Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers: Final Thoughts
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The Atlanta Falcons can enter the bye week at 7-2 with a win over the San Francisco 49ers, but if the past few weeks have showed us anything, it’s never to take any opponent for granted. A turnover-littered game with Tampa Bay last week resulted in a disappointing home defeat.
Even on the road, the Falcons are strongly favored to win this game. The 49ers have decided to bench quarterback Colin Kapernick, and they will be without running backs Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush, and receiver Anquan Boldin is expected to be out also. Ahead of the game, here are my final thoughts.
Protect. The. Football.
Atlanta has turned the football over nine times the past three weeks, with a turnover differential of minus-7. That’s inexcusable and the quickest way to lose football games, as last week proved.
There can’t be any fumbled snaps, any poor handoffs or questionable decisions from Matt Ryan. San Francisco will need turnovers to win the game, and Atlanta can’t give them any gifts. This has been a problem for Dan Quinn’s team for three games now, but this has to be the game to funk ends.
With Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, a banged up backfield and a depleted group of receivers, the 49ers aren’t built to play from behind. They will be hoping their defense can get some turnovers and the game stays close.
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If Atlanta can put up points early and go ahead by a couple of scores, it could get ugly. San Francisco will be forced to throw and throw often, and Gabbert is prone to turning the ball over, especially without many playmakers around him. Starting fast is one of the keys to winning.
Shut down the run
The Falcons own the No. 3 run defense, allowing just 83.4 yards per game on the ground. The 49ers will want to establish some sort of run game to alleviate pressure from the quarterback and control the clock and tempo of the game.
If the defense can take away the ground game as it has done so well this season, there isn’t much to fear offensively. The focus can then shift to rushing the passer and creating turnovers. Don’t turn the ball over, stop the run and start fast. Do that, and the Falcons will win in Levi’s Stadium.