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Grading 49ers' offense, defense in pivotal win over Falcons

NBC Sports
Jeff Wilson

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers might not be exactly where they expected to be.

But they are getting closer, as the showed in their 31-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

“I think we’re peaking at a good time,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “And I should preface it with (saying) we’re definitely not playing as best as we can.”

The 49ers (8-6) picked up their fifth win in six games and took a major step toward a spot in the NFC playoffs with three games remaining in the regular season.

Here is the 49ers’ report card from their critical Week 15 win:

Rushing offense

Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. is looking more like his old self — the pre-knee-surgery Jeff Wilson Jr.

Wilson led a formidable 49ers ground game with 110 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushing attempts. Deebo Samuel continued to make a contribution in the running game with 29 yards and a touchdown on six rushing attempts.

Juszczyk, in addition to doing his usual thing as a lead-blocker, had a 6-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 play that provided the 49ers with a lead they would not relinquish. Left tackle Trent Williams had a monster block on the play. The offensive line helped the 49ers rush for 162 yards and three touchdowns with a 5.1-yard average.

Grade: A

Passing offense

Speaking of the offensive line, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was well-protected throughout the game. He completed 18 of 23 pass attempts for 235 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was not sacked.


Tight end George Kittle caught all six passes thrown his way for 93 yards. Kittle, Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and played with an aggression that summed up the 49ers’ effort. Samuel made one of the game’s memorable plays when he knocked the mouthpiece out of Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell at the end of a 21-yard gain that set up a touchdown.

Grade: A-minus

Rushing defense

The 49ers’ run defense continued its strong play with a fifth consecutive strong showing against the run. Falcons leading rusher Cordarrelle Patterson managed just 18 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

Atlanta finished with just 62 yards rushing on 23 rushing attempts. The longest run the 49ers surrendered came when quarterback Matt Ryan scrambled for 8 yards.

Linebacker Fred Warner led the 49ers’ defense with nine tackles. Defensive tackle Arik Armstead had five stops.

Grade: A

Passing defense

The Falcons’ only hope in this game was for Ryan to carve up the 49ers’ defensive backfield. Yes, Atlanta made some plays down the field, but the 49ers won this matchup.

Ryan completed 19 of 32 pass attempts for 236 yards. He was sacked three times for minus-23 yards. Nick Bosa had a sack-strip that Warner recovered early in the third quarter that led to a quick 49ers touchdown.

The 49ers’ pass defense played a major role in stopping the Falcons on each of the five plays they had from the 1-yard line. The 49ers allowed only one touchdown in the game, that coming on Ryan’s 20-yard pass to Russell Gage against 49ers’ rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas.

Grade: A-minus

Special teams

Things did not start off well at all, as JaMycal Hasty fumbled the opening kickoff of the game to provide the Falcons with just the big break they needed early in the game. (The 49ers’ defense came to the rescue.) Hasty also misplayed the second kickoff of the game. 

The 49ers’ coverage units were not good, either. Mitch Wishnowsky had a 38.3 net average, which is significantly lower than his season average.

This is clearly an area the 49ers need to straighten out to be able to beat good teams.

Grade: D


Things are clicking for the coaching staff, as coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans have made the necessary adjustments to maximize the team’s talent.

The offense bears little resemblance to how the season started, as the personnel has changed and Shanahan is finding the best ways to make the pieces fit together.

The same can be said for the defense, as Ryans is getting better and better as he’s grown more comfortable as a first-year coordinator.

Grade: A


Shanahan said he felt the 49ers executed very well — except for about 10 plays that will give the staff and players plenty to clean up in the coming days. The pieces appear to be coming together for the 49ers. Their physical brand of football works for them on both sides of the ball.


Grade: A-minus

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