Former Falcons guard Ben Garland, who the team moved on from last season, went in at center for the 49ers against the Saints. He’s set to start along another Falcons’ castoff in Mike Person, the 49ers right guard.
“Ben came in and we were able to not miss a beat,” Shanahan said. “He stepped it up, knew the game plan well, blocked those guys even when they were the head up nose. When he was uncovered he got through to the second level and made a number of plays in the game that helped us.”
After helping the Falcons reach the Super Bowl, Shanahan took the San Francisco job. Armed with a six-year contract, Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and vice president of player personnel Martin Mayhew, set out to rebuild the once-storied franchise.
The 49ers went 6-10 in Shanahan’s first season followed by 4-12 in 2018. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo healthy, a strong rushing attack and a stout defense, the 49ers and Shanahan are back in the Super Bowl mix.
The 49ers, running Shanahan’s outside zone scheme, have three running backs with more than 450 yards rushing. Raheem Mostert (608 yards, four touchdowns) has taking over the lead role. Matt Breida (596 yards rushing )and Tevin Coleman (460 yards rushing and six touchdowns) have also contributed.
Breida, who played at Georgia Southern, returned to action against the Saints after missing three games.
Coleman, the former Falcons, also has contributed 20 catches for 171 yards and one touchdown.
The 49ers’ defensive front led by left defensive end Nick Bosa (eight sacks), right defensive end Arik Armstead (10 sacks) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (6.5 sacks) has been impressive.
The 49ers are giving up 150.8 yards passing per game, which is No. 1 in the NFL. Their 45 sacks and 17.6 points per game both rank third in the league.
The Falcons are 0-3 against NFC West teams having loss to the Rams, Cardinals and Seattle.
“We’ve seen a good bit of them (49ers) in a lot of the crossover games (on film), and the things that jumped out to me, I thought from their defensive side, I thought their front is really playing well and playing aggressive,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “A number of different guys have gotten involved for them as a pass rush.”
Garoppolo is completing 69.5% of his passes and has thrown 25 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 103.9.
Tight end George Kittle is the top receiver, with 60 catches for 754 yards and four touchdowns. He a big-highlight run down the sideline to help seal the win over the Saints.
“Offensively, I thought always a great balance the run-pass and the play-pass that goes with it,” Quinn said. “They’ve certainly featured their running backs and tight ends in lots of different ways. I thought outside at receiver with the addition of (Emmanuel) Sanders, they play aggressive at receiver and are aggressive catching. It’s aggressive ways that they go after it. (They are) a complete offense in that way.”
Also, when Shanahan left he took former Falcons running backs coach Bobby Turner will him. Since the legendary Turner left, the Falcons have not had a 1,000-yard running back.
Turner, dating to his days with Mike Shanahan in Denver through the Washington years and in Atlanta, has churned out 1,000-yard rushers.
“He’s really clear on what and how to do it,” Quinn said of Turner. “It is good to see. He’s always been somebody that’s been very good at developing players, and so he takes great pride in that.”
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