Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones
Photo: 11
Photo: 11

Film-review report card: Falcons 29, 49ers 22

The Falcons posted a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the 49ers on Sunday to drop the 49ers from first place to fifth in the NFC playoff race.

The Falcons needed a 5-yard touchdown catch from wide receiver Julio Jones with two seconds left to pull out the 29-22 victory. 

The Falcons didn’t quit after falling behind 19-10 with 10:12 left to play in the game. The Falcons’ Matt Ryan-to-Jones passing combination was just too much for the 49ers. 

Here are the grades: 

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones breaking the plane on the game-winning touchdown catch with 2 seconds to play. (Fox Sports screen grab from Gamepass.NFL.Com)

Run offense: The rushing attack was not able to get moving against the 22nd-ranked rush defense in the NFL. Running back Devonta Freeman had a weak outing, gaining only 39 yards on 12 carries, a poor average of 3.3 yards per carry. Brian Hill had a 16-yard gain, and Qadree Ollison had a 1-yard touchdown run.  Grade: C 

Pass offense: Ryan completed 25 of 39 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 95. Ryan went to Jones often. Jones caught 13 of 20 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns. With Calvin Ridley out, the Falcons moved Jones around to several spots and even had him work out of the slot at times. Tight end Austin Hooper ran a nice rub route to help Jones get open on the game-winning touchdown catch. There were three illegal-use-of-hands calls on the wideouts. Six receivers caught passes. Grade: B 

Check out Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones' footwork on his 2-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. (Fox Sports screen grab from Gamepass.NFL.Com)

Run defense: In the pregame hype, much was made of the 49ers’ three-person fleet of running backs. The Falcons did a respectable job holding the running backs to 105 yards rushing and one touchdown on 22 carries. Take out Tevin Coleman’s 37-yard run, and it’s a great day. Since the bye week, the defense is allowing 19.1 points per game after allowing 31.2 points over the first eight games (seven of them losses) of the season. Linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones led the way with 11 and nine tackles, respectively. Campbell and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett also forced fumbles.  Grade: B

Pass defense: The Falcons were not able to slow San Francisco tight end George Kittle, who caught 13 passes for 134 yards. The Falcons used several players on Kittle and kept him out of the end zone. He had a couple of power moves, but nothing like the rampage he had in the previous game against the Saints. “He caught me one time trying to fight against him and slammed the mess out of me,” safety Ricardo Allen said. “I kept fighting, but he’s pretty strong. He’s a great competitor. He’s the kind of player you want to go against again and again.” Free safety Damontae Kazee went after Kittle high early in the game, but in the second half he started coming in low to make his tackles. Allen finished with two tackles and Kazee had seven. The Falcons had a sack and three quarterback hits. Grade: B 

Who was missing on the onside kick to start the second half? The Falcons were called for illegal formation for having just four players on one side of the ball. (Fox Sports screen grab from Gamepass.NFL.Com)

Special teams: Returner Kenjon Barner had a potentially costly fumble on a punt return in the fourth quarter. “Bail Bondsmen, that’s what you call the defense,” Barner said. “Bail Bondsmen. They fronted me about 50 percent, darn near a 100 percent.” Kicker Younghoe Koo made a 43-yard field goal that gave the Falcons a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Punter Ryan Allen had five punts and a net average of 46.4. He boomed a 59-yarder and helped to win the field-position battle. Jamal Carter’s block in the back on Barner’s big return cost the Falcons 45 yards of field position. The Falcons blew their onside kick when only 10 men went on the field to start the second half. Who was the missing player? Grade: C-plus

Jamal Carter's block in the back on Kenjon Barner's big punt return was unnecessary. Barner had already broken free. (Fox Sports screen grab from Gamepass.NFL.Com)

Coaching: If not for the late-game heroics, the Falcons would have been kicking themselves for committing 11 penalties for 98 yards. Grady Jarrett and Adrian Clayborn were called for some questionable roughing-the-passer penalties. Clayborn joked that he was going to start a page to pay his expected fine. The Falcons must be commended for their clock management down the stretch. They had a enough time to take a couple of shots and win the game. Grade: B 


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About the Author

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