49ers 22, Falcons 29: Grades

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass in front of San Francisco 49ers defensive back Emmanuel Moseley during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers just lost 29-22 to the dismal, injured Atlanta Falcons. Here are the 49ers’ grades:

GAROPPOLO: C. This a passing grade.  Garoppolo was adequate. But, he didn’t play well enough to win. He went against a defense that was missing its top cornerback (Desmond Trufant), top safety (Keanu Neal), and one of their top pass rushers (Takkarist McKinley), and still threw for just 200 yards. He also threw two passes the Falcons nearly intercepted. He completed only four passes to wide receivers — it seemed as though he didn’t even look at them. And he didn’t win the game. Big step backward after a career performance against the Saints last week. To win the Super Bowl, the 49ers will need Consistent Jimmy, not Good Jimmy and Bad Jimmy.

RUNNING BACKS: C. Tevin Coleman had a 37-yard run, but if you take away that play the 49ers running backs averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. They couldn’t get much going for most of the game. Their best play was a two-yard touchdown catch by fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Jeff Wilson Jr. was active but never ran the ball. The 49ers need to find playing time for him. He’s an asset.

WIDE RECEIVERS: D-MINUS. Kendrick Bourne had one catch for 11 yards, Emmanuel Sanders had two catch for nine yards and Deebo Samuel had one catch for 29 yards. Samuel also dropped two passes. He is a better running back than a wide receiver at this point in his career. He even played running back at times against the Falcons and rushed for eight yards. He needs to work on getting open and catching the ball. He’s terrific with the ball in his hands.

TIGHT ENDS: A. George Kittle basically was the entire offense. Garoppolo threw 17 of his 34 pass attempts to Kittle, and Kittle caught 13 passes for 134 yards. He clearly is the best tight end in the NFL and the best player on the 49ers offense. They might not have scored any points if they didn’t have Kittle in this game.

OFFENSIVE LINE: C. They gave up only one sack that counted, but they gave up two sacks that didn’t count because the Falcons committed unnecessary-roughness penalties. Meaning the offensive line gave up pressure. And with the exception of one play in the running game, they didn’t create holes for the running backs.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B-MINUS. They held Falcons running back Devonta Freeman to just 39 rushing yards, and hit Matt Ryan six times. But, they sacked him only twice. The 49ers defensive line, which was so deep and energetic the first two months of the season, seems exhausted. These players need a Bye week big time.

LINEBACKERS: B-MINUS. Fred Warner had nine tackles and Dre Greenlaw had six. Warner almost intercepted a pass, but nickelback D.J. Reed knocked the ball away from him by accident.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: F. Three starters were out: Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams and Jaquiski Tartt. And their replacements all struggled. Emmanuel Moseley and D.J. Reed took turns giving up catches to Julio Jones, and safety Marcell Harris gave up the game-losing touchdown with five seconds left in the fourth quarter. More on that play below.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-MINUS. Ross Dwelley stripped the ball from Falcons punt returner Kenjon Barner, and Kyle Juszczyk recovered the ball at the Falcons’ 15 yard line and ran it down to their one-yard line. This group gets a “minus” because Robbie Gould missed an extra point. The kick-return unit also fumbled and gave up a touchdown on the final play of the game, but it was a desperation play and they lateraled the ball three times. They had no choice but to lateral the ball as much as possible.

COACHES: D. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh didn’t have more than half of his key contributors on defense, but he was facing the lowly Falcons, who didn’t have wide receiver Calvin Ridley . They and essentially have just one receiving threat — Julio Jones — and Saleh couldn’t find a way to stop him. Man-to-man coverage didn’t work, because Moseley and Reed were too small to match up with Jones. And zone coverage didn’t work, because the 49ers’ backup defensive backs frequently wandered out of position and blew their assignments. On the defense’s final play, Saleh tried to bracket Jones with Moseley and Harris — double coverage — but Harris lined up too deep and allowed Jones to right by him and make the touchdown catch. In hindsight, Saleh probably should have blitzed, because he knew his coverage couldn’t hold up.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t have his team prepared to play a home game in December. His players admitted they were flat. His offensive game plan was the worst of the season. And he couldn’t establish one player other than Kittle. It seemed as though Shanahan expected to win and was primarily focused on Kittle breaking Mike Ditka’s record for most receiving yards by a tight end in his first three seasons. And late in the fourth quarter on fourth and one with the game on the line, Shanahan lost his nerve, went conservative and kicked a field goal from the Falcons’ 25-yard line instead of going for the first down. Had the 49ers gained just one yard, they could have ran out the clock and won. Instead, Shanahan asked his tired, beat-up defense to win the game, and they couldn’t. The 49ers can’t afford another bad performance from Shanahan. They need Good Kyle the rest of the way.

This article has 155 Comments

  1. When the Falcons started that last drive with something like a minute and a half on the clock, it just didn’t have that “9ers gonna shut them down” feel. That last drive was torture.

    1. Grant, I mostly agree with your grades, but I’m not sure if you are insinuating that the 49ers should have gone for it on 4th and 2, giving the Falcons a chance to win with a FG if they stop the Niners? I think you have to kick a FG there. Kittle’s fumble was unfortunately a huge gaffe, as he had a golden opportunity to pick up a possible game clinching first down on the play. That’s a play we’ve seen him make time and time again, but he apparently lost his grip while attempting to switch the ball into his other hand, and it cost him the opportunity to move the chains.

      That said, I thought Kyle called his worst game of the season. I felt like his game plan was uninspired, predictable, and far too conservative. Was he trying to keep from putting his most effective plays on film ahead of the Rams game? Why in the world did he send Breida on a run between the tackles immediately after he had just fumbled, when he has two superior between-the-tackles runners in both Mostert and Wilson at his disposal? That’s not playing to his players strengths. And why no deep shots a week after the offense was so successful at stretching the field against the Saints?

      And Saleh …. don’t even get me started with the defense!

      1. I don’t care if he’s the best TE in the game, and perhaps the most valuable player in the league in terms of his all-around offensive impact ….. you can’t just rely on one receiver, at the expense of getting your other receivers involved, and expect that will give you your best chance to win. Not against an NFL team who, like Kyle said, was treating this game as if it were their Super Bowl. I simply don’t understand how it is that you can’t find way to get your #1 WR the football, when you have a TE who demands as much attention from the opposing defense as Kittle, along with the 2nd ranked rushing attack in the NFL!

        I know it’s only one game, and the Niners still control their own destiny despite this loss, but if I’m being honest, I thought Kyle’s game plan was, to be frank, a bit arrogent, and he stubbornly refused to dig deep within his call sheet in order to create favorable matchups, and dictate the way in which the Falcons were defending against them.

        At least Salah had a somewhat valid excuse thanks to a defensive unit riddled with injuries at key positions. Sure, Ben Garland isn’t playing at the same level as Richburg, but there weren’t nearly enough injuries on offense to excuse the 49ers lackluster performance vs a four win – injury riddled Falcons defense!

  2. Thanks Grant .. Grades seem fair except Mostert I thought ran the ball ok….the other two guys sucked period.

    This game seemed like the Shanny of old, calling weirdo conserative plays, relying on kicking and defense instead of putting the game away. The seconday looked confused all game.. Deja Vu

  3. Two guys stood out to me today as having played with very poor effort. The first Emmanuel Sanders. Looked disinterested today and didn’t step up as a veteran should to lead this team. Also had a costly false start penalty.
    The second guy DJ Read. Everyone keeps talking about déjà vu from last year. That’s because when he’s on the field, teams always throw to him. He is the worst back up on defense and should only play on special teams.

  4. We are feeling that early bye week right now…both from an injury standpoint and exhaustion from the guys that aren’t injured and playing…

  5. Yeah, the loss was bad, even a bit humiliating like you said in your article. But I also think there is a bit of overreacting going on currently. It was a let down game, not an indictment on the team’s chances. These types of games do happen to very good teams, even at this time of year. Given the guantlet they just came through it is not even surprising this happened, and may actually be the slap in the face some of the young guys need.

    Of all the remaining games on their schedule this was the one they could most afford to lose. It sucks, but its not the end of the world. Its not even the end of the 49ers hopes of getting the #1 seed – they still don’t even need other games to go their way to get that, just win their remaining games.

    Relax 49er fans.

    1. Just one thing I disagree with Scooter.

      “ It was a let down game, not an indictment on the team’s chances”

      The depth is starting to get thin and teams are targeting those guys. And Saleh defensive scheme is also not as effective the last 3 weeks.

      It’s not time to panic because we will get reinforcements back but the scheme defensively is troublesome.
      As well, some one other than Kittle needs to start winning their matchups on offense.

        1. While I believe you’re largely right about the defense will probably play better with Ford….and Tartt and Sherman. I mean we know that teams have been double teaming and chipping Bosa. But I also wonder if there’s been enough film on the 49ers’ defense that maybe some of their defensive line tactics are less effective? Like maybe they’ve seen Bosa’s bag of tricks and have better prepared for them? I’m not talking anything major. Just some tactical adjustments and maybe picking up on some tendencies that may give offensive linemen some slight edges they didn’t have before. I’m not just singling out Bosa, I’m wondering if that goes for better tactics blocking Armstead and Buckner too. I don’t…my post isn’t ground breaking….just that maybe the Niners defensive line benefited from presenting offenses with a new scheme, new players and new ways to use existing players. But once enough was out there; some of those advantages were negated. Again most of the problems are simply personnel (injuries/back ups) and fatigue. But I also think they’re not catching anyone by surprise anymore.

          1. Bosa is still getting around the edge. The difference is the guy on the other side isn’t meeting him there anymore and the QB can just move to the right.

            1. Rushing from the outside, Bosa seems to be taking wider turns…or is being ridden out wider. His crashing the middle on a stunt isn’t as effective as it used to be. As I said, I wonder if there’s something technique wise that blockers are now taking advantage of…or Bosa is simply hitting the rookie wall and isn’t able to bend and close as well and as consistently as before. Armstead doesn’t seem to be making quite as many big plays either. Buckner, Armstead and Bosa all seem to be sticking on blocks a little longer than before. I’ll say again, I’m not saying they’re playing badly but they’re not just destroying the opponent and taking over the game. I get that the talent isn’t there on the other side like it used to be, but I think there may be something more systematic going on (or maybe it’s just fatigue?).

              1. I’ve not looked at the snap count but the D linemen are probably not being rotated as effectively as they were before all the injuries. Could fatigue be a factor in their not getting away from the blocks promptly? When the edge got around, the middle got wide open and Ryan ran for first downs surprisingly well.

              2. I brought attention to his technique early in the season. He will benefit from the off season.
                It’s a long season for a guy whose motor never stops.
                If I were Shanahan I’d lay down the next two games. Sit the starters. Give your team two weeks to push into the playoffs. There is another bye before the Super Bowl. You’ve already beaten the teams in the playoffs. Take two weeks to get healthy.

    2. Definitely a letdown game. Could sense that almost from the start.

      Really not impressed with the play of the oline today. Garoppolo rarely had a clear pocket today.

      Need to win these next two so they can get a week off before the playoffs.

      1. There wasn’t much to be impressed by for the 49ers today to be honest. Wasn’t just the OL. But yes, they did struggle to provide much time for JG. JG also struggled at times to move within the pocket to give himself some extra time, and had a few poor passes that weren’t really much to do with the OL or receivers. The receivers of course also had a few bad drops. The offense just wasn’t clicking for much of the game. Without Kittle it would have been brutal on offense.

  6. Hmmm… I thought the play of the game was the last play before the 2 minute warning when Jimmy took the snap with 2:08 on the game clock and more importantly with 6s still on the play clock. The play lasted 9s and the 2 minute warning happened at 1:59 on game clock. I can’t help but think that 5-6s he didn’t run off the play clock ended up giving the falcons an extra play at the end which Ryan cashed in on. Maybe you should have factored that in to Jimmy’s grade cause it was a huge mental mistake.

  7. As 49reasons or someone stated, there is plenty of blame to go around. Basically, a lackluster effort. Wish Jimmy G could have rallied the offense behind him but he himself had a very forgettable game. I would dismiss this loss if it came earlier this season. I am not that worried about the D since they will get players back. But I was very disappointed by the offense. Currently they seem to be limping into the playoffs.

    1. Funny thing is, JG did enough to win the game, but in the end it was Kittle that let him down. That fumble when it looked like he had room to get the 1st down after the catch (especially the way he runs) was, in the end, a crucial play in the game.

      I don’t mean that in any way as a criticism of Kittle who was head and shoulders above the rest of the team in this one, but in the end even their best player cam up with a big error when it mattered most. Just that kind of day unfortunately.

      1. If you watched his post-game interview Scooter, you could see he felt lousy about it too.
        I felt bad for him; he WAS our offense today.

      2. Yeah, maybe I was bit overcritical of Jimmy G. He’s a timing and rhythm passer and he seemed to be uncomfortable in the pocket today. So some of his passes came low (Bourne dropped) or sailed high (one of which Kittle caught), and then there was the good pass that Deebo just plain dropped. He seemed to have to throw before the routes developed. Kittle took a lot of beating today. Have to preserve him for the playoffs.

    2. Mood, we put up 48 points last week against a top 10 Defense! I don’t know how you can make the comment that the offense has been lackluster lately. All teams have ups and downs, I would dismiss the low offensive output in Baltimore due to the weather and field conditions, other than that we’ve been pretty consistent. Not lights out, but consistent. The run game has been slowed down, because Defenses started keying on that, but Jimmy made them pay for that, ala Arizona, Green Bay and New Orleans.

      We are in the Playoffs for the first time in six years, and I think most of us on this forum said in the off season that that would be huge for this team and fan base!

      Not saying I don’t want more, as I as a fan definitely want more, and feel that the players do as well! Stuff happens, and this loss sucked, but we still control our destiny, and we still have a chair at the table for the playoffs and whatever happens, I’m so proud of this team and everything we’ve seen this year from the growth of our coaches, our free agent/trade acquisitions and two great draft Picks in the first and second rounds that will pay off for years to come.

      Here’s to a rebound, and a strong run in the playoffs!!

      Go Niners! Hold your heads up high 49ers fans! Let’s beat the Scrams, and then show the Hawks who’s boss in their house!

      Go Niners!

      1. I was describing the offense as they played today. It all started with a lackluster effort by the O line which consistently lost ground in pass pro to bull rushes. Even Kyle’s play calling seemed to show some exhaustion.

        Of course Niners have been a very good offense this season, especially against good teams. But they played down to the level of the competition today. Saturday will be the time to turn it around.

  8. You got it right, Grant. DJ Reed was horrendous. That last touch down could’ve been stopped if he had lunged forward keeping Julio from leaning back and crossing the goal line. Instead he just stood there frozen and just tapped Julio with his fingers. There was no fight in these guys.

    Jimmy G is frequently a step slow getting rid of the ball and needs to remember how to move and properly buy a little time. He has a tendency to run into the very pass rush he needs to escape from. He’s too slow to wait til the last second before he realizes the rush is about to get him. They need to practice that. It’s the difference between getting a first down and getting sacked. Russell Wilson does it in his sleep even slowpoke Matt Ryan knows how to do it better than Jimmy. Lastly, we’re back to the pass rush of last season rather than the powerhouse of most of this season. We’re back to playing just well enough to lose in this game.

  9. Jimmy G seems to be counting on Shanahan to scheme everybody open and when he throws a ball in heavy traffic that the receivers (if they can catch it) will make two or three defenders miss. Montana, yes, Joe Montana, could pick a defense apart by throwing what Bill Walsh called a catchable ball and keep moving the chains. Ah, the good ol days.

  10. It’s understandable that the team, as well as us fans, are disappointed with this game. Sure it was a let down. But it’s not the end of the world folks. It was an anomaly, not the norm. And even not playing their best, they still came a fraction of an inch from pulling out a win. But the outcome of this game changes nothing. The 49ers clinched a playoff berth!! I’m impressed with what a turnaround this team has made and I think we can all say they have hugely exceeded our expectations this year. I think one thing we’ve learned about this team is they rebound well from losses. On to the Rams. Have faith that this coaching staff and a resolute group of battle tested players will respond well.

  11. We scored 48 against the Saints in the most must-win game of the year. SF is depleted and played flat and hence the loss. Look how crappy the Hawks were against the Rams, now they’re sitting at the 1 seed. Let’s just finish off our biggest rivals — Rams and Hawks — and get back to No. 1. Niners got this!

    1. Look how crappy the Hawks were against the Rams, now they’re sitting at the 1 seed.

      And how crappy the Rams looked, while fighting for their playoff lives, against the Cowpokes. Niners will be the division and conference #1

  12. The overreaction is laughable. This team was just had to play 3 big games in a row. As much as I would have liked for the niners to win this game, it’s understandable that they lost. It’s difficult to get up for every game in the nfl. That’s why the Seahawks had a stinker last week. I hope that this refocuses the niners, and they finish strong with two wins.

    Grant, do you have any sort of measure or do you just shoot from the hip like an over reactionary fan? You just called deebo Samuel a better running back then a receiver based on one game. He was a pretty good receiver the last 5 games in my opinion.

    FYI go read shannys transcript. He does take blame.

    PS: Niners fans, we will be fine. Patriots loss to the lions and titans last year. These games happen every 3-4 games in the nfl. We narrowly avoided this against the Steelers and both times against the cardinals. Our luck was bound to run out.

  13. Here’s a conspiracy theory for ya
    What if Kyle did Dan a solid to help him try and keep his job. Calling a vanilla offensive game plan?
    Praising their game plan heavily in the press conference.
    Maybe he saw this as a worthy bye, feels they can win the last 2 and him and Robert did Dan a little favor due to Kyle blowing the SB and feeling bad about it. Also….maybe he feels a Destiny thing that Walsh niners went 13-3 first SB year
    Just a thought…..

  14. Thus far, Kyle Shanahan has lost to Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton (almost) and his former “boss”, Dan Quinn. Does Kyle feel he doesn’t measure up to certain more experienced coaches? He assuredly feels extra pressure to be successful because of what his dad accomplished. Does this added pressure cause him to “over think” in critical situations? I believe Kyle is smart enough to beat any head coach in the NFL but he has to believe in himself first.

    Kyle Shanahan reached a milestone birthday yesterday, he turned 40 years old. The time has come for KS to put on his “big boy” jeans and prove he can match up to the leagues’s grizzled best.

    Could it be the biggest hurdle in front of the Niners HC is his own self doubt?

  15. I am not sold on Jimmy mainly because he is too up and down. He probably had his best game last week, but this week while not doing anything to lose the game, he certainly did little to win it. The other problem is that he doe not throw an accurate long ball. Unless the receiver is wide open he will not throw it. This would be an acceptable trade off if he was always consistent with his short passes, but he is not.

    As to being able to afford to lose this game that is just a rationalization. It counts the same as any other loss. Because of this loss they have no wiggle room left in respect to the Rams. If they lose to the Rams they have no chance to win the division. Does anyone really believe the Rams are not capable of beating them? losing to teams like Seattle, and the Ravens in the last second is understandable. Losing to a team they should have beaten is not. Even good teams have let downs, but not at the end of the season when every game counts.

    As another poster mentioned, take away the RAC yards and this offense dinks and dunks for yardage. Jimmy is not a bad QB, but he is not an exceptional one either. He is not a franchise or elite QB so they should think about making a change in the future for a QB who can at least throw a long pass where the receiver isn’t wide open. When he had that good game last week and other said that should answer all the doubts about Jimmy. I responded that I wanted to see him string a few good games together before my doubts would end.

    1. I expect to see the usual goons up in arms about this. But really, can’t really blame Jimmy for this one. He didn’t turn the ball over, though he easily could have, and he made the right throws at the right times. Other players around him didn’t help much.

      1. have to wait till we see the film…a couple of beat writers said guys were open but Jimmy didn’t have a clean pocket to go through the progessions…..still not using other folks James Dwelley Wilson they have other players on the offense that can produce besides Kittle….its like Kyle wanted Kittle to have a big record day but it cost the team a game…bad move

  16. Grades seem mostly fair. I do think there is a lot of overreaction within the fanbase, though. Teams lose these kinds of games all the time. It’s how they respond to it which will define them. Patriots last year lost to a dreadful Miami team. The bottom line is the Niners played down to their competition and allowed them to win it late. If they win the remaining games on their schedule none of it matters.

  17. I really wonder what constitutes to you as a “franchise” qb. Jimmy has started like 22 games. He has the upside to be a franchise qb, but it takes time to develop into one. I don’t know much about jimmy, but what I do know is very few qbs making less then 20 starts can overcome the number of injuries and starting combinations he has had this year. He dint have either of his starting tackles. He didn’t have kittle for 2 games. Now his starting center is out, and oh yeah he’s coming off of a major knee injury. I guess since mahomes couldn’t convert 2 third downs to end the game vs Tennessee he isn’t a franchise qb. I guess Watson isn’t a franchise qb because the broncos blew him out.

    1. The overuse of the term “franchise QB” is pretty lazy in general. What does it even mean anymore? There is no clear standard to reach.

  18. I would have to knock Kittles grade down to a B.
    After all his fumble cost them a huge first down that probably would have ended the game. And would have worn off more time on the clock.

    He is the offense and had a big day.
    But fair is fair.
    He didn’t come through in the clutch.

  19. is it right that even if we lose next week to Rams, if we beat Seattle the week after we are guaranteed a bye week, just maybe not the no1 seed?

    1. JS, it’s complicated. Top 2 division winners get the bye, everyone else plays first weekend. With identical records, Niners hold head to head tie breakers with NO and GB, but it’s a moot point as they are currently a wildcard team. Say Niners lose next week, but win in 17, there are plenty of scenarios. Does Seattle win this week? Do NO and GB win out or do they split? They win out and Niners split, Niners lose the tiebreakers to them. Even if Niners win the west, as 3rd seed they’d play wildcard weekend. The mind boggles, anyone else feel free to elaborate?

  20. The 49ers will get a bye if they lose next week. Week 17 will haVe no meaning. I expect the nfl to do everything they can to stop that. They’ve hyped up wk 17 too much.

    1. I have really enjoyed this year but as I and others have stated starters are starters for a reason and next man up is not really a solution at times. If one has really studied Shanahan s offense, the center is everything, Richburg got a lot of money , so did Kwon Alexander, rushing D has not Been the same for several weeks since he got hurt. Dee Ford and all the dbs also do not help with their absence. Anything is still possible but the core foundation is hurt. Hope most of the team can be retained, they can gell, hope Emanuel Sanders can be resigned, new pieces for the oline.

    2. If Seattle loses next week doesn’t matter, it will still come down to the game in week 17 to decide who wins the division.

  21. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think homefield means much for SF. The stadium sucks and in general the fans are quiet… they have been louder in road games for crying out loud.

    That said… they definitely need the buy week.
    This teams needs to get healthy and if they don’t I think their is a good chance they would go home embarrassingly in opening week against whoever the NFC least provides. Especially given where this team’s roster currently is, how beat up they are, and how dejected they might be after a Seattle loss.

    1. It’s not so much as home field as it is the bye week for this injured team.

      And I don’t know what you’re watching, but this season has been one of the loudest I’ve heard in years.
      And ask the players where they’d rather be, at home or on the road

      1. Yes… the buy is a must for this team.

        Loudest in years? Since they have moved to the new stadium, that might be true.
        Listen to the crowd on the final two plays of the game. You could clearly hear Matt Ryan… and that’s at the biggest moment of the game.

        1. Bro. I am the crowd at home games.
          Yes in years. Since candlestick actually.
          They are louder than you think.
          I’ll be honest. Yesterday seemed like a lethargic day for the team and fans.
          And there wasn’t much to cheer about.

          1. Ok,
            Maybe it was good for SF.

            It’s not Seattle, KC, Nola or basically any loud stadium… at its best it’s middling.

            The big advantage… is that they can call plays normally.

            The rest of the league gets an advantage on D.

            SF is a wine and cheese crowd and the stadium isn’t designed for noise, it’s a bad combo.

  22. Another heartbreaking loss and this is NOT championship football….but we are in the playoffs for now and control our destiny.

    Fun Fact:

    The 49ers were defeated by the Falcons, 29-22, and all three of their losses this season have now come in the final 10 seconds of the game. The 49ers are the first team to have at least 10 wins in a season and also lose at least three games in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime since the 2000 Eagles, who finished 11-5 and lost to the Giants in the Divisional Round.

  23. Well that sucked. Classic trap game but still the 49ers were the better team so should have won. A few plays were killers – the PI on Ward, Kittle’s fumble, and then JG just had a bad game. Having said that, this game came down to In-Game coaching. IMO Saleh killed any chance he had at getting hired as a head coach after this season. One player destroyed the 49er defense and Saleh didn’t make any adjustments. Shanahan also had a bad game. Seemed like a bad game plan and not very good in-game adjustments. Not going for the 4th &1 in the 4th quarter was a huge mistake IMO. Not the game you want in December. Pass rush seems non-existent all of a sudden. Need to find a way to pressure the QB or the 49ers could easily find themselves on a 3 game losing streak going into the playoffs. This is where Shanahan needs to make his money. Good news is the Cardinals will beat the Seahawks this weekend but the 49ers still need to beat the Rams to win the division and make week 17 meaningless.

    1. I dont agree the Niners were the better team on the day. Falcons had a lot of penalties go against them, in other facets they were better. Overall yes the Niners are better but can’t complain about the loss when they didn’t really deserve the win by the end.

      1. Renas well they had a clutch QB that’s for sure…JimmyG is learning on the job……I think this loss falls on Kyle…game planning is everything, its like he wanted Kittle to break the record so his game plan was basically sucky. Why in the world don’t they use RJames JWillsonJr and Dwelley??? they have weapons that Kyle does not incorporate into the game plan…..this game reminded me of last year or the previous years the team was just losing games or finding ways to lose games…deja vu

    2. You don’t go for it on 4th and 1 when you are in FG range and only ahead by 2. No HC worth a damn in this league is going to give up the chance to go up by 5 in that situation. If you don’t make it a FG beats you and the second guessing is far more warranted.

      1. Our kicker just missed an extra point a few minutes before the field goal. Same kicker has been spotty all year. A 43 yard field goal was not a gimme considering recent history. You’ve got a top 5 rushing offense and you are top 5 in the league at 4th down success rate. One yard and you can run out the clock. You just watched the 49ers successfully run a FB option play and a double reverse pass in the prior game. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best, if not the best, offensive minds in football. I wanted them to get that one yard and Game Over. Obviously, the counter argument is the 5 point lead but the truth is you have a massively banged up defense that couldn’t stop Julio Jones. The ending was predictable after Kyle elected to go for the field goal. Definite High Risk and high reward but going for it on 4th down was the right move given all the extenuating factors.

        1. No you are simply responding to the final result in Monday Morning QB fashion. It is not the right move to gamble on 4th down when you are in FG range and only up by 2. As I already said there is not a HC out there who doesn’t kick the FG in that situation. Gould made a 46 yarder earlier in the game so your theory doesn’t hold water there either. If they had gone for it and didn’t make it – very possible considering they didn’t run the ball well for most of the game and it took two tries to score a TD from the one earlier – you, Grant and a bunch of others would have been in here criticizing Shanahan for not taking the FG. The time to make the first down was on the previous play and they didn’t. You don’t compound that by letting emotions dictate going for it and possibly losing by a FG which would be much easier to do and which is how they lost their prior two games.

          The defense let Jones make too much of an impact, but overall they held the Falcons under 300 yards total and the Falcons needed a PI too score their prior TD. You have to take the FG and force them to score a TD to beat you. The Falcons did it barely, but that doesn’t change the fact Shanahan made the right decision under the circumstances. It was a poorly played game by a team that seemed to be gassed after a tough stretch on the road. It happens.

          1. You’re wrong. You are simply taking a contrarian view to read your own writing. I’m probably the biggest Shanahan supporter on this blog. He’s a brilliant coach. Just made the wrong decision by not going for 1 yard to win the game against the Falcons. I thought Shanahan made the right move at the end of the 1st half against the Ravens by holding the ball for a field goal try and at the same time prevent another Ravens possession. Without a freak fumble by Kittle the 49ers get that 1st down. You go for the win in that spot. Many coaches would go for that first down. John Harbaugh absolutely goes for it there. He went for a 4th down against the 49ers in a crucial spot so don’t give me some stupid crap about no coach would go for that. You go for the win and many coaches would have gone for it. You don’t know what your talking about.

            1. « John Harbaugh absolutely goes for it there. He went for a 4th down against the 49ers in a crucial spot »

              Looking back at that game and that never happened unless you are considering being at the 49ers 38 or later from the 49ers 40 with the game tied in a downpour. Even that’s a completely different situation given the conditions.

              1. John Harbaugh is widely known for going for it on 4th down. He went for it on 4th down from the 49ers 40 yard line in a tied game with 9:41 left in the 4th quarter. Some coaches would have tried to pin the 49ers deep and let their defense hold them right there. I think Doug Pederson and Andy Reid also would have gone for the first down against the Falcons. You make it and the game is over. You make the kick and you can still lose. You miss the kick and you can still lose. Many coaches would go for the first down there. If a coach is coaching based on what he thinks the MMQB reaction will be then he doesn’t need to be a coach. I’m just saying notanexpert is full of crap when he says “there is not a HC out there who doesn’t kick the FG in that situation.” I laid out the logical arguments why going for the 4th down makes a ton of sense in that situation.

              2. John Harbaugh would have gone for it on fourth and 1 from the Falcons 25 in that situation.

                Harbaugh told you that?

                There’s another coach widely known for going for it on 4th down. Ron Rivera. I should say current ex-coach.

          2. Sorry buddy but you are emotional and wrong. I see Coaches taking a FG in that situation quite regularly. I don’t see Coaches going for it with a 2 point lead knowing they will get beat by a FG if they don’t make it. You can stomp your feet and rant and rave all you want, but the facts are Coaches don’t go for it in that situation. You are upset because they lost and you would have been just upset if they had gone for it and not made it. You are obviously a results guy like Grant who plays the blame game regardless of how much sense it makes.

            1. notanexpert, You have an unnatural and bizarre need to act like you know what other posters think and feel. You seem to need to feel superior to others based on your subpar understanding of a game. You clearly have an inflated sense of self-importance when in fact your ideas and opinions lack any insight or true understanding of your subject. Your evaluations of fellow posters emotions on a football blog reveal a deeper sense of self doubt and insecurity that you can only quell by living in a fantasy land where you are the all seeing and all knowing higher power. The only remedy for you is to seek professional guidance to make you face the reality of your own unimportant and inconsequential existence. Good luck with that.

              Oh, and Shanahan should have gone for it on 4th down. You are wrong.

              1. You have an unnatural and bizarre need to act like you know what other posters think and feel.

                Then long diatribe on how Houston knows how poster thinks and feels.

                Lolz.If sarcasm, well done. If cluelessness, smh.

              2. It’s sarcasm Ribs. Annoying when people tell other people what they are thinking and how they feel. Just giving it back to someone who is clueless.

              3. It’s not sarcasm, it’s more thin skinned anger because he can’t take someone telling him he’s wrong. All you have to do is read the posts to see his temper tantrum.

                Houston 9er I wasn’t doing anything other than reading your own words. I responded to you throwing out criticism that didn’t make sense. That normally comes from frustration and getting overly emotional over a loss. If that isn’t why you were making dumb comments then I guess it’s just a lack of football knowledge. Nobody goes for it on 4th down in FG position when they are down by 2 late in a game. You never pass up the chance to go up by more than 3 points to risk losing by a FG. It doesn’t happen and if you can find me even one example of that I’d love to see it.

  24. stupid game – dull morning……oh well….at least we are in the playoffs……

    Always thought it was an overreaction to crown Saleh as a genius……Dude really sucks….

  25. for once i’m tougher on grades than Grant…everyone knew this was a classic letdown game but at home against a 4-9 team, you’re supposed to pull it out anyway. we let it boil down to a good QB throwing to a great WR. Neither were 49ers.

    WR: failure. offense was all Kittle and Rbs. but is this all the fault of the WRs?
    QB: D
    Coaches: F

    Hey, we’re a very good team, and we’re played almost all of the other good teams and we know there’s no great team out there. But the intensity and coaching will pick up in the playoffs, so it’s going to take more than what we showed yesterday – a lot more.

  26. The O line was terrible. How much of it was a direct result of no Richburg? I don’t know but they were far above Avg. as a group before his injury. The injuries have finally caught up with this team. It is nothing short of miraculous that they have been as successful as they have been with all of their injuries. I’m not sure they can recover from their injury situation and win in the playoffs. Every year I ask for the same thing, a relatively injury free season and every year its the complete opposite. In the era of the salary cap teams just can’t overcome the amount of injuries the 49ers have experienced. Also Shanahan had his worst game of the year yesterday.

  27. Yeah, I’m not taking any solace in the fact that we limped and stumbled into the playoffs. If we dont step things up, we will lose in the first round. Everyone must be accountable.

  28. All the worries this week about the Niners being complacent was realized. I felt the same way about this game as I did those games against the Cardinals. No energy. No creativity. Conservative game plan. Just plain arrogance. It Caught up with them. Granted, if Sherm, Williams, and Tartt were on the field, even with the game plan and lack of energy, the Falcons don’t win the game. Change my mind… This one was winnable with the talent on the field, but its on the coaches. Jimmy wasn’t great, but it’s not on him. Let’s stop hating on Jimmy .. And WTH was Shanahan thinking marching Coleman out there?! Mostert is the guy. Period. Should have got more touches. Who gives a rip if this is Coleman’s old team?! Was he just trying to keep Mostert fresh for bigger games? Anyway, this loss is not excusable, but thankfully, the stakes are the same: win out and first seed is ours. No need to start thinking that this is our product now. Just got to get their heads on straight and win these next 2! Go Niners!

  29. Let’s see…Sheldon Day got the only sack for the niners….then tell me why Solomon Thomas is still on the team and getting snaps when Valoaga, and Day are sitting…? We sit for over a year watching Derek Celek heal from a hangnail, and then play him ahead of Dewelley so he can get onto IR again…(he did)…We activate Jordan Matthews just in time to bench him in favor of the dropsy twins at WR FOUR catches by our WRs…! We’ve got a helluva’ team ….PLAY ‘EM !

    1. It was strange. Armstead has to be on the field and if you want to flexible anyone but Solly has to be out there. He has a solid interior pass rush… but if he is your edge rusher? You might as well go with a 3 man rush.
      He’s ok, but if he is a starter anywhere on your team, he’s a guy you’re looking to replace.

  30. Yesterday was frustrating. They let a dangerous team hang around.

    Really like Saleh, but can’t use the injuries as an excuse for his recent failings. The team had a number of issues with injuries on the offense and kept on trucking earlier in the year.

    Concerned with what we saw from the offensive line yesterday. These next 2 opponents are very good up front. As dominant as the D was the first time around against LA, the offense only put up 20.

    On the bright side, we get to watch the team play in January again. Hope they can pull this out and get a week off to get everyone healthy.

    1. It was not a focused well played game by the 49ers on either side of the ball. They were coming off a tough stretch and played down to their competition. Hopefully it is a lesson learned. If they win the next 2 this will be long forgotten until the next thing the whiners on here find to complain about.

    2. If the 49ers converted that 3rd down that Kittle fumbled then in all likelihood the D would have kept the Falcons to 17 points. The narrative against Saleh and the D might look a bit different then.

      But you are right, the way the D finished the game (or didn’t finish the game) is disappointing.

      1. no excuses….there is nothing creative about Saleh……His defensive plan lost the game…

        How hard is it to come up with a blitzing zone scheme that allows your CB’s cover over and under ONE receiver?

        The fact that he just went through a game with M. Thomas of the saints proves to me Saleh lacks smart adjustments……

      2. Unfortunately the D has been struggling to close out games over this stretch.

        Couldn’t hold Seattle out of FG range after the missed kick.

        Couldn’t hold Baltimore out of FG range.

        Couldn’t hold New Orleans in the 4th despite being up two scores late.

        Couldn’t hold Atlanta in the 4th despite being up two scores late.

        It’s a trend that is concerning, and hopefully getting Ford back in the lineup will help. He’s not been on the field for any of these.

        1. This is why I am not enamored with Saleh. Kyle can make a passable lemonade when given lemons, but Saleh typically requires the D to be at full strength. He doesn’t seem to be able to adjust the scheme to account or support replacements for starters.

        2. Yeah, their inability to get a stop with the game on the line since mid-season is a concern moving forward. As you say, hopefully getting Ford back will help. Having Sherman, Tartt and Williams wouldn’t have hurt this game either. But whatever the solution, at some point in the post season the D is likely going to need to make a stop with the game on the line. They need to find a way to fix it.

          1. The DBs aren’t that good and the pass rush isn’t protecting them anymore. Witherspoon struggled big time against the Falcons.

            1. But then why can’t Saleh scheme to hide their weaknesses?
              Prior to Ford and Bosa and the help of Kocurek, Saleh was horrible in his game plans and adjustments.
              Now he faces some adversity without some key players and he can’t figure out a way?
              I dont think he’s a good coach cause without top end talent, he has not shown he can manage without too end talent.

              1. He bracketed Julio Jones twice at the five-yard line during the final drive. The first time, Harris and Moseley played the coverage correctly, and Armstead almost sacked Ryan to win the game, but Ryan threw the ball away at the last second. On the final play, Harris lined up three yards too deep and gave up the inside to Jones.

              2. What about the dagger run by Ryan on that final drive? He never accounts for the QB run up the middle?
                I’m just saying Grant he rolls out the same scheme week in and week out and now teams are figuring out the Niners.
                They can’t get enough pressure from just the four guys they rush anymore.
                Injuries aside, he has to change things up because right now they’re too predictable

              3. Good point on Ryan’s run. Saleh didn’t use an A-gap rusher — the middle was wide open when all four defensive linemen ended up behind Ryan. Gotta have one controlled rusher in the A gap to prevent that. The A-gap rusher should have been Solomon Thomas and the edge rusher should have been Armstead. I don’t understand why Saleh keeps using Thomas. He’s the worst defensive lineman on the team.

            2. “The DBs aren’t that good and the pass rush isn’t protecting them anymore. ”

              Two games in a row teams have beaten them by throwing a lot of short routes. Beat the pass rush by getting the ball out quick. The coverage is doing a very poor job defending the underneath stuff. Giving up way too much separation quickly. If people are concerned about the D being found out, this is how teams are combatting the 49ers pass rush successfully recently. Not sure how much Ford helps with this.

            3. Grant, earlier in the year you said that the DB’s were better than you thought they were only after seeing that SF ranked #1 on defense against the pass. That you didn’t realize that when Shanahan and Lynch “didn’t address that position in the draft, the biggest weakness they had” that the DB’s were much better than you thought they were. Now you have reverted back to them not being good anymore. You can’t have it both ways, and then adjust your assessment as the season progresses.

        3. And why do you think it’s happening?

          Do the 49ers just not have the horses play defenses when it counts in the 4th quarter?

          Is it a tactical or schematic thing? Is Saleh not making the necessary adjustments late in the game?

          1. Nick Bosa is tired and not as good as he was a month ago. Marcell Harris couldn’t even get lined up correctly on the final play.

      3. Scooter,
        The scenario you described would be far more forgiveable… if for 3 straight weeks the D didn’t fold on the final drive of the game.
        Baltimore- Game is tied with 6:28 left on the clock. Baltimore marches down the field eating the entire clock and kicks the game-winning field goal.
        N.O. – SF has 5 point lead with 2:23 left on the clock. Nola scores the Go ahead TD but leaves 53 seconds left on the clock.
        ATL – SF has a 5 point lead with less than 2:00 minutes on the clock. ATL drives 70 yards to score the game-winning TD. ( not forgetting the ATL needed to score td’s on both of their final drives to win the game.)

        This is not to say the D is completely to blame (it’s not, the O is also complicit in this loss) but rather they have not come through in critical moments for 3 straight weeks. Which makes it a trend in my mind.

        1. Yes, its been recurring for a few weeks now. While I see a lot of people saying injuries aren’t an excuse, I think they are part of the reason. The D is struggling to close out games atm – they need the offense to step up and help them out while they get some troops back. This game the offense literally let a golden opportunity to close out the game slip through their fingers.

  31. Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
    NFL has suspended Josh Gordon indefinitely for violating the league’s policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse.

    1. Oh man. That’s awful. Josh Gordon played his high school football not too far from me. Absolutely legendary high school football player in Houston. Hate to see his inner demons have basically destroyed his football career. My prayers will be with him and his family.

  32. Still trying to make sense of the BS I watched on Sunday….

    Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo targeted Kittle on 17 of 34 throws. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders was targeted four times, catching two passes for nine yards. Receiver Deebo Samuel had three balls thrown his way, catching only one for 29. Receiver Kendrick Bourne caught one pass for 11 yards on two targets.

    I am still smh……..this has to be on JimmyG…….I can’t see Kshanny just calling kittle plays….and our WR’ s are good…….

    1. If those WR’s are not winning their routes they are not getting the ball. As we’ve seen all year, one day those guys show up, sometimes they don’t.
      These isn’t a QB or Shanny thing. This is a WR unit that isn’t very good.

    2. Worth considering is the possibility that it’s not much the fault of Jimmy G or the receivers as it is of the O line. If the receivers are not getting a chance to run out their routes before Jimmy G has to get rid of the ball, then the latter has to check it down to the safety valve — Furious George in this instance.

      David Lombardi mentions in the Athletic:
      “Pass protection was shoddy throughout the afternoon. There seemed to be some snap-timing issues, possibly related to new center Ben Garland’s insertion into the lineup. ”
      Snap timing issues may explain why the O line got bull rushed multiple times. Will await all-22 analysis.

    3. I think Kyle addressed the question about why so much Kittle. If I understood correctly, Kittle was the first read on many of those passes and was not double teamed so he was open enough for Jimmy to target him.

  33. The Saints are putting on a clinic on how to finish off a mediocre team at home, and steam into the playoffs with all cylinders firing..

  34. A lot of emotions over this loss and just about everyone on the team has been thrown under the bus by “fans”. Look at the standings. Only1 team has a better record. It’s been a remarkable season so far. It’s all good.

  35. Drew Brees playing halfway thru the fourth quarter with Saints leading 34-0 and getting tackled in the backfield trying to run for a first down. Why? Now that would be a good question for Payton’s butcher to ask when Payton comes shopping for meat at his neighborhood Whole Foods tomorrow.

  36. Since going 8-0 the Niners are 3-3 and the defense is wilting…. teams are countering the pass rush with wr screens and a quick passing game yet Saleh has failed to adjust. Shanahan at least kept the offense rolling through injuries… too bad we can’t say the same for the D (as they say, defense wins championships). These next 2 games should tell us a lot.

  37. should try Buckner some on the edge.
    Only saw Armstead raise his hands above his head to block pass and that was just once. I may have missed it, but didn’t notice other attempts to block passes even when it was obvious rush was stymied

      1. Grant, it seems that all the talk about Saleh becoming a Head Coach elsewhere has died down. I personally don’t see Shanahan letting him go unless a Super Bowl is accomplished, but I am not sure that Saleh isn’t the result of having players like Bosa, Ford, etc…The Falcon game made me question his ability to make adjustments. I can’t help but feel that Belicheck would have been able to scheme a plan to stop one receiver from causing his team to lose.

  38. Saleh and his secondary have been exposed recently. Better get that cleaned up or it’s going to be one and done in the playoffs.

      1. Of course he does. The secondary play falls on him.

        The little screens and short stuff that’s given them some fits doesn’t concern me too much. It’s the big pops like the deep ball down the right sideline or the deep ball down the middle that was called a PI that really hurt.

        1. It’s Woods/Secondary and Kocurek/Pass Rush that work like two people on a tandem bicycle. Sherman, Tartt, Williams and Ford kept it tight and synchronized, but just as soon as they were replaced, the defensive chain became loose and sloppy….

          1. Hafley was ripped for the performance of the secondary last year while playing the guys that are now backups.

            Woods doesn’t get a pass

            1. Sorry off topic but what is driving me crazy is how we are letting both mobile and immobile QB’s beat us running up the gut on sneaks and bootlegs.
              Maybe after the first AZ game we should have fixed this?

            2. Who gave them passes? Wasn’t me. I’m merely pointing out the defensive scheme as related by Sherman. The onus is on the coaches to install the replacement parts in a way that does not compromise the defensive scheme….

        2. The short stuff may not concern you too much, but it is a concern. Of recent times teams have been using that approach very successfully to negate the rush, move the ball consistently and score points when needed. However, to your point about the explosive plays, those two big plays you mentioned led to TDs, and that’s the big danger.

          1. The effectiveness of the underneath stuff can be debated. It was down the field stuff that did the most damage the last 2 weeks.

  39. Yes, this was a painful lesson to the Niners. I warned that this would not be a cakewalk, but some posters thought the Niners would score more than 40 points. Of course, they were just being fans, and looking at the sunny side, but I remember that 1-7 Falcon team throttling the 7-1 Saints, and knew that they were capable of an upset. The Saints learned from their mistakes, and sacked Ryan 9 times the next time they met, which should have been a blueprint on how the Niners should have schemed against Ryan.

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