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Preview: San Francisco 49ers (1-12) at Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

Al Sacco
Dec 14, 2016 at 2:28 PM--

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It's tough to really pinpoint which of the last two losses were worse for the San Francisco 49ers (1-12). There was the 26-6 thrashing the Chicago Bears gave them despite playing with second and third stringers at key positions, and then there was blowing a 14-0 lead to the "couldn't care less" New York Jets. The Niners just keep sinking and sinking, don't they? You won't have to worry about a bad loss this week, it will probably just be a regular old butt kicking at the hands of the highest scoring team in the NFL – the Atlanta Falcon (8-5)

Recent History

History was made in 2015 when QB Blaine Gabbert made his first career start for the 49ers as they took on the Falcons in Week 9. So, it wasn't exactly a historic moment, but Gabbert was actually okay in the game, going 15-of-25 for 185 yards and two touchdown throws to TE Garrett Celek. The defense held Atlanta to 16 points despite QB Matt Ryan throwing for 303 yards and WR Julio Jones bringing down 10 balls for 137 yards. Bending but not breaking worked and a questionable call by Falcons HC Dan Quinn to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown inside the 10-yard line with under three minutes left in regulation helped San Francisco gain a 17-16 victory.

Players to Watch

The 49ers have virtually nothing in the way of skill players, but RB Carlos Hyde is really starting to show he can be a true feature back. After a slow start to the season, Hyde has ripped off 436 yards on 69 carries the last four weeks and has seen his yards per attempt go from 3.6 to 4.6 during that span. If the Niners' passing game could actually give Hyde any type of cushion to work with, he could be even more devastating. Getting Hyde going and keeping Atlanta's offense off the field could be the only way the 49ers will have a chance in this one.

RELATED Why I've Changed My Mind and Think the 49ers Will Fire Chip Kelly

QB Matt Ryan is playing MVP-caliber football right now and he's put on staggering numbers so far during the 2016 campaign. Ryan currently sits a 4,050 yards passing and 30 touchdowns, and he's getting everyone involved in the attack. 11 different players have caught a touchdown pass from Ryan this season and no one has more than five. That goes to show that Ryan is adept at spreading the ball around and can beat you in multiple ways. Slowing him down will be a tall order.

Stats to Know

The 49ers have 122 total passing yards combined in the last two weeks. For the season, they rank dead last in that category (2,032) and are also at the bottom in passing yards per game (177). Niners quarterbacks are 31st in the NFL with a 55.6 completion percentage and that's not because the plays aren't there to be made. Gabbert and QB Colin Kaepernick are just plain bad passers and it's hurting the entire team. Need more proof? Take, for example, what NFL Films executive producer Greg Cosell had to say about Kaepernick recently on KNBR.

"There are specific plays where he just breaks down, or he throws the ball too hard, a little bit inaccurately. He's ultimately not a touch-pace-precise ball location quarterback," Cosell said. "The other thing that he starts doing, and I don't know if it's just the flow of the game that gets to him, but he starts breaking down in the pocket and moving when there's absolutely no need to move. He breaks down plays — plays that are there."

Game Changing Factor

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and with Ryan under center, the Falcons offense has been running on all cylinders this season. Atlanta is tops in the league with 428 points scored and tied for first with 6.5 yards per play. They've broken 30 points eight times this year and 40 points or more four times. In comparison, the most the 49ers scored was 28 during Week 1 and have been held to 20 or under eight times. Looking deeper, the Niners haven't scored 30 or more points in a game since Week 16 of 2014. All in all, Shanahan's group has 45 offensive touchdowns through 13 games, while San Francisco is at 28.

News from the Week

On Monday, TE Vance McDonald was placed on injured reserve just three days after signing a five-year extension. C Daniel Kilgore was placed on injured reserve a day later. McDonald suffered a broken scapula while Kilgore suffered a torn hamstring. Both injuries occurred during the 49ers' overtime loss to the New York Jets and Kilgore's injury will require surgery.

RELATED Chip Kelly gives updates on Vance McDonald and Daniel Kilgore injuries

By the Numbers

With 121 rushing yards this week, RB Carlos Hyde would reach 1,000 yards in a single season for the first time in his career. He would also become just the 11th player in 49ers franchise history to run for 1,000 yards in a season.

The 49ers offense has registered 52 rushes of 10-or-more yards this season, the 3rd-most in the NFL (Dal. – 59; Buf. – 57).

DE DeForest Buckner's 5 sacks this season ranks 5th among rookies in the NFL. He is one of three rookies this year with at least two games with 2-or-more sacks (Joey Bosa, SD – 2; Leonard Floyd, Chi. – 2).

Buckner had probably the best game of his career against the Jets. He had two sacks, a hit, a hurry, and a career-high seven stops. Buckner played all 84 snaps and has played 98.3% (356-of-362) of the team's defensive snaps over the last five games.

Draft Watch

Following Week 14, the 49ers are still in position to land the second overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. The winless Cleveland Browns continue to sit at the top spot with the league's worst record. The 49ers actually have a weaker strength of schedule than the Browns so a Cleveland win, however, improbable that may seem, would boost San Francisco into the top spot.

This weekend, the Browns face the Buffalo Bills on the road. The Bills are favored by 10.

RELATED 2017 NFL Draft order following Week 14

Matchup Information

Kickoff: Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 1:05 p.m. PT

Where: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia

All-Time Matchup: 49ers lead series 47-30-1

Last Meeting: 11/8/15, 49ers win 17-16, at SF

Current Streak: Won 3

Betting: The Falcons are 14-point favorites

NFL Fan Picks: 85% pick the Falcons to win according to Yahoo! Sports

49ers Fan Picks: Within our Pick 'em Contest, 89% believe the Falcons will win

49ers Schedule: View full schedule

Falcons News: Falcons news at

Follow Game Online:'s Game Center

Discuss: Niner Talk forum

Follow Us: Facebook, Twitter, Google+

Television and Radio

The game will be televised on FOX (Check 506 Sports to see if it is local).

Play-By-Play: Thom Brennaman
Color Analyst: Charles Davis
Color Analyst: Chris Spielman
Sideline Reporter: Peter Schrager

KGO 810 AM and The Bone 107.7 FM (Other markets) will carry the radio broadcast with Ted Robinson doing the play-by-play and Tim Ryan as the color analyst. ESPN Deportes and KKSF 910 AM will carry the Spanish broadcast.

San Francisco 49ers Injuries

WR Torrey Smith (concussion)

T Joe Staley (hamstring)

Atlanta Falcons Injuries

DE Adrian Clayborn (knee), CB Jalen Collins (knee), S Kemal Ishmael (shoulder), WR Julio Jones (toe), S Robenson Therezie (ankle), WR Nick Williams (concussion)

Game Averages (Rank)

49ers Falcons
19.3 (26th)
Offense Pts
32.9 (1st)
314.0 (29th)
Offense Yds
402.3 (3rd)
177.1 (32nd)
Offense Pass
295.7 (3rd)
136.9 (4th)
Offense Rush
106.6 (16th)
30.2 (32nd)
Defense Pts Allowed
26.5 (28th)
415.3 (32nd)
Defense Yds Allowed
376.3 (28th)
244.5 (14th)
Defense Pass Allowed
275.2 (32nd)
170.8 (32nd)
Defense Rush Allowed
101.1 (14th)

Individual Statistics

Team Leaders
Passing Comp Yds TD INT
Colin Kaepernick, SF 54.8 1577 11 3
Matt Ryan, ATL 68.3 4050 30 7
Rushing Car Yds Avg TD
Carlos Hyde, SF 191 879 4.6 6
Devonta Freeman, ATL 182 791 4.3 7
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TD
Jeremy Kerley, SF 48 516 10.8 3
Julio Jones, ATL 72 1253 17.4 5

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