face, simply would have cruised out of bounds.
RUNNING BACKS: B. The 49ers’ starting running back was someone named Shaun Draughn, and he had 102 yards from scrimmage – exactly what we all expected from him. Sunday afternoon was classic Draughn.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C. Torrey Smith dropped two passes, but made up for those mistakes with a beautiful one-handed catch. Quinton Patton led all receivers with three catches for 70 yards. Jerome Simpson caught no passes, although he tipped one to an opposing defensive back. At least SOMEONE caught the ball.
TIGHT ENDS: B. Garrett Celek made two touchdown catches, and now leads the team with three on the season – exactly what we all expected. Classic Celek. Vance McDonald, the starter, dropped the only pass Colin Kaepernick attempted – a deep pass toward the left sideline. Classic McDonald.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B. Didn’t create much room to run, but didn’t give up any sacks, either. Amazing how much better these guys play when they’re blocking for a quarterback who doesn’t hold the ball until the end of time.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A. Held the NFL’s leading rusher, Devonta Freeman, to 12 rushing yards on 12 carries.
LINEBACKERS: A. The Niners defense hit Matt Ryan seven times, and linebackers Aaron Lynch and NaVorro Bowman each sacked Ryan once. The front-seven hasn’t played this well since Week 1. Bowman certainly had his best game of the season.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A. The Niners broke up nine passes even though they didn’t have their top-three corners – Tramaine Brock, Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser. All three were inactive. Their replacements – Dontae Johnson, Marcus Cromartie and Chris Davis – were terrific. Cromartie made a team-leading seven tackles, and Johnson broke up a pass intended for Jones in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
One note on the safeties: Jaquiski Tartt already is better than Eric Reid, and it’s not even close.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C. The Niners couldn’t stop Falcons return man Eric Weems, and Bruce Ellington made at least two fair catches inside the Niners 10-yard line. But Ellington was fantastic when he actually ran, and kicker Phil Dawson was perfect.
COACHES: B. Eric Mangini did a great job getting his young, inexperienced corners ready for this game, and shutting down Freeman, the Falcons’ running back. Geep Chryst was solid, although he didn’t really change anything about the offense. He mostly called the same plays he’s called all season. The difference was the quarterback, who was confident and decisive.