49ers defense was No. 1 deciding factor in win vs. Falcons

Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers stops Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers stops Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

44. 31. 42. Final. 13

The 49ers’ Week 15 win over the Falcons helped the Niners’ playoff hopes, thanks to a dominant defensive performance that sealed the win.

The San Francisco 49ers entered their Week 15 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons as heavy favorites to win the game and a chance to hold onto the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture with yet another tiebreaker over a team still in the hunt.

Nevertheless, the Niners have still dropped several games this season due to awful execution, meaning even though they were heavily favored, it was anyone’s guess how they’d come out and play. Almost on queue to playing down to an opponent’s level, the game started with a fumble on San Francisco’s opening kickoff return, which Atlanta recovered, evoking fans to conjure up memories of those poorly played games that led to the team losing to subpar competition.

That was not the case in this game.

Yes, the 49ers coughed up a ball deep in their own territory that lead to Atlanta getting an excellent field position. Yet, the defense stonewalled the Falcons and kept them out of the end zone.

In total, the Niners defense had three total fourth-down stops. That’s right, three fourth-down stops! And to make things even more special from defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ unit, Atlanta went just 1-of-5 in red-zone opportunities, a massive factor in the one-sided 31-13 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

49ers defense got great play from its best players like Nick Bosa, Fred Warner

San Francisco was led by excellent play from EDGE Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner.

Both had incredible games that seemed to inspire the rest of the team to play great, and for his part, Bosa ended the game with one sack, bringing his season total to 15, and one quarterback hit. That sack also produced a loose-ball fumble, which Warner subsequently recovered and the 49ers managed to score a touchdown off of it on the following drive:

While his stat line doesn’t pop off the screen, Bosa was constantly harassing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and opening opportunities for others to make a play.

This resulted in depth pass-rushers Arden Key and Samsom Ebukam both recording a sack.

Three sacks, 10 quarterback hits. The defense was taking full advantage of Atlanta’s offensive line, making Ryan’s life that much more difficult.

Meanwhile, “All-Pro Fred” led all Niners defenders with nine total tackles with six of them being solo takedowns. On top of that, Warner also had a critical pass breakup in the end zone, a quarterback hit, and a fumble recovery.

Simply put, Warner was a beast and was everywhere all while routinely shutting down Atlanta’s running game.

49ers defense, run game helped cover up Ambry Thomas

The game also featured rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas, getting his second start of his career in place of the starter, Emmanuel Moseley, who remains out with an ankle injury.

While Thomas did not have a great game by any means, he played with more confidence and showed some modest growth despite being regularly abused by Falcons pass-catchers like Russell Gage and Kyle Pitts.

Yes, there’s a lot to criticize. But at least Thomas seemed to be in a great position on most balls thrown his way but was just not able to capitalize.

Still, seeing Thomas play with more swagger and improved technique can only bode well for the team moving forward.

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San Francisco’s pass rush helped account for Thomas’ shortcomings, but so did the 49ers’ own offense, particularly on the ground, as running  back Jeff Wilson Jr. ran the heck out of the ball. With pretty much the full workload, Wilson came to play with his no-nonsense, run-right-through-you style, ending the day with 110 rushing yards on 21 carries with a generous 5.2 yards-per-carry average.

Next, the 49ers face off against the Tennessee Titans on a short Thursday Night Football week. The Titans are without their bull of a running back, Derrick Henry, which should help the Niners solidify another win.

If the defense plays lights out again, San Francisco will pretty much guarantee a Wild Card playoff berth.

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