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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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