49ers drive through Falcons on way to 31-13 victory: 5 Burning questions for week 15 answered

The San Francisco 49ers (8-6) solidified their spot in the NFC playoff race with a dominant 31-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons (6-8) on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

Behind an offense which marched up and down the field and a defense that held Atlanta scoreless on three possessions deep inside the red zone the 49ers pulled away in the third quarter.  

Here are the answers to the five questions I asked on Saturday:

  1. Can Jimmy Garoppolo stay hot? YES

Jimmy Garoppolo had another strong performance, completing 17 of 22 pass attempts for 235 yards and one touchdown. Three of Garoppolo’s five incompletions were the result of drops by Jauan Jennings and another was tipped by the defensive end while rolling to his left.

The 49ers passing offense had several explosive plays against Atlanta.

After being held to a quick three and out to open the game, Garoppolo was able to start the next three possessions with a completion to George Kittle for 25-yards, Brandon Aiyuk for 36-yards and 30-yards to Deebo Samuel.

The explosive starts would result in 17 points and the 49ers would head into the locker room at halftime with a 17-10 lead.

San Francisco would force a turnover to open the second half, and the offense would take advantage of the short field.

Starting from the Atlanta 38-yard line, Garoppolo would find George Kittle for a gain of 13. On the next play Garoppolo would get the ball out quick to Deebo Samuel. Samuel would gain 21-yards, and the end of the play looked like a scene from a heavyweight boxing match with Samuel hitting a Falcons defensive back with so much force that his mouthpiece would go flying down the field.

After being sacked five times last week in Cincinnati, Garoppolo would not be sacked against Atlanta. The veteran quarterback was able to move around just enough to get the ball out of his hands to avoid sacks and keep plays alive.

  1. Can the 49ers find consistency in the running game? YES

After struggling the last two weeks to find consistency San Francisco was able to get the run game going, gaining 162 yards on 32 rushing attempts and three different runners getting into the endzone.

Jeff Wilson Jr led the way for the 49ers. The veteran missed several weeks early in the season due to injury, and over the last two weeks he looks like he is fully healthy. Wilson had several tough carries and showed off his vision on the way to 110 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

Since moving into more of a running back role against Los Angeles, Deebo Samuel has rushed for at least one touchdown in each game. Samuel was able to keep that streak alive with a 10-yard touchdown with only 33 seconds remaining in the first half.

The 49ers first touchdown of the day came from fullback Kyle Juszczyk. On his only rushing attempt of the day, Juszczyk would take a quick handoff in for the score from six yards out.

The interior of the 49ers offensive line had a strong day. While Grady Jarrett was able to finish the day with six total tackles, Alex Mack, Daniel Brunskill and Laken Tomlinson made sure that none of them occurred behind the line of scrimmage.

  1. Will the 49ers defense be able to limit Cordarrelle Patterson? YES

Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of Atlanta’s best offensive weapons this season. The wide receiver/running back came into Sunday averaging 14 touches and 88 yards per game.

San Francisco would hold Patterson to a season low 23 total yards on 13 touches.

The 49ers defense showed it would be a tough day for Patterson right from the beginning.

After JaMycal Hasty fumbled the opening kickoff, the San Francisco defense quickly found itself backed up and facing first and goal at the one-yard line.  

Atlanta would twice try to get Patterson around the edge for the touchdown and both times the San Francisco defense would drop him for no gain.

In what would become both a turning point and theme in this game, Atlanta would go for it on fourth and goal only to come away with zero points.

The San Francisco defense would hold the Falcons scoreless on three drives deep in their own red zone, stopping Atlanta on 4th and one from the one-yard line twice and the eight-yard line on the other.  

  1. Will the San Francisco defense get to Matt Ryan? YES

In addition to shutting down Patterson, the San Francisco defense did a good job of shutting down Matt Ryan.

While Ryan would complete 19 of 32 attempts for 236 yards and a touchdown, he would be shut down for much of the game. Of Ryan’s 236 passing yards, 128 would come on a pair of 49-yard completions on deep throws and his 20-yard touchdown to Russell Gage over Ambry Thomas early in the second quarter.

The touchdown to Gage never should have occurred, as a bad call of roughing the passer against Arden Key due to him landing on Ryan while sacking the quarterback on third and four provided the extra opportunity.

Atlanta’s pass protection had been very good on the road entering the contest, allowing only 1.3 sacks per game. On Sunday the 49ers pass rush did a good job of making Ryan uncomfortable all day. Samson Ebukam, Nick Bosa and Arden Key each recorded a sack to lead the way.

After Ebukam opened the second half with a sack of Ryan, Bosa would get to him two plays later and force a fumble which would be recovered by linebacker Fred Warner to set the 49ers offense up with good field position at the Falcons 38-yard line.

The 49ers offense would get into the endzone only four plays later to take a commanding 24-10 lead.

  1. Can San Francisco hold on to the ball? YES, after the opening play of the game

When JaMycal Hasty fumbled away the opening kickoff it looked as though this could be another lost game for the 49ers. Instead, the defense held Atlanta off the scoreboard and San Francisco was able to hold on to the ball the rest of the way.

In fact, it was Atlanta that made the critical error when Matt Ryan lost a fumble on the first possession of the second half and the 49ers offense would cash in.


49ers 27 Falcons 21

This article has 22 Comments

  1. Deommodore Lenoir should be starting over Thomas

    My only guess is they like Lenoir so much they want him playing NCB – to replace #24 in the future

    Thomas is just plain terrible – dude has no awareness or toughness – it’s one thing to pass interference but WR’s are still catching interfered catches…..

    D coach is the real deal – Best game he has called in terms of how you deal with a pocket QB – I loved the 1st down pressure to start the 2nd half.

    I like Ryan go get it attitude – instead of the play safe Saleh attitude –

    1. Thomas has the skill set necessary, but he sat out all last year. It’s funny I kept thinking he was Jimmie award today.

      From what I have seen he is a better tackler than Lenoir. I like the idea of Thomas and Moseley as our starting CB’s next year.

      1. Lots of players sat out last year and they are playing well this season. Thomas sucks – mention one thing he does well?

        Norman is not that great – but leads the CB’s in the league with forced fumbles…

        2021 season
        Lenoir = 17 games 12 tackles
        Thomas = 18 games 13 tackles

        1. Name a player that sat out his 2020 year in college and is playing well in 2021 in the NFL?

          Based on his college tape and what I have seen from Thomas he has ball skills. He is also fast 4.37 40 time. Those are too great qualities to be when your CB.

          When talking about tackling I feel that Thomas is better at making open field tackles especially in the run game than Lenoir.

    2. Thomas was better in this game than last game. Not sure if he will ever be a quality starter but he has gotten better. I’d like to see him play a lot more physical than he is right now. His ball skills are absolutely terrible though. That is where he needs major improvement.

    3. Hey oneniner, Give him a break, Thomas is a rookie with almost NO game time. He’s been close at times.
      He needs an off season in an NFL level training program + coaching and a pre season to have ANY idea how good he will become.

  2. Jack,

    Can you explain why Shanny prefers to keep running Deebo into the teeth of the defense late in the fourth quarter up by 18 points?

    Seriously, given his injury history why would Shanny keep doing this?

    1. Agree. I was shocked Deebo was in the game on those last 2 drives. I remember several years ago Belichick was playing some starters late in the last game of the season with absolutely nothing on the line. Playoff seeding was locked up. One of his starting receivers had a major injury and was lost for the entire playoffs. Might hv been Wes Welker. A reporter asked Belichick after the game about playing his starters in that situation. His response was something like, “Tell me who is going to get injured and I won’t play them.” Sometimes old ball coaches are thick headed idiots.

  3. 6th seed is locked up. Shot at the 5th seed. Can we win the NFC west outright ?

    1. Defense was dominant today. Remember the guy last week calling for Ryans to get fired. We are 5-1 in our last 6 games outscoring opponents 175-112. 14 of the 112 was on a fake punt and KR.

    2. Special teams is a serious issue. Our return coverage is not great. Our returners frequently fumble . Our punter is pretty good but his kick offs are subpar. Our Kicker is over the hill , overrated and overpaid. My greatest fear is the niners will sign Wishnowsky to a 5 year 35 M extension.

    3. The Niners front 7 is special. Our Safeties are underrated . KWuan and Eman are good corners but seem to miss 3-5 games every year. The backups are young and learning the ropes but the growing pains hurt.

    4. Offense was rolling. I think our RBs next year will be Mitchell, JWjr and Sermon. I guess Hasty has an outside shot.

    5. Really looking forward to Thursday night @ Titans.

    1. I understand why he has not been playing in the 4th quarter of some of these games that are already won, but I am surprised none the less.

    2. “Trey has got a bright future ahead, right? We see it every day in practice on our side because he’s out there dicing us up.” Fred Warner said

  4. Back in week 13 Greg Cosell mentioned he thought the 49ers would run more power style runs against Seattle’s defense. I feel like I have seen more power plays than I remember in a Shanahan system.

    Anyone else concur? Or maybe I’m making something out of nothing.

    1. When you have Juice, Deebo and Kittle, the defense never knows who’s going to run it. Our RBs are taking advantage of that in a very productive way. More power to them!

  5. Overall I liked the officiating in this game because they didn’t throw a lot of flags. They let players play which is a lot more fun to watch than any game Ref’d by the Hochuli “it’s raining flags” crew. But my God why don’t the 49ers D-Line get ANY calls. DJ Ford had an O lineman holding him by the hips from behind rt in front of the Ref but no call. Armstead basically got put in a sleeper choke hold from behind but no call. And Bosa had his normal game where he gets tackled every other play but no call. And then the roughing call on Key was just terrible. Does common sense not play into officiating any more? What was Key supposed to do right there? Levitate above the ground? NFL players must have a lot of restraint to keep from losing their minds after some of these crazy calls and non-calls.

    1. Good point Patriot. NFL officiating can be inconsistent week to week. I heard the league is letting more holding go than normal, not sure if that’s true. It’s weird because I have seen Tomlinson get a couple ticky tacky holding calls the two weeks prior.

      All the times Bosa gets held, plus his QB hits, plus his sacks shows how phenomenal he is.

  6. Hi all,
    before the seasons the Cornerbacks and the O-Line were identified as the big weak points. Yesterday, the O-Line performed excellently (awaiting the film breakdown to see if my perception will get confirmed).
    Unfortunately, the Cornerbacks are still the weak point. And this vulnerability will be exploited by a top team like bucks or packers. So, I don’t believe the 49ers can be NFC champion contenders with this team.
    Against the Bengals, the safeties made a double play – but that opened the mid field. A situation aware quaterback (that is not just executing play calls with identified receivers) will love that.
    Br ovinator

    1. Good win. Very good “Get Well” opponent. Don’t mean to be a downer but the Falcons are the worst pass rushing team in the NFL. They have 16 Sacks on the year. By comparison, the 49ers have 36 Sacks on the year. The Titans have 35 Sacks on the year so this Thursday’s game will be a much better barometer on the progress of the O-Line.

  7. So at the conclusion of the game players congratulated each other as they normally do. I did notice that Brunskill and Matt Ryan had a lengthy friendly exchange. So I looked it up and sure enough Brunskill is a former Falcon. We can now add him to the list of former WFT and Falcons who subsequently played for Shanahan on the Niners. I am all over this.

    “Is it weird that we have had so many former Skins and Falcons on our roster : Hoyer, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Compton, Jordan Reed, Trent Williams, Tevin Coleman, Alex Mack, Mo Sanu ”

    I guess we can add Brian Hill to the list. Our CBs will have their work cut out for them. Bengals have 3 very talented receivers.

  8. Jack,

    Would love to see some film breakdowns on your channel that goes over player improvement or regression through the games. Ambry Thomas would be a good first subject, since it’s hard to see CB on game day unless they made a mistake.

  9. Jack, in the past any time a Thursday Night game was on NFLN it would also be carried on either Fox, CBS, or NBC for the home team. It wasn’t necessary to subscribe to NFLN in order to watch the 49ers play on NFLN. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year. It looks like a new NFL power play. Do you are anyone else know what’s going on?

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