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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Shanahan praises Garoppolo’s performance vs. Falcons; Don’t blame The Greenbrier; What play was the turning point?

Oct 16, 2022 at 5:17 PM--

While most of what came out of the 49ers locker room after their 28-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday centered around wondering what went wrong and where things could have gone better and what the latest injury news was for an already banged-up team, there were also some other bits and pieces of news worth discussing before closing the book on Week 6 of the 2022 season.

Here's a roundup of a few quotes of note to come from Sunday's postgame media sessions, including head coach Kyle Shanahan's assessment on where the game turned as well as his evaluation of Jimmy Garoppolo, plus Garoppolo and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk on why the different practice setup from last week shouldn't be blamed for the team's performance on Sunday. Let's open up this edition of 49ers Notebook...

The turning point?

If there was one moment that signaled how Sunday's game was going to wind up, it was Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota's 15-yard run on a 3rd-and-13 play late in the second quarter with the game tied at 14.

The 49ers had just scored a touchdown to dig out of a 14-0 hole and seemed to have even more momentum at their back after a first down sack from defensive end Charles Omenihu put the Falcons in a 2nd-and-18 hole. The Falcons picked up five yards on second down, then on third down Mariota dropped back and was pressured before taking off down the middle of the field for a first down.

The Falcons finished off their drive with a touchdown to go up 21-14 before halftime. Shanahan singled Mariota's run as perhaps the most impactful play of the game, saying it changed a possible two-touchdown lead for the 49ers into another deficit.

"I thought we had a chance to go score at the end of the half and start with the ball, so in my mind I'm thinking we've got a chance to be up 28-14 the way this is going," Shanahan said. "And we hadn't put them in some very long third down. That's where they struggled. They're a really good team when they have manageable third downs because they're a threat to run the ball with the quarterback and everyone else. That's why I thought that was such a big change in the game when he scrambled on that 3rd-and-13."

Mariota had a standout game overall, completing 13-of-14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the game while also running for 50 yards and one touchdown on six carries. But his third down run was particularly big, considering how it set the stage for the second half.

Happy with Jimmy G

Garoppolo wasn't perfect on Sunday and put some blame on his own shoulders for the offense not generating more production. But what he showed pleased Shanahan, who particularly liked what he saw from Garoppolo during the first half.

"I thought Jimmy did some real good things, especially there in the first half," Shanahan said. "I thought he was pretty on fire when we were throwing the ball. I think there was one drive where we punted in the first half, and I thought he did a hell of a job. One was short was because of the (Jeff Wilson) fumble, but the other two he led us down and got us two touchdown throws. In the second half, I thought he did some real good things. I think it would have been a huge difference if we came up with two of those deep balls that he threw. I thought he played a pretty good game."

Garoppolo finished the game 29-of-41 for 296 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Shanahan on Jeff Wilson, Brandon Aiyuk

Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had a solid performance Sunday, finishing with eight catches for 83 yards and both of the 49ers' touchdowns. It wasn't as memorable of a day for running back Jeff Wilson, who lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown while finishing with just 25 yards on seven carries (the 49ers were in comeback mode for much of the game, leaving them with just 16 carries overall on the afternoon).

Shanahan gave a thumbs-up to Wilson's performance, outside of his turnover.

"He ran hard as always," Shanahan said. "He's got to be better with the ball right there. And we didn't give him a ton of opportunities. I loved some of the things Jeff did -- just gotta protect that ball better."

Regarding Aiyuk, Shanahan said, "I thought Aiyuk did a good job. I think he's been playing real well for us. He did some real good things in this game."

It's not West Virginia's fault

The 49ers have gotten positive results in the past from their decision to stay at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia in between East Coast road games, but it didn't work out for them this time. Despite their loss in Atlanta, it doesn't sound like the 49ers had any issues preparation-wise during their latest stay at The Greenbrier.

"We felt like we had a good week of practice coming off a win last week," Aiyuk said. "I know everybody felt like we were in a good spot, and that's the recipe. It just didn't work out that way."

Garoppolo told reporters Sunday that staying out east for over a week makes things different, but it isn't something the team hasn't gone through in the past.

"It's just a different type of week," Garoppolo said. "But we've been in West Virginia before. That can't be an excuse for how we played here today. We've got to go back to the drawing board. Suck it up, watch the film on the flight home, get after it tomorrow and move on. We've got a big one this next week (against Kansas City)."

Tight end George Kittle suggested there might have been a lack of energy from some players during the game that might have contributed to the team's subpar performance. Garoppolo gave his thoughts on that issue when asked during his postgame media session.

"It's tough to say," Garoppolo said. "If we win this game maybe it feels different, but I don't know. It was a long week. And I'm not trying to make excuses by any means. But we've got to bring that energy regardless of where we play, when we play, whatever it is. Guys (are) hurt, guys have to step up in those situations. That is what it is. It's the NFL. It's not easy."

Where'd the flag go?

Another pivotal moment in Sunday's game took place early in the fourth quarter when a 49ers drive was stopped when a pass thrown by Garoppolo was tipped and landed into the arms of defensive back Jaylinn Hawkins. It looked at first like the interception was going to be overturned due to a potential pass interference call, but the officials decided to pick up the flag and wave off the penalty.

Garoppolo said after the game he felt there was interference on the play and wasn't sure why the call wasn't made.

"Yeah," Garoppolo said. "I think the ref did too. But I don't call the penalties. He threw the flag. I don't really know why he picked it up. We were in a good spot. We were driving a little bit. But you just can't have that."

TEU alums

A jersey swap took place after Sunday's game between Kittle and Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, who know each other in part from Kittle's offseason Tight End University event. The players signed their jerseys before making the swap, with Kittle telling Pitts to "Keep Being Great" while Pitts wrote a message to Kittle that said "Stay healthy & keep ballin'".

Both players made their presence felt on Sunday. Kittle caught eight passes for 83 yards while Pitts caught a touchdown pass -- his first NFL touchdown catch inside the United States.


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