SANTA CLARA -- The Falcons defense matched Kyle Shanahan’s offense wit for wit on the field Sunday in San Francisco's 29-22 loss at Levi's Stadium.
Many opponents have focused on stopping the 49ers' dominant run game to make them one-dimensional, but Shanahan had remained one step ahead. That appeared to not be the case on Sunday when the Falcons came out with a different plan to stifle the Jimmy Garoppolo and the rest of the 49ers offense.
“Yeah, they had a great game plan,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “They came out and they gave us something different that they haven’t shown all season. They came out with five bigs, three linebackers and took a DB out, so it was just something we had to adjust to.
"I felt like at times we did a good job, but could have done a little bit better.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn recently delegated partial responsibility of defensive play calling duties to his assistant Raheem Morris, which could have factored into their efficiency. Regardless of the change, Juszczyk says different looks from opposing defenses is nothing new, it’s expected.
“We run a unique offense that not a lot of other teams do with two running backs on the field so we get that a lot,” Juszczyk said. “We get a lot of teams that game plan and show us something that they haven’t run before.”
The lack of productivity on offense was evident outside of one 83-yard drive that lasted 21 plays and ended in a touchdown. The remaining nine offensive drives went eight plays or less. The 49ers second and only remaining touchdown came after a fumble on a punt return put them one yard away from the end zone.
“I think it says a lot about us that teams have to switch things up,” Juszczyk said. “They know if they just give us their vanilla defense that it might not turn out the way they want. It’s a compliment to us, but it’s also something that we’ve got to handle better.”
While the Sunday’s loss bumped the 49ers down to the No. 5 seed in the NFC, Juszczyk still believes there were important lessons learned by the loss. The 49ers still control their own destiny. Winning out can still put them back into the driver’s seat and give them a first round bye.
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“It’s been high drama, but I feel like we’re built for it,” Juszczyk said. “I just keep saying that this is going to be good experience for when even more is on the line, you know? So we know that we’ve got some big games coming up with the playoffs and this kind of stuff is just good experience for us.
“Weird, weird feeling. Didn’t even realize that we had clinched until a few moments ago. That was a goal of ours, so you can take a little bit of good from that after a tough loss.