Falcons vs. 49ers: Live Game Grades and Analysis for Atlanta

Kristopher KnoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23: Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons passes against the San Francisco 49ers during a game at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Though the Atlanta Falcons fought passionately until the bitter end, they ultimately fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the final regular-season NFL game to be played at Candlestick Park.


Score: Atlanta 24, San Francisco 34

Atlanta Falcons Game Grades
Position UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseB+A-
Run OffenseBC+
Pass DefenseA-C-
Run DefenseCD-
Special TeamsBB+
vs. 49ers Week 16


Game Analysis for Atlanta

Pass Offense: Quarterback Matt Ryan was limited to mostly short throws in the first half, but found a way to drive the ball deep in the second.

He was helped tremendously by wideout Roddy White, who amassed 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman intercepted a red-zone pass and returned it 89 yards for a game-sealing touchdown with less than two minutes left to play.

Ryan finished the game 37-of-48 for 348 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.


Run Offense: Atlanta came into this contest averaging a league-worst 79.3 yards rushing per game. This game provided a glimpse inside the reasons for the trend.

Despite running the ball relatively well early, the Falcons turned away from the ground game once the 49ers began putting points on the scoreboard.

As a team, the Falcons ran just 20 times for 61 yards. Steven Jackson led the team with 53 yards and a touchdown on 16 rushing attempts.


Pass Defense: The Falcons did an excellent job of confusing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the first half.

However, Kaepernick seemed to figure things out after the break, and had little trouble exposing the Atlanta defense. He completed seven of 10 second-half pass attempts and frequently found holes in the secondary.

Kaepernick finished the gamed 13-of-21 for 197 yards and a touchdown.


Run Defense: Atlanta’s 29th-ranked run defense was tested early and often by the ferocious 49ers rushing attack in this contest.

While the Falcons did a respectable job of run defense in the first half (52 total rushing yards), it was frequently gashed in the second.

Frank Gore led the 49ers with 97 yards and a score on 21 carries. Kaepernick added 51 yards and a touchdown, while Kendall Hunter added 51 yards of his own.


Special Teams: It was a solid night for the Atlanta special teams unit.

There were a few big plays, like Robert McClain’s 22-yard punt return just before halftime and Jacquizz Rodgers' onside-kick recovery right before the final two-minute warning. There were also no major mistakes.

Matt Bosher averaged 41 yards per punt, while kicker Matt Bryant made his only field-goal attempt.


Coaching: Mike Smith and Co. called an excellent first half. Atlanta held the 49ers to just three points and jumped out to a touchdown lead by halftime.

Unfortunately, the Falcons could not keep up with the halftime adjustments made by their San Francisco counterparts.

Still, the Falcons were in position to take a late fourth-quarter lead before Bowman’s interception changed everything.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23: Running back Steven Jackson #39 of the Atlanta Falcons carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during a game at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Ima
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

First-Half Analysis for Atlanta

Pass Offense: Quarterback Matt Ryan had difficulty finding open receivers deep downfield and was limited to mostly short completions.

Fortunately, receiver Drew Davis was able to take one of those short completions and race upfield for a 59-yard gain. This play set up a touchdown and an early lead for Atlanta.

Ryan finished the half 16-of-20 for 134 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.


Run Offense: Running the football has been a problem for the Falcons throughout the season. Things were not any easier against San Francisco’s fifth-ranked run defense (99.4 yards per game allowed) in the first half of this contest.

However, the Falcons did manage to produce mostly positive plays and did enough to maintain offensive balance.

Steven Jackson led the Falcons with 35 yards on nine carries and scored the only touchdown in the half.


Pass Defense: Atlanta did a solid job of limiting the damage 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was able to do through the air. Disguised coverages and blitz packages kept Kaepernick off balance and often forced him to scramble.

Kaepernick finished the half 6-of-11 for just 69 yards.


Run Defense: Atlanta came into this game allowing an average of 131.4 yards per game on the ground. While the defense did regularly surrender yardage, it was not embarrassed by the San Francisco rushing attack in the first half.

Frank Gore led the 49ers with 36 yards on seven carries, while Kaepernick added 16 yards on three scrambles.


Special Teams: It was a solid half for the Atlanta special teams unit. The group did not produce many especially exciting plays, but it did not make any game-altering mistakes either.

Robert McClain did have a nice 22-yard punt return just before halftime that put the Falcons in excellent field position.

Punter Matt Bosher averaged a solid 44 yards per attempt, while kicker Matt Bryant connected on his only field-goal attempt.


Coaching: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan deserves a lot of credit for bringing an expertly disguised mix of defensive looks into this game.

Offensively, the Falcons stuck with a mix of runs and short passes despite some early struggles. Coordinator Dirk Koetter’s strategy eventually paid off with a long catch-and-run and an eventual score.