By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers lost their 13th straight game on Sunday, this time dropping a 41-13 decision on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. With a 1-13 record now, the 49ers have just two more games to avoid becoming the worst team in the organization’s history in terms of regular-season wins and possibly points allowed. The game result was not an unexpected development, as the San Francisco defense is the worst in the league and it was facing perhaps the top offense in the league on its home turf.
The Falcons played the game without their best offensive weapon as well, wide receiver Julio Jones. It didn’t really matter, as the Atlanta offense rolled up 550 total yards on the helpless 49ers defense. Meanwhile, the San Francisco offense played its usual pedestrian game, once again struggling after halftime to move the ball despite scoring 13 points in the first half. Expect the news in the upcoming week to focus on the 49ers’ ownership and how to make the team competitive in 2017.
After falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter, the San Francisco offense didn’t give up. The 49ers responded with two second quarter touchdowns to keep the score somewhat respectable at halftime, but the second half saw the team’s offense disappear. Overall, San Francisco held the ball for less than 24 minutes of game time, while gaining just 272 yards. The individual statistics weren’t bad, but the offense just didn’t have possession long enough to make any significant noise on the scoreboard.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 20 of 33 attempts for 183 yards and two TDs, while also running for 21 yards. Running back Carlos Hyde carried the ball 13 times for 71 yards, although he did fumble once, which was the 49ers’ only turnover on the day. Nine different players caught passes from Kaepernick, led by WR Jeremy Kerley (five catches) and tight end Blake Bell (45 yards receiving). The 49ers’ offense was 6-for-13 on third-down conversions, which wasn’t too bad. The team just didn’t have the ball enough, and the coaching staff didn’t make very good adjustments after halftime, either.
The bright spot was the fact that the 49ers’ defense forced a turnover with its back up against its own goal line, which kept the Falcons from scoring more than they did. In the end, however, the Falcons pretty much did what they wanted to against the 49ers, as third-string RB Terron Ward had 52 yards rushing on just six carries. QB Matt Ryan didn’t miss Jones much, as he completed 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards and a couple of TDs. Overall, Atlanta ran for 248 yards in this game, controlling the clock and the scoreboard.
The Falcons did it methodically, too, notching 29 first downs and going 5-for-9 on third-down conversions. WR Aldrick Robinson posted 111 yards in Jones’ absence, while Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu combined for another 104 yards. Overall, it was just too easy for the Atlanta offense, but that was to be expected considering the statistical trends coming into the game.
Special Teams: D
Not only did placekicker Phil Dawson miss an extra point to extend his slump that began last week against the Jets when he missed two manageable field-goal attempts, but the punt coverage unit surrendered a 42-yard return in this game. That’s the worst thing the special teams can do against a team like the Falcons. Furthermore, punter Bradley Pinion gave the Atlanta offense good field position throughout the game.
The team played well enough in the first half considering the opponent, but the San Francisco coaching staff seems to have trouble in the second half of games. Coming into this game, the 49ers were outscored by three points on average in the first half of their 13 previous games, but in the second half, they were outscored by more than a TD on average. Sunday’s game just widened that gap a bit more. Chip Kelly doesn’t have a lot of talent at his disposal, and despite the fact he has the 49ers playing hard every week, the coaching staff has to scheme better via halftime adjustments, period.
San Francisco travels to Los Angeles to take on the Rams Saturday in a Christmas Eve match-up. That game is the best holiday gift that the 49ers could ask for, in truth. The Rams have lost nine of their last 10 games, and they have an interim coach, a rookie QB and a struggling offense. It might be just the combination San Francisco needs to break its own long losing streak. However, Los Angeles will have three extra days to prepare for the game, while the 49ers are going to be working on a short week with some travel. That could be the difference on Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.