The Atlanta Falcons made another statement in beating up the San Francisco 49ers, 41-13. There was a lot of good, some bad, and even a few ugly points to discuss.
It was déjà vu as the Atlanta Falcons took a West Coast team to the woodshed…and without their best player. Julio Jones missed his second straight game, but it didn’t matter. The Falcons offense showed few weaknesses in moving the ball with ease and further cementing Matt Ryan as a Most Valuable Player candidate.
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the 49ers 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The defense made some mistakes but overall, played a strong game. Vic Beasley found himself in the unfamiliar role of having to spy Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers’ mobile quarterback was held in check, but managed to make some throws Atlanta could’ve better defended against. It’s clear the unit is still adjusting to the losses of Desmond Trufant and Adrian Clayborn.
Moving along, let’s take a look at the good things, some bad, and the ugly of what was on Sunday afternoon.
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) celebrates his rushing touchdown with tight end Levine Toilolo (80) and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson (19) in the third quarter of their game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
After looking awful in limited action against the Rams, Devonta Freeman needed to have a big game. 20 carries, 139 yards, and 3 touchdowns…yeah, I’d say the man delivered. I’m not sure we’ve seen Freeman ever run as hard as he did today and it was liberating for me. Many fans are happy to watch “Matty Ice” toss 300+ yards. Me, I’m the nut-job who has lost sleep over the fact we hadn’t seen Freeman rush for over 100 yards since Week 3.
The offensive line was simply awesome on Sunday. The Falcons averaged 6 yards per carry and only once did the O-line allow a pressure. Atlanta came out of the gates running up the gut, where Alex Mack and Chris Chester opened gaping holes on the right side. Atlanta initially struggled to gain through the left-side, but all was well when Devonta Freeman took a stretch play to the house for his 3rd touchdown. Jake Matthews definitely looked like himself again.
All game and I can think of maybe a couple long balls down the sideline that Matt Ryan missed. He was accurate and he made great decisions. Many are in awe over his long completion to Aldrick Robinson. Me, I’m in awe over the 4th quarter screen pass he threw to Taylor Gabriel. I’m not sure Matt Ryan of 2012 makes that read and exposes the corner blitz.
Weems’s only chance to remain relevant with the Falcons is through special teams. Many fans will continue to hate but it was nice to see Weems with a couple of solid punt returns. His big return in the 1st quarter set up Atlanta’s first scoring drive. Weems also had a big return in the 3rd quarter that was negated by a bogus holding call on Justin Hardy.
Reed played football to the sound of “Master of Puppets” today. The box score credits him with 1 tackle, but the guy was all over the place and part of every swarm. Reed got Dominique-type height when he leaped up and batted down a Kaepernick pass in the 4th quarter.
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Blake Bell (84) is injured as he is tackled by Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen (37) and strong safety Keanu Neal (22) during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the 49ers 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Keanu Neal is young, but for every big hit he delivers; we get treated to a blown assignment. Neal blew coverage on the 3rd & 19 play of the 2nd quarter in which Blake Bell ran a deep post route. Later in the 4th quarter, Charles Davis of CBS’s broadcast explained Neal’s blown gap assignment on a 3rd down run play. Neal is still developing but he needs to play smarter as the Falcons play better passing offenses in the weeks to come.
I hate to keep beating up the secondary, but there’s only so much to nick-pick from. Robert Alford earns his place on the “bad” slide after he was beat on Garrett Celek’s touchdown catch. Alford got suckered with the head-fake and ended up a couple steps behind. Closing speed has been a big knock on Alford, but something he’s capable of improving. San Francisco ran a similar pass play in the 3rd quarter that Alford closed in on and batted away. Much like Neal, Atlanta needs Alford to step it up as the playoffs approach.
A staple of the 2nd quarter was the 49ers’ sudden ability to rip off big running plays. Give Grady Jarrett credit for being a gaping hole along the defensive line during this period. There was one particular play where Jarrett flopped to 49ers’ backup center, Marcus Martin, thus allowing Carlos Hyde’s 17-yard run. Jarrett finished the game with 3 assists and was a non-factor throughout a majority of the game. There were also a couple times the Falcons run stunts in which Jarrett was too slow crossing into the gap.
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) talks on the sideline in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Falcons let up a little bit during the 2nd quarter and for limited time, offered San Francisco a glimmer of hope. Colin Kaepernick began to pick apart a secondary that appeared confused and left gaping holes in the zone. The 45-yard completion to Blake Bell, Carlos Hyde’s 17-yard run, and Devonta Freeman’s fumble inside the 1-yard line. Suffce to say, the 2nd quarter of Sunday’s game is one we all would like to forget.
The broadcast began very awkward as an apparently-crooked goalpost caused a 10-minute delay. There’s still no word on what caused the issue, but chances are some yahoo dunked on it during the pregame. Either way, the goalposts being level didn’t matter. The 49ers didn’t attempt any field goals and Matt Bryant would’ve made both of his tries if the goal posts were upside down.
I’ve always wondered what I would look like with an Afro…and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be as bad as Colin Kaepernick. Many people can pull off the Afro, but the 49ers’ quarterback isn’t one of them. The skinny head and big nose; Kaepernick probably should visit the barber sooner than later. I understand and respect his show of ethnic pride but let’s be honest, the Afro may end up the symbol of the worst season of his career.
And for what its worth, I did feel bad for Kaepernick a couple of times on Sunday. There were a few plays he couldn’t buy a catch from his receivers. Kaepernick is likely to move on from San Franciso after the season and compete for a starting job elsewhere. Some don’t think he has it but I’ll argue he’s a better option than what’s currently in Cleveland, Denver, Buffalo, and Houston.