This is a day late but I could not bring myself to write about the 49ers yesterday. I was basking in the San Francisco Giants victory and them making the playoffs and did not want to ruin that feeling. The disappointment in the loss against the Falcons was not that the 49ers are now 0-4 but how they lost. I kid you not, after Nate Clements intercepted Matt Ryan’s pass in the final minute and a half of the game I was yelling for him to go out of bounds. I just knew that the way things had gone for the 49ers this season something was going to take away the moment. Up the sidelines came Roddy White who knocked the football out of Clements hands and a dog pile ensued. I didn’t have to wait for the referee to sort through the pile to make a call. I knew it was Falcons ball and the game was over. The Falcons started the drive after the fumble at their seven yard line but I knew it was over. This week I reluctantly had out Game Gold Nuggets (GGN’s). Game Gold Nuggets are awarded based on the 49ers play and range from 1 (worst) to 5 (best).
On the 49ers first drive Alex Smith lead the offense to touchdown score with a pass to Vernon Davis. This was a great way to start the game and quickly diminished any doubts about the offense and new coordinator Mike Johnson. Too bad the game doesn’t end after the first quarter with the 49ers having a 14-0 lead. For the rest of the game the 49ers did well involving all of the 49er playmakers but none of that lead to another touchdown by the offense. Instead Smith made rookie mistakes by throwing two interceptions. The first was a jump pass to Frank Gore that was intercepted by the Falcons with the second one thrown in the opening drive of the second half of a 14-10 game the 49ers were leading. After that everything went downhill for the offense. The closest the offense would get to scoring again was with three minutes left in the fourth quarter with the 49ers at the Falcons 35-yard line. That drive ended with an intentional grounding by Smith who was trying to make something out of nothing and forced the 49ers out of field goal range with a loss of down and had to punt. The offense would not take the field again.
Gore was his usual self rushing for 77 yards and catching seven passes for 60 yards. With Gore’s numbers and the fact that the 49ers found the end zone on the road was good enough for one GGN.
Holding Falcons running back Michael Turner to 50 rushing yards was great, so was holding White to just 104 receiving yards who scorched the 49ers for over 200 yards last season. The defense had two interceptions on Ryan but the last one they gave immediately back after it looked like the defense had saved the day and won the first game for the 49ers. If anything it was good to see the defense play a good game on the road. Unfortunately like the game against the Saints they could not stop the Falcons from kicking a field goal with 1:22 left in the game. It was encouraging seeing rookie Taylor Mays play so well in his first NFL career start with nine tackles and recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Punter Andy Lee was again called on often to punt and responded with his usual self pinning three punts inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Joe Nedney was only needed for extra points but the real stars were Dominic Zeigler and Taylor Mays. Zeigler blocked a punt in the first quarter that was recovered by Mays for a touchdown. Mays showed nifty footwork and awareness by catching the blocked punt and tiptoeing the back of the end zone for the score. This is what the 49ers need from their special teams, big plays and touchdowns. It is obvious they cannot rely on the offense to consistently score and the special teams unit is the next best option for the team. Now if we could just get the return game under control.
One GGN is awarded for special teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer for calling for an all out block on the punt in the first quarter that lead to the 49ers second touchdown. One GGN is awarded for offensive coordinator Johnson getting the 49ers offense prepared and for calling plays that specifically targeted Gore, Davis and Michael Crabtree. Mike Singletary does deserve one for getting the team ready after firing Jimmy Raye and so does defensive coordinator Greg Manusky for slowing down the Falcons offense. However Manusky lost his GGN because he failed to get the defense to stop the Falcons from scoring in the final minutes. Singletary lost his GGN because he did not tell the defense to take a knee or get out of bounds if they caused a turnover in the final minutes of the game. Manusky is to blame for this as well but Singletary is the head coach and should have been aware of the game situation. At the very least we should have seen Singletary running down the sidelines shouting at Clements to go out of bounds before he fumbled. Instead we saw Singletary look dejected on the sidelines after the Falcons kicked the game winning field goal.
@ Candlestick against the Philadelphia Eagles. If anything it helps that quarterback Michael Vick will be out and running back LeSean McCoy might miss the game as well. The game is at home where the 49ers played their best game of the season.