SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers reported back to work this week after a deflating loss to the Atlanta Falcons with the knowledge that all was not lost.
Coach Kyle Shanahan’s team enters the final two weeks of the regular season in a position to win the NFC West and earn homefield advantage in the playoffs with victories over the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks.
“It was kind of the message coach Shanahan shared with us,” 49ers Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle said. “You never want to lose a game, but fortunately we played well enough through the first how-many-ever games of the year so that one loss didn’t hurt us too bad.”
The 49ers lost to the Falcons, 29-22, in the closing seconds on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. After a players’ day off on Monday, the team got back to work to begin preparations on a short week to face the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
“You don’t have much time to dwell over it,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers enter Week 16 with an 11-3 record. There are three other 11-3 teams in the NFC, and the 49ers hold the tiebreaker edges on New Orleans and Green Bay due to their head-to-head victories. The Seahawks are the other 11-3 team, and the 49ers face them on Dec. 29 in Seattle.
“It pissed us off for a while,” Shanahan said of the loss to the Falcons. “But the neat thing about (Tuesday) is after you go through it for 24 hours you get to go talk to the team. It’s neat to be able to say to the team that, ‘Look, guys, last week before we played them we controlled our own destiny. It was a tough loss that we feel we were good enough to win and didn’t get it done, but we still control our own destiny.’
“We can’t sit and harp on that too long. We correct the mistakes, but we’ve got to go out there and play good football on Saturday.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said the loss to Atlanta provided an opportunity for each player to take a deep dive on ways to get better and help the team.
“We’ve got a good locker room in there where guys watching the film and seeing what they can do better individually and starting with myself,” Garoppolo said. “If everyone has that same mindset, it’s going to lead to a better football team.”
Garoppolo completed 22 of 34 passes against the Falcons for 200 yards with one touchdown and no interception in the upset loss. Half of his pass attempts were directed toward Kittle, and the entire group of 49ers wide receivers managed just four receptions for 49 yards.
Garoppolo said he goes back to look at every incomplete pass to see if there were any adjustments he could have made in order to produce a successful play.
“Sometimes you’re throwing it away, but most of those you could’ve done something differently,” Garoppolo said. “So, all those. I think just situational football at the end, I think we could always get better at that.”
The 49ers’ loss to the Falcons, as painful for the club as it was at the time, will ultimately become little more than a footnote when the history is written about the team’s 2019 season. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa said he believes it can serve as a springboard to greater things.
“I think we’re a pretty mature group,” Bosa said. “We know what we did wrong. Everybody watches the film and knows that we have to be better. And there’s no better time to be better than these next couple games.
“Everything is still right in front of us, so what we’ve done early in the year has helped us get to this point.”