1) Do Not Panic!


I'm going to break down what this loss means at the END of the article, but for now, take a deep breath. The season is NOT over. (Yes, there are SEVERAL fans throwing in the towel - don't be one of them!)

2) This Ended Up Being a Trap Game



As much as everyone knew this was a possibility and as much as we heard about the team coming out and not letting this happen, it happened. This was a trap game. I'm not going to criticize anyone's preparation and mentality, whether it be the players or coaches. They wanted to win this game and they knew what could happen. Sometimes, no matter the preparation, things happen out there and as a team, you can come up short.

The biggest problem in this game was the 49ers were still facing a very good quarterback in Matt Ryan and also Julio Jones, while being very short-handed in the secondary. The Atlanta defense played inspired football and made enough plays to keep the game close. Everyone, including me, wanted a comfortable victory, but it doesn't always happen. One thing to keep in mind: name the season, and I'll show you at least one major contender that lost a game down the stretch it should have won. These things happen.

3) The Positive: The 49ers Did Enough to Win This Game



It was evident the 49ers were hoping to make this a quick game by running the ball, controlling the clock and building the lead. It looked like it would happen, but they couldn't maintain a big lead, mainly due to Julio Jones. (Don't worry, I'll get to the lack of double-teaming later)

The ground game did enough to win as it ran for 120 yards. George Kittle had a big day. There were plays by Kendrick Bourne, Deebo Samuel and even Emmanuel Sanders in the last five minutes of the game. Matt Breida's fumble did not result in points for Atlanta. Robbie Gould made big field goals and his extra point miss had no impact on the final result. Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient and made enough plays to win the game. Even the defense was good enough overall, but it did not finish the game. There were several little things that all went wrong, resulting in the loss. Despite it all, it took a play at the buzzer again to beat them.

The loss stinks, but as you'll see later, nothing really changes. What I like about this team is it has been in position to win in all 14 games it has played this year. I love that. What a contrast to the kind of football we all have had to endure since 2014. The 49ers are in the playoffs and despite the loss, I love the way this team fights, no matter the adversity.

4) The Bad: So Many Little Things and Julio Jones



Julio Jones was a problem the entire game and it never felt like he was covered well enough. While we always have to keep in mind that Jones can destroy any team, it certainly felt like the 49er defense should have ensured that someone else beat them and not Jones. Jones finished the day with 13 catches on 20 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. Very frustrating that he wasn't more blanketed than he was.

Let's get into some of the other things that happened, starting with the offense. WHERE WAS EMMANUEL SANDERS? Was he really double-covered all day? I don't have all the answers on this, but it seemed like the passing attack could have found a way to get him more involved for at least a couple of positive gains. Same with Deebo Samuel. He did have a big catch for 29 yards and he also dropped a big catch, but it just seemed like there could have been more ways to get the ball out quickly and get everyone involved instead of what appeared to be a force-feeding of passes to Kittle.

The offense looked like it came out flat, didn't really get everyone involved enough the way it has this year and while I won't point the finger at just one player or coach, the whole offense should take the blame here. It just didn't do enough to score the necessary points to keep Atlanta from an opportunity to steal this game.

The 49ers let the Falcons hang around as they led 13-10 in the 4th quarter and had to punt. Then the big play happened. Ross Dwelley jarred the ball loose on the return and Kyle Juszczyk recovered the ball and advanced it to the 1. Juszczyk ended up catching a 1-yard touchdown pass to put the Niners up 19-10 with just over 10 minutes to go.

On the ensuing drive, Atlanta drove into San Francisco territory and Julio Jones drew a pass interference call on Jimmie Ward in the end zone to put the ball at the one yard line. It was a bad call. Ward had good coverage and I'll stand by that statement. Though the call was highly questionable and the Falcons cut the lead to 19-17 with 5 minutes left, the offense should have been able to close out the game.

It looked like we were going to see another finish where Garoppolo leads the 49ers down the field, the clock gets killed and they win the game. Once Deebo Samuel took a pass 29 yards to the Atlanta 34, I thought the game was over. It seemed the 49ers would kill all the clock and at least get a field goal to win and it almost happened. George Kittle caught a short pass on a brilliantly designed play that would have gotten a first down and kept Kittle in bounds, but Kittle fumbled. He recovered at the Falcons 25, but was short of the first down. It was a massive play because the clock would have kept running after the 2 minute warning as the 49ers would have surely run the ball, causing Atlanta to use up its last timeout. There would have been almost no time for Atlanta to mount a final drive had it converted that first down.

And on the final drive, Atlanta picked apart the defense again. At this point, I'll say it. SEND SOME BLITZES! DOUBLE JULIO JONES! Now, it's probably much easier said that done, but it seemed like more could have been done to pressure Matt Ryan and force some bad throws. On the last play, Coach Shanahan did say they had double coverage on Jones, but one guy was too far off. There should have been at least five guys going after Ryan and 2 guys in good position to ensure that Jones isn't the guy who won the game. It didn't happen and the game was lost.

There were other plays and penalties, but in the end, the Kittle fumble and soft coverage on the final play were what ultimately did in the 49ers.

5) Extra Points and The Bottom Line


Here is the point we all need to remember. This game changes NOTHING. The 49ers are in control of their own destiny. If they defeat the Rams and Seahawks, they are the number one seed no matter what else happens.

The 49ers have also clinched the postseason for the first time since 2013. Remember where things were after 2014. The 49ers have had so much bad football and so many crippling injuries that we're always talking about draft positioning and free agency at this point. The Niners are going to the playoffs and control their own destiny with an 11-3 record! That is a turnaround. That is the kind of 49er football we all have been hoping for.

So, take heart Niner fans. Keep your heads up! The season is not lost and nothing is over. The defense should be much healthier next week and there were no injuries this week. They're still in this and if they win next week, they will have a chance to win the division for the first time since 2012! What an opportunity!

- Jimmy Garoppolo finished 22 for 34, 200 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. He made some nice reads, had very good pocket presence and looked fully recovered from that ACL injury from last year. He is only getting better.

- George Kittle broke Mike Ditka's yardage record by a tight end in the first three seasons with his 13 catch, 134 yard day. Kittle came up with several big plays and was Garoppolo's favorite target all day.

- Nick Bosa had a sack for the first time in weeks. Sheldon Day added a sack and the 49ers broke their sack-less streak as they hadn't had one since Baltimore.

- Richard Sherman will be back next week as should K'Waun Williams. Hopefully Jaquiski Tartt will also be healthy enough to rejoin the team as well as the 49ers face off next week against the 8-6 Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium on Saturday evening.