SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Falcons, who were favored by a touchdown, loss to the San Francisco 49ers, 17-16, before 70,799 fans (paid, not actual attendance) on Sunday at Levi Stadium.
The offense was is bad shape as Roddy White continued to be a decoy and the running game was shut down.
“They figured us out,” right tackle Ryan Schraeder said.
The Falcons’ defense was caught off guard early by backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the Jacksonville castoff who had a 5-22 record as a starting quarterback. Despite holding Gabbert scoreless in the second half, he’s now 6-22 because the Falcons’ offense was stymied and head coach Dan Quinn didn’t believe they could pick up a yard on fourth-and-goal from the 1 yard line with 3:00 to play.
If the Falcons finished 9-7, this decision will haunt them while they are sitting at home watching the playoffs. At 6-3, they could lose to the Colts, Vikings, Panthers (twice) and beat Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and the Saints and finish 9-7.
This was a game they needed and should have won.
Game balls: Phillip Wheeler, who replaced Justin Durant it the lineup, led the defense with 10 tackles.
Quarterbacks, D-minus. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan did not turn the ball over as he completed 30 of 45 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown. He finished with a 93.1 passer rating. The offensive scheme clearly has him locked in on Julio Jones. On the 54-yarder to Jones, White was wide open at 20 yards, but he went deep to Jones, who made the catch over three defenders. The 49ers relentlessly blitzed Ryan and made him use his check-down receivers.
Running backs, F. Devonta Freeman was held to 12 yards on 12 carries. Tevin Coleman had one carry for 3 yards. The long was 7 yards as the 49ers bottled up the outside-zone rushing attack. “I was talking to (49ers linebacker Navorro) Bowman at the end of the game he was like coming into practice ‘we watched a lot of film on you’,” Freeman said. “He was like they know I am going to slash you if I get to the edge, it was going to be a long night for them. He said they just watched a lot of film and they set the edges on us and wasn’t going to let me go outside and I respect that.”
Wide receivers/tight ends, C. There were too many drops. Jones was targeted 17 times and made 10 catches for 137 yards. White remains the forgotten man in this offense. With the game on the line, Ryan threw to rookie Justin Hardy on third down and he couldn’t fight his way into the endzone. Tight end Jacob Tamme had 10 targets. The Falcons didn’t get to White, who another longtime coach confirmed that he’s still getting open, until six seconds left in the third quarter.
Offensive line, D. Tackles Ryan Schraeder and Jake Matthews had their hands full as the 49ers were determined to contain the rushing attack. They set the outside edge and turned the running plays back inside to Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. The 49ers blitzed relentlessly. They had two sacks and seven quarterback hits.
Defensive line, D. The line couldn’t generate a pass rush. The Falcons had no sacks and two quarterback hits. The defense allowed running backs Shaun Draughn, who was signed off the street this past week, and Kendall Gaskins, a former practice squad player, to have solid days. Draughn rushed for 58 yards on 16 carries and Gaskins had seven carries for 20 yards. Gabbert scrambled eight times for 32 yards, including a key pick up third-and-4 with 2:11 left in the game. Defensive end Vic Beasley had a nice interception while dropping into coverage.
Linebackers, C-plus: Wheeler (10 tackles) and Paul Worrilow (five tackles) combined for 15 tackles. Brooks Reed also made five tackles. Justin Durant did not play because of a calf injury.
Defensive backs, C-plus. Gabbert, who has a strong arm, didn’t take too many shots down the field to the speedy Torrey Smith. He did find him for a 26-yard gain and Quinton Patton on a crossing route that he took up the field for 41 yards with Phillips Adams in loose coverage. Adams later atoned for the coverage with an interception. Trufant had four tackles and one pass breakup.
Coaching, F-plus. The decision not to go for the touchdown to win the game on the road was bizarre. Unfortunately, first-year coach Dan Quinn sent his offense the wrong message as he clearly thought they couldn’t bust in to the endzone from a little over a yard away. The only way it makes sense is if the Falcons have a “shut down” defense. On top of the decision being misguided, the offense had no counters for how the 49ers shut down the run game and forced Ryan to take his check-down receivers by blitzing. A scheme that only gets White two targets and Tamme 10, is not a good scheme or it must be adjusted.
NEXT UP: After the bye week, the Falcons (6-3) host the Indianapolis Colts (4-5) on Sunday, Nov. 22, Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Georgia Dome. The Colts knocked the Denver Broncos from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 27-24 win on Sunday. They also have bye before this game. If the defense can’t stop Blaine Gabbert, what will it do with a recovering and rested Andrew Luck?
The Falcons played miserably on Sunday in a loss to Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers. CineSport's Courtey Fallon and The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter discuss the defeat and Devonta Freeman's bad day.