X-factor for Falcons-49ers game: Who covers Samuel and Kittle?

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Like the Falcons, the 49ers’ offense is powered by a wide receiver/running back. For the 49ers, that’s Deebo Samuel.

He has 90 touches from scrimmage and 1,268 yards and 11 touchdowns and along with tight end George Kittle, will be the X-factor when the Falcons (6-7) play the 49ers (7-6) at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

“When his number is called, he goes out there and makes a play,” Falcons running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “It doesn’t matter where they put him at. I’m sure he could probably pass the ball and do everything that’s possible. He’s having a career year. I’m just happy for that guy.”

Samuel, who played at South Carolina, was drafted in the second round (36th overall) of the 2019 draft. He’s already over 1,000 yards receiving and has a career-high 33 carries. He had a key 27-yard touchdown run in the 49ers’ 26-23 overtime victory over the Bengals on Sunday.

It addition to Samuel, the Falcons must contend with Kittle, who had 13 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had a spectacular catch-and-run for the 12-yard touchdown in overtime for the 49ers.

But everything in San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone scheme flows off the rushing attack.

“It’s just being disciplined, staying in your gaps, reading your keys because it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors,” Falcons safety Duron Harmon said. “A lot of misdirection this way. That’s when they really get people.”

Samuel’s motion sets up some plays because he runs the jet sweep with some power.

“They see this jet sweep going this way, and they’re looking over here, but then they bring the tight end back and running back and running over here,” Harmon said. “Then they’re gashing you for 15 and 20 yards.”

The Falcons have studied Samuel’s every move.

“Then when you get a guy like Deebo Samuel up free for 10 yards, it’s hard to stop that guy,” Harmon said. “So, we got to be sound in our gaps. Got to be sound in our coverage. And just making sure everybody’s getting to the ball and tackling because they have some very, very dynamic players when they get the ball in their hands.”

The Falcons know they have a challenge.

“It’s not an easy offense to defend,” Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Next four games

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

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