Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Report card: Falcons deliver TKO of 49ers

Here are the grades from the Falcons’ 41-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday:

Game Balls: The offensive line and fullback Patrick DiMarco for paving the way to 248 yards rushing and three touchdowns. “The offensive linemen did a good job by blocking and creating lanes for us,” running back Devonta Freeman said.

Quarterbacks, A. Matt Ryan completed 17-of-23 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and finished with a 144.5 passer rating. With two touchdown passes, he tied his career and franchise record for most touchdown passes in a single season (32). Also, Ryan’s 144.5 passer rating is the second highest passer rating in his career. The Falcons had their sixth best yardage total in franchise history – 550 yard.

Running backs, A-minus. The Falcons also recorded a season-high 248 yards rushing, which is the highest total Atlanta has recorded since week 17 of 2011 (251 yards). Freeman had his third three-rushing-touchdown game of his career. He finished the game with 20 carries for 139 yards on 7.0 yards per carry. He broke seven tackles along the way. Freeman became the ninth Falcon with two seasons of 10-or-more touchdowns. Freeman and Tevin Coleman finished with 221 total yards. This is the third time this season the two have combined for 200-plus yards. The two have combined for 2,023 total yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Freeman’s fumble on the 1-yard line lowered the grade. Can’t have those dreaded red-zone turnovers.

Wide receivers/tight ends, A-plus. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson recorded his first 100-yard

receiving game of his career. He finished the game with four receptions for 111 yards. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel recorded his sixth receiving touchdown of the season – seventh total. He has now scored a touchdown in five of the last six games. Gabriel finished the game with three receptions for 60 yards. Tight end Levine Toilolo had one catch for 30 yards and Austin Hooper had a touchdown grab of 9 yards. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a serious knee injury. The Falcons, who have already lost tight end Jacob Tamme for the season, have Toilolo, Joshua Perskins and D.J. Tialavea on the practice squad. Perkins made his first career catch, a 8-yard grab, against the 49ers.

Offensive line, A-plus. The offensive line got physical with the 49ers and were determined to run the football. “That is our mindset every week,” right tackle Ryan Schraeder said. “We want to run the ball, we want to move it, we want to get linebackers going. It makes it easier on us in the passing game. We can run the play-action and things like that, so it was cool. They came out, the running backs played hard, and we just tried to make some holes.” The line also kept Ryan clean. He was sacked once and hit three times. “I didn’t really get hit today,” Ryan said. “Our offensive line did such a really good job today, I didn’t really get hit the entire day. When you have days like that, especially at this time of the year, they are always nice.”

Defensive line, A-plus. Defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman posted his first sack of the season – third of his career. Defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, a converted linebacker and one of the great stories on the team, continued to thrive. Upshaw and Grady Jarrett had three tackles. Defensive end Dwight Freeney played 23 of 55 defensive snaps (42 percent) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux played 14 snaps (25 percent). Edge rusher Brooks Reed has been productive rushing the passer the past four weeks, as he’s totaled seven quarterback hurries in that span, according to Pro Football Focus.

Linebacker, A. Middle linebacker Deion Jones forced his first fumble of his NFL career, which was recovered by fellow rookie safety Keanu Neal. The Falcons’ 16 forced fumbles on the season are the most the defense has recorded since 2009 (17). Strongside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. posted his 14.5 sack on the season. He now leads the league in sacks. He is two sacks away from tying John Abraham for the single-season franchise record. Weakside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell left the game with a concussion and did not return. Paul Worrilow took over for Campbell and played 36 of 55 defensive snaps (65 percent). He finished with three tackles and two passes defensed and was highest-graded (84) player on the defense by Pro Football Focus.

Defensive backs A. Strong safety Keanu Neal made his presence felt with 10 tackles, including a nice open-field form tackle. C.J. Goodwin, the converted wide receiver, started at left cornerback and held his own over 39 snaps. The Falcons defense held 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to 183 yards passing, while sacking him two times – moving their sack streak to 13 games.

Special teams, A.  Returner Eric Weems set the offense up with a 42-yard punt return to San Francisco’s 47-yard line to start the game. “Everything goes to the guys up front,” Weems said. “They did well setting up and getting their blocks. I just found the creased that they gave me.” Matt Bryant nailed a 50-yard field goal and punter Matt Bosher averaged 33.5 on two flopper punts that pinned the 49ers inside the 20-yard. The only blemish was a holding penalty on Justin Hardy that brought back a 39-yard return by Weems.

Coaching. A-plus. It’s a sign of mentally tough team when they go out and kick a 1-12 team in the mouth. An unfocused team, would have toyed with the 49ers instead of trying to knock them out in the early rounds. If this was an old 15-round heavyweight fight, it would have been called early, a technical knock out (TKO) in the first quarter. The coaching staff had the Falcons ready to play. The offense continued to flourish and Kyle Shanahan’s head coaching prospects continued to improve. The team also broke the franchise record for most points scored in a season on Hooper’s nine-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. The team now has 469 points on the season. The team also matched their total for most points scored in a quarter this season (21). Those 21 points in the first quarter are the most they’ve scored in the first quarter this year and it is tied for the most points scored in the first quarter in franchise history – sixth time we’ve accomplished that feat. The Falcons also averaged 8.3 yards per play.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (9-5) play the Carolina Panthers (5-8) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Panthers face Josh Norman and the Washington Redskins at 8:30 p.m. tonight on Monday Night Football.

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Devonta Freeman ran for three touchdowns and Matt Ryan passed for two more as the Falcons routed the 49ers, 41-13. The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from the Georgia Dome.

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.