Niners overcome early miscue, throttle Falcons 31-13

BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

The 49ers fought back after fumbling the opening kickoff deep in their own end zone, riding a dominating defense and a balanced offensive attack to bolster their playoff chances with a 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
San Francisco’s Arden Key takes down Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for a sack during the 49ers 31-13 win over Atlanta in a NFL game Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.

Jeff Wilson Jr., stepping up in the absence of Elijah Mitchell, rushed for 110 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown, and San Francisco’s defense stopped the Falcons without scoring three times on downs inside their own 10-yard line, becoming the first NFL team to do so in the last 40 years. Jimmy Garoppolo was a mistake-free 18-23 for 235 yards and a touchdown. Deebo Samuel, Kyle Juszczyk and Jauan Jennings also found the end zone as the Niners won for the sixth time in their last eight games following a four game losing streak.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Arik Armstead pressures Falconms quarterback Matt Ryan during the 49ers 31-13 win over Atlanta.

The win helped solidify San Francisco’s (8-6) position in the NFC playoff picture, putting them all alone in the NFC’s second wild card slot, a game ahead of the Saints (7-7) and the winner of Tuesday’s game between Washington and the Eagles in Philadelphia. Minnesota can also move into a tie for the seventh and final seed with a win over the Bears Monday night. The Falcons fell to 6-8.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Nick Bosa battles with Falcons tackle Kaleb McGary during the Niners 31-13 win against Atlanta Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium. The win improved San Francisco’s record to 8-6.

The game got off to an ominous start for the Niners as JaMycal Hasty bobbled the opening kick, but the San Francisco defense wasted no time setting the tone for the day as it stopped Atlanta on 4th & 1 at their one-yard line to take over on downs. Samson Ebukam, Arden Key each registered sacks.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Jeff Wilson Jr. runs the ball on the way to a 110 yard day on the ground during the 49ers win over Atalanta Sunday afternoon.

Niners coach Mike Shanahan, asked about Wilson’s improvement since coming off the IR, was effusive in his praise; “He’s improved a ton. We all know exact exactly what Jeff is, so it’s not that he was ever just not good or anything. But it’s hard when you get hurt in OTA’s and then your first practice is Week 6. It’s taken him a while to get his legs back. He’s been looking so much better these last few weeks and each week he gets stronger and stronger. He had a hell of a game today.”

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Deebo Samuel runs the ball for a 30-yard gain during the Niners win over Atlanta Sunday.

The Niners next continue their playoff push with just four days to prepare for a cross country flight to Nashville where they’ll take on the AFC South leading Titans (9-5) Thursday night at 5PM.

GAME NOTES:

Bosa’s 15 sacks on the season are the most by a member of the 49ers since Aldon Smith set the franchise record with 19.5 sacks in 2012.

Garoppolo surpassed 3,000 passing yards on the season for the second time (2019), becoming just the 6th QB in 49ers history to surpass the figure more than once.

Samuel’s 12 total touchdowns (5 receiving / 7 rushing) on the season are the most by a member of the 49ers since Vernon Davis had 13 in 2013.

About Daniel Gluskoter

Daniel Gluskoter is the Martinez Tribune's national music and sports editor and a Bay Area photojournalist who's work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2008 Presidential campaign as a correspondent for United Press International and has travelled worldwide covering events ranging from numerous Super Bowls and Olympics to Live Aid and the Grammys.

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