ATLANTA – The shorthanded, overmatched and listless 49ers extended the club’s franchise-worst losing streak to an incomprehensible 13 consecutive games on Sunday.
The outcome was never in doubt, as the Atlanta Falcons scored touchdowns with ease on their first three possessions of the game and threw it on cruise control for a 41-13 victory over the 49eres at the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons (9-5) are guaranteed to retain at least a share of the NFC South lead, while the 49ers remain in contention for the No. 1 overall draft pick. The 49ers (1-13) kept pace with the Cleveland Browns, who were losers for the 14th time in 14 games.
The 49ers have never had a one-win season in franchise history. San Francisco’s remaining games are at the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Eve, and the season-finale at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 1 against the NFC West-champion Seattle Seahawks.
While sustaining another loss, the 49ers’ porous defense set a franchise record for rushing yards allowed in a single season. And, remember, the 49ers still have two games remaining.
In 1978, the 49ers allowed 2,363 rushing yards. The 49ers allowed the opposition to blow past that mark on Sunday. The Falcons rushed for 248 yards, and the 49ers have now surrendered 2,468 rushing yards through 14 games.
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman became the 11th opponent to rush for more than 100 yards. Freeman rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns on 20 rushing attempts.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan padded his resume for possible NFL Player of the Year consideration. Ryan completed 17 of 23 pass attempts for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was a gaudy 144.5.
Colin Kaepernick, making his ninth consecutive start, completed 20 of 33 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Kaepernick was just one of seven for 8 yards in the third quarter.
Running back Carlos Hyde led the 49ers on the ground with 13 carries for 71 yards.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started the previous eight games, was deactivated for violating team rules, the 49ers announced before the game. His deactivation left the 49ers with just two inside linebackers in uniform to open the game.
Hodges’ misstep almost immediately became a factor when starter Nick Bellore sustained an elbow injury on the third play of the game.
Vinnie Sunseri replaced Bellore for the remainder of the first drive, which ended with Devonta Freeman’s 5-yard touchdown run. On the next series, veteran safety Antoine Bethea took over at inside linebacker. Then, it was Ahmad Brooks’ turn.
In 13 games this season, including 10 starts, Hodges entered the game ranked fifth on the 49ers with 75 tackles, according to the coaches film review. Hodges has career-highs with three sacks and two interceptions. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
The 49ers lost five players due to injuries through the first three quarters: wide receiver Quinton Patton (foot), tight end Blake Bell (shoulder), center Marcus Martin (ankle), cornerback Jimmie Ward (shoulder), and Bellore (elbow).
Patton’s injury meant the 49ers played most of the game without their two starting outside receivers. Torrey Smith did not travel with the team to Atlanta due to a concussion he sustained a week earlier against the New York Jets.
Left tackle Joe Staley did not suit up due to a hamstring injury. Veteran guard Zane Beadles started at left tackle. He moved to center after Martin’s injury, which meant rookie John Theus took over for his first snaps of the season at left tackle.
This ‘n’ that
--Quarterback Christian Ponder was active for the first time this season, as he replaced Blaine Gabbert as Kaepernick’s backup. Gabbert started the first five games of the season, during which time the 49ers went 1-4. Ponder did not play.
--The 49ers opened the game with a three-and-out. On a third-and-1 play, slot receiver Jeremy Kerley was wide open as Kaepernick rolled to his left. Kaepernick’s pass was high, and Kerley made the ill-advised decision to try to catch it with one hand. The pass fell incomplete and the 49ers were forced to punt.
--The Falcons were within inches of scoring their fourth touchdown in their first four possessions of the game. But 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite ripped the ball out of Freeman’s hands at the goal line to force a turnover in the second quarter.
--In the first quarter, the 49ers were outgained 157 yards to 24. The 49ers’ only first down of the first quarter came on the final play, as Kaepernick hit Patton with a 12-yard gain. But on the first play of the second quarter, Patton lost 9 yards on a jet sweep shovel pass.
--Kicker Phil Dawson pushed an extra-point attempt wide left near the end of the first half, as the 49ers trailed 28-13 after 30 minutes of play. It was Dawson’s first missed field goal of the season.
--Rod Streater caught a 5-yard scoring pass from Kaepernick near the end of the first half. It was his first touchdown reception since the 2014 season, when he caught the first scoring pass from Derek Carr with the Raiders.
--The 49ers, who trailed 21-0, got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter on Kaepernick’s 16-yard scoring pass to tight end Garrett Celek.