49ers

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 29-22 loss to Falcons

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 29-22 loss to Falcons

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers came into Week 15 atop the NFC and in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons have not been in playoff contention at any point this season.

But the Falcons proved in recent weeks to be dangerous to two of the top teams in the NFC.

After beating the New Orleans Saints on the road last month, they upset the 49ers, 29-22, at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

The 49ers quickly were brought back down to earth after their exhilarating 48-46 victory over the Saints last week.

Letdown? New Orleans hangover? What the heck happened?

“I think that team played better than us today,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I didn’t see our guys not playing hard. I think our guys played hard, but [the Falcons] played better and coached better.”

Here are the 49ers’ grades from their Week 15 loss to the Falcons:  

Rushing offense

The 49ers used their running game as part of a 21-play, 88-yard drive that ended in a touchdown in the second quarter. But the consistency was not there to keep the chains moving throughout the game.

Raheem Mostert gained 54 yards on 14 carries. Tevin Coleman had 40 yards on four attempts, but 37 of those yards came on one run. Matt Breida struggled with 11 yards on four carries, and also committed a costly fumble in the fourth quarter as the 49ers were driving for a score. 

Grade: D-minus  

Passing offense

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was not at his best, but he certainly is not the reason the 49ers lost this game. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

The pass protection was spotty, though Garoppolo was sacked just one time in the game. Vic Beasley beat left tackle Joe Staley with an inside pass-rush move early on.

George Kittle was outstanding with 13 catches for 134 yards, but he had an unforced fumble late in the game on a play in which it looked as if he would be able to pick up a key first down to help the 49ers run out the clock.

[RELATED: Teammates don't blame Kittle for 49ers' loss to Falcons]

The wide receivers were nonexistent. Deebo Samuel had one drop. His only reception went for 29 yards. Emmanuel Sanders had two catches for nine yards. Kendrick Bourne had a drop, and he had just one reception for 11 yards. 

Grade: D-plus  

Rushing Defense

The 49ers’ run defense did a good job on Devonta Freeman, who picked up just 39 yards on 12 carries. Some of the biggest plays from the Falcons' running game came from quarterback Matt Ryan, who scrambled for 27 yards on five attempts.

Linebacker Fred Warner led the 49ers’ defense with nine tackles, including one stop for a loss. 

Grade: B    

Passing Defense

When the game was on the line, the 49ers could not stop the Falcons from marching down the field for the winning points. That’s what this game was all about.

The best player on the field was wide receiver Julio Jones. He caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers did not have an answer for Jones at the goal line.

Jones posted up against 49ers safety Jimmie Ward at the goal line. He did just enough to screen off Ward and catch the pass that broke the plane of the goal line for the game-winning touchdown.

Sheldon Day and Nick Bosa broke through for sacks, but the 49ers’ pass rush did not dominate this game like they had hoped against an inferior Atlanta offensive line. There were no takeaways in the passing game.

Overall, for all four quarters, the 49ers do not deserve a failing grade. But the fact that they gave up back-to-back 75- and 70-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter at the worst possible times locks in this failing mark ... 

Grade: D-minus  

Special Teams

There were plenty of good things that the 49ers did on special teams. Mitch Wishnowsky had good hang time on his punts, and his 41.3-yard net average was in keeping with what he has done this season.

The 49ers also forced a takeaway on special teams when Ross Dwelley stripped punt returner Kenjon Barner of the ball. Kyle Juszczyk recovered, and two plays later he scored on a 1-yard pass from Garoppolo.

Mostert also was his usual impressive self as a gunner on punt coverage.

But Robbie Gould missed an extra point in the fourth quarter when he hooked it wide. That seemed to signal a change in momentum. Instead of a 10-point lead, it was nine. 

Grade: B-minus  

Overall

It is easy to see why the 49ers would have struggled in this game. But they had to do a lot of things wrong in order to lose it. Yes, the Falcons are not the pushovers that their record suggests. They played a carefree brand of football and seemed energized and excited about this game.

The 49ers might not have taken the Falcons lightly, but they did not bring the same energy that they brought to that exciting showdown last week in New Orleans. That is understandable.

But the 49ers lacked the workmanlike performance that good teams put together that enable them to win games when they are not able to muster their A-game. Now, the 49ers have no wiggle room if they have any hopes of winning the NFC West and earning home-field advantage in the playoffs. 

Grade: D-minus

Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route

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AP

Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route

NFL draft season prompts plenty of outlandish trade scenarios to fill airtime and word counts, many of which never come to fruition.

Dallas Morning News reporter Joseph Hoyt dug up one such scenario Thursday, and it's a (hypothetical) trade the 49ers are (hypothetically) glad they didn't (hypothetically) make.

The 49ers would've had to pay a pretty penny for then-New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the proposal put forth in a "Good Morning Football" segment nearly two years ago. Beckham was months away from signing a contract extension, so San Francisco would've traded a lot of draft capital for a star entering the final year of his contract. The picks the 49ers made in those slots formed the backbone of the 2019 NFC Champions.

Beckham's arrival would've changed things, though. The 49ers would've entered the season with arguably the best receiver in football as well as George Kittle, who'd emerge as arguably the best tight end. Kittle might not have set an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end playing alongside Beckham, but he surely would've benefitted from the extra attention opposing defenses paid the receiver rather than him.

Do they still go 4-12 that year? The 49ers were 3-5 in games decided by six points or fewer in 2018, and Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL) missed all but one of those games. Beckham crossed the 1,000-yard threshold in just 12 games catching passes from Eli Manning in 2018, so it's -- at the very least -- conceivable he could've moved the needle in at least one of the 49ers' close losses.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should trade down from both first-round picks]

The 49ers would've picked no higher than No. 4 overall with a 5-11 record in 2018, and any additional wins would've dropped them further down the draft order. Acquiring Beckham under the parameters "Good Morning Football" put forth likely would've prevented the Niners from selecting all of Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, but not all three of them would necessarily be Giants, either.

San Francisco would've been a better team in 2018, thus pushing the 49ers out of the slots they used to draft Bosa and Samuel. That's a different opportunity cost to consider than trading all of those players straight-up for one of the game's best receivers, but it's one the 49ers probably are glad they didn't have to pay.

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

The 49ers had only six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft before trading Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco owned the No. 31 pick, and no others until the fifth round.

That trade brought in the No. 13 pick, but the 49ers probably aren't done dealing. Trading down to acquire more, much-needed draft capital is the likeliest scenario.

While much of the 49ers Faithful drool over what the top wide receivers in the draft would look like in coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, it's far from a given that the team will use that first pick on a receiver. For one, the 49ers still don't own any picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. For another, receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft and the 49ers arguably have a bigger need.

Joe Staley is under contract through the 2021 season, but the veteran left tackle was understandably emotional after the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl LIV. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey indirectly indicated that Staley’s decision to return for the 2020 season was not set in stone.

The 49ers would be best served in hedging their bet that Staley returns and using one of their first-round picks on a left tackle. Even if Staley returns, the 49ers will need a replacement for him in the not-so-distant future. 

The draft's top tackles likely will be taken before the 49ers' first pick, but there still should be quality options available in the 20s or later. The 49ers could trade down, while Houston's Josh Jones or USC's Austin Jackson is still available, and then acquire another pick.

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Let's say trading the No. 13 pick nets the 49ers a first- and early second-round pick. Dealing the No. 31 pick would also come into play.

The 49ers drafted Deebo Samuel No. 36 overall in 2019. Samuel proved to be very productive in Shanahan’s system, catching 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards. He ranked second on the team in receiving yards only behind First Team All-Pro tight end George Kittle. 

Shanahan's staff had an advantage in getting to know Samuel while at the Senior Bowl, but they have shown that a second-round receiver can become a key contributor. 

[RELATED: Buckner's exit could influence 49ers to trade down in draft]

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson's draft trade value chart lists the No. 31 pick as worth a mid-second-round pick and a high third-round pick or a high second-round pick and a mid-fourth-round pick, among other permutations. Trading both first-round picks could give the 49ers three additional picks in rounds where they currently have none.

The 49ers would end draft weekend with nine selections in this scenario, as opposed to their original six. They'd also have fresh, valuable talent at important positions on their roster.