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Falcons Ease Past Lackluster 49ers – Week 15 Recap

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The Atlanta Falcons eased to a 41-13 victory over a lackluster San Francisco 49ers side at the Georgia Dome on Sunday in week 15.

The victory moved the Falcons to 9-5, guaranteeing them a winning season for the first time since 2012 and keeping the team in a fantastic position to make the playoffs.

The 49ers are a team devoid of talent and look set for another rebuild after compiling a 1-13 record through their 14 games so far this season. With a high draft pick on the horizon, thoughts will have already turned towards rebuilding the franchise.


For the second week in a row, the Falcons were without star wide receiver Julio Jones. For the second week in a row the Falcons scored over 40 points. Averaging 33.5 points per game, the Falcons are closer to the 2013 Denver Broncos, who averaged the most points per game of all time, than they are to the New Orleans Saints, who are 2nd in points per game this season. In fact, if the Falcons maintained the same rate of scoring they would finish the season as the 8th highest scoring offense of all time.

Much of the load was carried by Devonta Freeman, whose 139 yards and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries showed why he was selected to the Pro Bowl last year. A lost fumble on the goal line was disappointing, but his violent running style was a joy to watch unless you were one of the 3 49ers defenders that he shook off like children on his way to his 2nd touchdown. Credit offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for continuing to ride the hot hand and he was duly rewarded.

Freeman has quietly put together an impressive season with 930 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns being complemented by 346 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. While the 49ers have struggled all year against running backs, the Falcons are starting to show that they can beat teams on the ground, a blueprint which has often found success in the colder months.

In terms of the passing game, Aldrick Robinson lead the way with 4 catches for 111 yards. Robinson perfectly illustrated the depth and “next man up” mentality that the Falcons possess at wide receiver. Prior to the game, he had caught just 13 passes for 161 yards but stated his case for why he should receive more targets. He needs just one more reception to equal his most in a season.

Much has been made of Matt Ryan having better weapons than ever this season, but it can’t be overstated how well he is playing. Of the 8 receivers that caught catches on Sunday (not including Justin Hardy, whose 16 yard reception came from Matt Schaub once the result was a formality), Mohamed Sanu’s 790 yards on 56 receptions in 2014 is the comfortably the best previous season from the group and he was the 5th option in Cincinnati last year. Much like Brady, Manning and others have done before, Matt Ryan is making those around him better.

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Kyle Shanahan was the source of much contention after the team’s slow second half to the season last year but will be near the top of many head coaching wishlists this offseason, having helped turn his quarterback into an MVP candidate on the league’s most prolific offense. He puts a premium on speed and finds players to fit his scheme, showing the canniness to reunite with Aldrick Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Alex Mack and Chris Chester after they impressed him in the past.

Mack and Chester have both contributed to the Falcons’ best offensive line in years, allowing Ryan to progress through his reads and opening holes for the running game. Pro Football Focus have credited left tackle Jake Matthews with multiple pressure-free games this season and Sunday marked another occasion that he kept Ryan clean, while Mack has been their highest graded center this season. Offensive line recognition isn’t always easy to come by but both Mack and Matthews should be in the Pro Bowl discussion.


It wasn’t a headline-grabbing day for the defense, but the Falcons allowing opposing quarterbacks all day to find open players is a thing of the past.

Vic Beasley might not be the consistently dominant player that Von Miller is, but he has a handful of plays a game that show just how special he can be as a pass rusher. He took down Colin Kaepernick for sack number 14.5 of the season, claiming top spot in the league in the process, and the ability to get to the quarterback will be crucial, both in the upcoming games against Cam Newton and Drew Brees, and if the Falcons make the playoffs.

After a strong opening month, in which he was named Defensive Rookie of the Month, middle linebacker Deion Jones’ play tailed off a little during the middle of the season. In the last few games, however, Jones has exploded back to life. His 8 tackles and a forced fumble on Sunday were a reminder of what he’s capable of and head coach Dan Quinn will be delighted with how he has adapted to the NFL.

After receiving criticism for the Keanu Neal pick, with many analysts viewing it as a reach, the strong safety has proven that the team were right to take him with some hard-hitting performances that have earned the admiration of Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor, who is the prototype at the position. Neal’s addition has added a physicality and toughness that the team has lacked in the past and he will be a building block for the defense moving forward.

Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is an enigma. Hageman has the physicality and athleticism that defensive coaches salivate over but too often it won’t convert to his play on the field. Viewed as a project coming out of Minnesota, he is clearly talented but has been far too inconsistent in his Falcons career. The coaching staff will hope that the sack of Kaepernick is a sign of things to come for Hageman, who has also had success blocking kicks in his career so far.


There was a huge class difference between the Falcons and 49ers going into Sunday and it was good to see that the gulf was maintained over the course of the game. Too often last year the Falcons underperformed against substandard opposition, sneaking past Zach Mettenberger’s Titans but falling to Blaine Gabbert’s 49ers and Matt Hasselbeck’s Colts late in the season with their playoff dreams on the line. This is a different Falcons side after a year under Dan Quinn. There’s a resilience to them and, while they’re not perfect, they shouldn’t be afraid of any team.