Why 49ers' disappointing upset loss to Falcons was not back-breaking

Why 49ers' disappointing upset loss to Falcons was not back-breaking

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.”

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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.”

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk calls out NFL for no fullbacks on All-Decade Team

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk calls out NFL for no fullbacks on All-Decade Team

Fullbacks are a bit of a dying breed, but the position still deserves respect.

Just ask Kyle Juszczyk.

The NFL announced on Monday the All-Decade Team for the 2010s, but there were no fullbacks listed.

The 49ers had four representatives from the team, two current players and two former: Running back Frank Gore, tackle Joe Staley, linebacker Patrick Willis and cornerback Richard Sherman.

Juice appeared to be unimpressed with the lack of fullback representation:

Football is a brutal sport on the body, but especially so on fullbacks, who often have to do a little bit of everything on offense to help their team win.

There’s nothing glamorous about the position, but Juszczyk was imperative to get the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, as he was utilized both as a blocker and a receiver. He also became a key piece in many things head coach Kyle Shanahan did offensively. His teammates mirrored similar sentiments. 

[RELATED: Vernon Davis explains emotions after 'The Catch III']

Now, it's just a matter of getting proper representation.

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Will 49ers regret signing Jimmie Ward in free agency? It's complicated

Will 49ers regret signing Jimmie Ward in free agency? It's complicated

Jimmie Ward's career with the 49ers has been far from perfect so far. But coaches and the front office never gave up on the former first-round draft pick. 

And their patience with Ward persisted last season as he played 16 games -- including the playoffs -- for only the second time in his career and the first time since 2015. That turned into a pretty paycheck for the safety. 

The 49ers re-signed Ward to a three-year, $28.5 million contract. It's clear San Francisco trusts Ward. Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski, however, isn't sold on him. He recently listed Ward as the signing the 49ers will regret for the hefty contract, past injuries and expected regression. 

Ward certainly is a complicated case. 

“His no-nonsense passion for the game amplifies his special physical abilities, while also setting a tone for our defense," general manager John Lynch said after the 49ers made the signing official. "This extension allows Jimmie to continue to grow in our defense and we look forward to seeing where he can take his game."

Ever since the 49ers took Ward No. 30 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, he has been moved all around the secondary. Ward has played both free and strong safety and even dabbled with some time at cornerback. This past season, he found a home at free safety for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. 

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Ward was the sixth-highest graded safety in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus. He totaled 65 tackles and eight passes defensed in 13 regular-season games, and then had 18 more tackles and forced a fumble over the 49ers' three playoff games. 

Once again, though, Ward missed some time last year due to injury. He was out for the first three games of the regular season while recovering from a fractured finger and has only averaged 10.7 games per season through his six-year career. Paying an injury-prone safety over $9 million annually doesn't exactly come without risk. 

Whether it be coaches, front office, his health or his play, Ward's career has lacked consistency. That will continue in 2020 as well after defensive backs coach Joe Woods left the 49ers for the Cleveland Browns. 

[RELATED: Four 49ers selected to NFL's All-Decade Team of 2010s]

There's no doubt Ward comes with risk. At the same time, the 49ers didn't continue to believe in him by accident. The talent is there and Ward fits what Saleh wants to do with San Francisco's defense. 

Only time will tell if the 49ers regret this. For now, they'll show more trust in Ward, just like they did with his new contract.