Coming off a thrilling overtime victory over Cincinnati on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers return to the practice field today to begin preparations for their week 15 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.
Here are the top three concerns facing the team this week:
1. Looking past Atlanta
The last time the 49ers faced Atlanta was week 15 of the 2019 regular season. San Francisco was coming off an exciting come from behind road victory in New Orleans and Atlanta was coming in with a sub-.500 record having just defeated Carolina.
Flash forward to the present day. Atlanta is again coming in for a week 15 tilt with San Francisco coming off that thrilling victory mentioned earlier and Atlanta is coming in with a sub.-500 record having just defeated Carolina.
Sounds a bit like Deja vu doesn’t it?
If the 49ers don’t come into this game completely focused, Atlanta could make them pay. The Falcons are part of a log jam of teams with a 6-7 record and in contention for a playoff spot in the NFC. While Atlanta’s overall record may not look impressive, the Falcons are 5-2 on the road this season.
San Francisco has dealt with a number of injuries to key personnel throughout the season, and can ill afford to sustain more as they begin the stretch run.
The 49ers will again be without Emmanuel Moseley, and the status of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is a question mark due to an elbow strain suffered in the second half against Cincinnati.
Moseley, the 49ers’ top cornerback was placed on injured reserve last week and will be out for at least the games this week against Atlanta and Tennessee.
Rookie Ambry Thomas received the call to start in place of Moseley when veteran Dontae Johnson missed the game due to the unexpected passing of his mother.
Thomas suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter and has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol.
The injury to Al-Shaair may not be as bad as initially feared. According to Kyle Shanahan, Al-Shaair will be day to day and could be back in the lineup on Sunday.
Al-Shaair has already played more snaps than his first two seasons in San Francisco combined and has made the most of the opportunity. Al-Shaair has recorded a league-leading nine tackles for loss and may be in the running for the Pro Bowl.
3. Inconsistency in the running game
One unexpected development for the 49ers offense this year has been the struggle they’ve faced in the run game.
San Francisco has averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt this season which ranks 17th in the NFL.
Aside from rookie Elijah Mitchell, no active running back on the 49ers roster is averaging over four-yard per carry. This has led to the Deebo Samuel spending more time in the backfield over the second half of the season.
Samuel leads all 49ers with six rushing touchdowns on the season, five of them coming in the four games he’s played since the move into more of a running back role starting with San Francisco’s Week 10 victory over Los Angeles. During this same stretch, Samuel has also led the 49ers in yards per carry at slightly over eight yards per attempt.
> Azeez Al-Shaair (elbow), Elijah Mitchell (knee), George Kittle (knee soreness), D.J. Jones (knee soreness), Dre Greenlaw (core), Maurice Hurst (ankle), and Dontae Johnson (personal) did not practice Wednesday due to injury while Fred Warner, Jaquiski Tartt and Ambry Thomas were limited.
> There had been a report late Tuesday that San Francisco would be releasing Dee Ford. While that report was incorrect Kyle Shanahan confirmed Dee Ford would not be back with the team this season. Ford has been limited to only 152 total snaps since 2020.
Moving on from Ford now would not have made financial sense for the 49ers. A release now provides cap savings in 2022 of only $2.09 million. By releasing Ford after the season with a post-June 1 designation San Francisco could save $7 million in 2022.