With a backup quarterback making his first start since Week 5 of the 2013 season, the 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 17-16 at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.
A season once full of promise is now in utter disarray heading to the bye week.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn may regret playing it safe from the 1-yard line and kicking a field goal with just under three minutes to play. The defense couldn’t stop the 49ers and get the ball back for the sputtering offense.
The 49ers, who benched starter Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert, improved to 3-6. The Falcons dropped to 6-3 on the season before entering their bye week.
Here’s are the five things we learned:
1. Rushing attack shut down. The 49ers held Falcons running back Devonta Freeman in check. Freeman entered the game leading the league in rushing, but was held to 12 yards on 12 carries. The Falcons averaged 126 yards rushing per game, which ranked eighth in the league, before facing a stingy San Francisco defense that was led by Navorro Bowman.
2. The Blaine Gabbert Era is upon us. The former Jacksonville draft bust was poised under pressure and despite throwing a late interception, he played well. The 49ers hadn’t score a touchdown over the past eight quarters. Their last touchdown was a 21-yard Colin Kapernick pass to Patton to put them up 25-13 against Baltimore in Week 7.
Gabbert completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards, two touchdownd and threw two interceptions.
3. Free Roddy. The Falcons’ offense was stagnant and blew great field position all game. The Falcons started three drives on the plus side of the 50 yard line and didn’t get any points. Ryan had two passes batted down and didn’t throw the ball to Roddy White until six seconds left in the third quarter. He found White for a 20-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Ryan completed 30 of 45 passes for 303 yards.
4. Nice return, but run away from the tacklers. Falcons punt returner Eric Weems broke loose for a 41-yard punt return. He had plenty of room out to his right, but inexplicably ran into the punter and was tackled. The offense wasted the return and was forced to punt. It was Weems’ longest return since he had a 42-yard in 2011. It was the team’s longest return since Devin Hester had a 62-yarder against Tampa Bay in Week 3 of the 2014 season.
5. Cover the tight end. On third-and-1 from the Falcons’ 1, Gabbert tossed a touchdown pass to a wide open Garrett Celek. Linebacker Nate Stupar didn’t honor the tight end and was two steps into the back field before realizing that it was a pass play. Later in the game defensive end Vic Beasley dropped in coverage and intercepted a Gabbert pass intended for tight Vance McDonald.
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