The game that was
The Falcons knew that the 49ers' backs were against the wall and that they would come out fighting mad. The offensive coordinator has been fired. The starting safety basically turned in his own playbook and quit. But if Roddy White and Harvey Dahl don't combine to make the hustle play of the decade, the Falcons would be 2-2 today.
What we learned
1. The pass defense is much improved. The pass rush is not racking up the sacks, but they are forcing quarterbacks to get rid of passes early. The defense made two more interceptions and now lead the league with eight interceptions through four games. San Diego is second with seven. The number would be even higher if they hadn't dropped another four opportunities. William Moore and Curtis Lofton had interceptions against the 49ers. Lofton's interception was turned into a 37-yard Matt Bryant field goal to make it 14-10 right before halftime. Moore's pick led to Bryant's 31-yard field goal to make it 14-13.
2. The defense clamped down on explosive plays. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith only threw the ball down the field three times and one was intercepted by safety William Moore. The Falcons didn't allow a play of more than 19 yards in the game. One of the Falcons goals this season was to not allow so many plays of 20 yards or more. They entered the game giving up four plays of 20-yards or more over the first three games. San Francisco's longest gain of the game came on Dunta Robinson's pass interference call in the first quarter that netted them 34 yards.
3. Falcons receiver Roddy White is unstoppable. The 49ers schemed to keep Roddy White from killing them. The plan worked for three quarters as he had one catch for 20 yards. But with the game on the line, the Falcons found ways to get their Pro Bowler the ball. He caught six passes for 84 yards in the fourth quarter, including three for 41 yards on the game-winning drive. White has 32 receptions for 362 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters (back) and linebackers Spencer Adkins (cramps) were the only announced injuries during the game by the Falcons. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) was inactive. Safety Erik Coleman (MCL knee) was active, but did not play. Falcons coach Mike Smith said he expected all 53 players to at least be limited in practice on Wednesday.
White became the fourth receiver in Falcons history to record over 5,000 receiving career yards. White ranks fourth on the team's all-time list with 5,055 yards behind Terance Mathis (7,349), Alfred Jenkins (6,267) and Andre Rison (5,633).
"The time bomb is always ticking, especially in the NFL. They will bring in people to replace you. They are always looking for that next guy. They only give you so many years to get yourself going."
--WR Roddy White reflecting on the slow start of his career and how he blossomed in his third season.
Linebacker Robert James (four game suspension) was in the locker room on Monday. The team has an roster exemption until they have to make a move later in the week.
The Falcons (3-1) will play the Cleveland Browns (1-3) at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns are coming off their first victory of the season. They had dropped their three previous games by a total of 12 points as they had difficulty closing out games. Former Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis has emerged as a rushing threat.