ATLANTA – The 49ers entered and exited Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at completely different ends of the NFL spectrum from their last visit to the Georgia Dome in January 2013.
The 49ers fell behind by 17 points in the NFC Championship game that season before rallying for 28-24 victory over the Falcons that propelled Jim Harbaugh’s team to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens.
“When I first walked in the locker room, my locker and (Joe) Staley’s locker were the same lockers we had during that championship game,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said on Sunday. “So there was that little bit of a nostalgic moment.”
That victory at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 20, 2013, was the team’s last shining moment. The 49ers lost the Super Bowl, and it’s been a lot more down than up ever since. The roster has undergone a complete makeover, and Chip Kelly is the 49ers' third head coach in the past three seasons.
On Sunday, the 49ers fell behind 21-0 and simply did not have the wherewithal to make a game of it against a Falcons team that remained with at least a share of the NFC South lead with a 9-5 record.
Kaepernick and linebacker Ahmad Brooks were the only 49ers starters from the NFC title game that played in Sunday’s game, a 41-13 loss that extended the franchise-worst losing streak to 13 games. Staley was inactive for Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury.
“You guys have all been following us over the past couple of years,” Brooks said. “You know what’s going on. With Patrick Willis retiring and Justin Smith retiring, and some other big-name guys leaving the team, we just got to rebuild. I guess we’re in a rebuilding stage right now. This year may be over, but we still have two more games left. And then we’ll see what’s going to happen next season.”
Kaepernick, whose future with the 49ers is uncertain past the final game of the season, said the club is in need of a change of culture.
When asked how long the 49ers are from rebuilding back to becoming an NFL contender, Kaepernick answered, “That’s always hard to tell. It can be pieces here and there that make a huge difference. And it can also be the culture of this team changing, which it needs to. We have to be able to create our opportunities and go out and create wins for our team.”
Kaepernick added, “We have to create a culture of winning, and winning by any means. Right now, our culture isn’t that. We have to be able to improve and create that.”
Brooks said he is at the stage in his career that the word “rebuilding” is not something he wants to embrace.
”I’m not in a rebuilding stage in my career,” Brooks said. “This is my 11th year. Next year will be my 12th year. I really have no time to be rebuilding. I want to win.”