49ers NFC Championship grades: Defense and special teams

ATLANTA – The 49ers beat the Falcons 28-24. The 49ers are going to the Super Bowl. Here are the grades for the 49ers’ defense and special teams.

Defensive line: B. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald didn’t get much pressure on Ryan, but in the second half they were able to push the pocket up the middle. It became difficult for Ryan to step into his throws. Also, the 49ers’ defensive line was stout against the run, holding the Falcons to 3.5 yards per carry.

Linebackers: B. NaVorro Bowman had just four tackles and he missed one. But he knocked away Matt Ryan’s fourth-and-four pass to Roddy White from the 49ers’ 10-yard line with one minute and thirteen seconds left on the clock.

Ahmad Brooks knocked away a pass on the previous play. He finished the game with two passes defensed, but no tackles or sacks.

Aldon Smith didn’t get a sack either, but he recovered a fumble deep in the Falcons’ territory.

Patrick Willis finished with a game-high 12 tackles, one for a loss. He gave up a touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez in the second quarter.

Secondary: B-. They got torched in the first half, especially Tarell Brown. He got beaten repeatedly by Julio Jones and Roddy White. Jones finished the first half with 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. White finished the first half with 90 yards.

The 49ers’ secondary redeemed themselves in the second half. They held White to only had 10 yards receiving. On one play Ryan threw him the ball but he slipped, and Chris Culliver picked it off. On another play, Ryan threw it deep for White in the end zone, and Carlos Rogers knocked the pass away.

Brown also knocked away a second-half deep pass intended for Jones.

Special teams: B. Ted Ginn Jr. had an important 20-yard punt return in the second half. Andy Lee only had to punt three times, and one of them was a 62-yarder. LaMichael James fumbled a kick return but the 49ers recovered. And David Akers missed the one field goal he attempted – a 38-yarder.

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