Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers: To-Do Checklist for Week 15
Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers: To-Do Checklist for Week 15

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 8:06 p.m. ET

Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs the ball for a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons play another must-win game on Sunday. The birds will move to 8-5 if they check the following boxes vs. the San Francisco 49ers.

A trip to the West Coast in week 14 resulted in an outcome of dominance by the Atlanta Falcons. Defeating the Los Angeles Rams 42-14 was meshed determined by solid play from the offense, defense, and special teams. Impressively, the Falcons put together a solid game without the presence of receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Their presence were noticeable but not necessarily needed against the lowly Rams.

This week, the Falcons turn their focus to another NFC West opponent. Only this time, it’s against a team even more inferior than Los Angeles. The San Francisco 49ers (1-12) are next on the schedule.  The Niners have lost 12 straight games. Their only win on the season coming in week one against: those same, lowly Rams.


Here is the checklist for the Falcons week 15 contest versus the Niners:

Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is congratulated by Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn after a touch down in the third quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

#3. Put The Game To Rest Early 

The Rams win came fairly easy for the Atlanta Falcons. The Niners contest should be carried out in the same manner.

The 49ers have six losses this season of 17 or more points, with five of those losses coming on the road. The Niners are also 31st in the league in point differential at an average of -10.9 points a game. In other words, San Francisco struggles to score (26th in scoring offense), struggles to stop teams from scoring (32nd in scoring defense), and find themselves in a hole fairly quickly.

The Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead then flooded the scoreboard with 21 points in the third quarter and entered the final stanza up 42-0 with all hope being lost for the Rams.

The same needs to occur this week as well. This time of year, the playoff teams usually have a game such as this on their schedule and they leave little mercy. I keep modest to fair expectations for the Falcons but this contest should show a clear disparity between the two teams. A similar first half such as the one against the Rams or better should occur to put 49ers out of this one early.

Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones (45) returns an interception 33 yards for a touchdown in the second half against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

#2. Erase The 49ers Run Game 

The Niners boast the fourth best rushing offense in the NFL; a unit averaging 136.9 yards per game. Leading rusher Carlos Hyde has 879 yards and six touchdowns on the season and is coming off a 193 yard performance in week 14 against the Jets. Agile quarterback Colin Kaepernick brings a unique skill set with the ability to add to the run game and is second on the team in rushing yards with 416. The Niners have topped 100 rushing yards in 10 games this season with a season-high 248 yards against the Jets.

The Atlanta Falcons are one of the better run defenses in the NFL as they barely allow over 100 rushing yards a game (101.1). Stout play from defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Ra’Shede Hageman contributed to  holding Rams running back Todd Gurley to just 61 yards on 16 carries. The 49ers carry a versatile, zone-read type offense, and a greater emphasis will be on rookie linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell.

Taking away the run game will force the 49ers to get out of their element. Where they may resort to passing more than normal. A shootout is not what the 49ers would like to participate in. Eliminating the Niners run game would be a favorable move in this ultimate chess match.

Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General overall view as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a pass a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

#1. Small Margin For Error 

The Atlanta Falcons are 8-5 and appear to be headed to the playoffs. Of course, they must focus on whats’s in front of them against three opponents with a combined 11-28 record.

The margin for error for the Atlanta Falcons should be small. The little things within a game are what playoff teams usually clean up around this time of the season.

    For example, things such as broken tackles, ill-timed penalties, missed opportunities in the red-zone, dropped passes, and bad time management are little things that can add up to inexcusable losses.

    The Falcons must focus on the task at hand. Not overlooking the 49ers to a divisional game against the Carolina Panthers next week or wondering about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their outcomes. A one-win San Francisco team provides an opportunity for the Falcons to click on all cylinders. It’s up to coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and defensive coordinator Richard Smith to get their team mentally sharp.

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