3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 15 WinDecember 20, 2021
3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 15 Win
The San Francisco 49ers had a slow start to the 2021 season. But that's now in the past because they've turned things around, and their momentum continued to build on Sunday.
The 49ers kept their recent hot streak going by notching a 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium. It was San Francisco's sixth win in its past eight games after it opened the year 2-4. The 49ers have won five of six to ascend the NFC wild-card standings.
If the season ended today, San Francisco would be in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the NFC at 8-6. So it's in a good position with only three weeks to go in the regular season.
The 49ers led by seven points at halftime after Deebo Samuel scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds to go in the first half. San Francisco then outscored Atlanta 14-3 in the second half to seal the victory.
Here are three takeaways from the 49ers' Week 15 win.
The Running Game Is Excelling No Matter Who Runs the Ball
San Francisco's offense was again without starting running back Elijah Mitchell, who missed his second consecutive game while dealing with a knee injury and a concussion. But that didn't stop the 49ers from having success on the ground, as Jeff Wilson Jr. and Samuel stepped up in Mitchell's absence.
Wilson had his best showing of the year, recording 21 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown. It marked the first time Wilson got into the end zone this season, but he's played only five games due to injury.
"It's taken a while to fully get his legs back," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said, per Keiana Martin of the team's official site. "He's been looking so much better these last few weeks and each week he's gotten stronger and stronger."
Meanwhile, Samuel continues to show he can do it all for San Francisco's offense. The wide receiver not only had four catches for 60 yards, he also had six carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. It was Samuel's team-high seventh rushing score of the season.
So even if Mitchell misses more time (which is a possibility with the 49ers having a quick turnaround to play on Thursday), the ground attack should keep excelling. Wilson and Samuel are proving they can keep things going for San Francisco, which finished with 162 rushing yards as a team.
Defense's Early Stop Set the Tone, Proved Crucial
The Falcons immediately had an opportunity to capitalize on a 49ers mistake on Sunday afternoon. San Francisco received the opening kickoff, but JaMycal Hasty fumbled and Atlanta recovered it, taking over at the San Francisco 12-yard line.
It was a great chance for the Falcons to take an early lead. Instead, they failed to get into the end zone from the 49ers' 1-yard line on four consecutive plays, turning the ball over on downs. And it was a sign of things to come for Atlanta's offense throughout the day.
The Falcons' second drive started on the 49ers' side of the field, yet they only got a field goal. They also had a pair of fourth-quarter possessions that ended with them turning it over on downs in San Francisco territory.
The 49ers defense held the Falcons to 275 yards, and they forced a turnover on the opening possession of the second half, as Nick Bosa sacked Matt Ryan and forced a fumble that was recovered by Fred Warner. San Francisco capitalized on that momentum by scoring a touchdown on its ensuing drive.
It was a strong day for the 49ers defense, with that first stop setting the tone and proving to be crucial.
49ers Needed a Win to Stave off Wild-Card Competitors
Although the 49ers entered Week 15 in the No. 6 spot in the NFC standings, they had a bunch of teams close behind. They were 7-6, with five teams only one game back at 6-7. At this time of year, there's not a lot of margin for error.
That's why it was important for San Francisco to keep rolling, especially against an Atlanta team that was among the five tied at 6-7. The 49ers control their own destiny in the NFC wild-card race, and that will continue to be the case as long as they keep winning.
There are still some tough matchups coming up for San Francisco, as it still has road games against the Tennessee Titans (9-5) and Los Angeles Rams (9-4), a pair of teams in playoff spots. The 49ers, who also have a Week 17 home contest against the Houston Texans, may be peaking at the right time, though.
Every game is going to be meaningful for San Francisco down the stretch. But if it can keep its momentum going, it will be heading to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.