49ers’ defensive stand fuels rout of Falcons

Dec 19, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) signals during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

An early defensive stand gave the San Francisco 49ers all of the momentum and they never looked back while coasting to a 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

The 49ers stopped the Atlanta Falcons four times from the 1-yard line on the opening possession of the game to set the tone. The win moves San Francisco (8-6) within two games of the NFC West lead and keeps them in one of the three NFC wild-card spots, while the Falcons (6-8) took a blow to their playoff hopes.

The 49ers scored points on five consecutive possessions with four touchdowns and a field goal, a stretch that went from their final possession of the first quarter through to their first offensive opportunity in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was 18-of-23 passing for 235 yards and one touchdown, and most of the damage came on six receptions for 93 yards by tight end George Kittle.

Three different 49ers scored rushing touchdowns, including fullback Kyle Juszczyk’s first touchdown of the season on a 6-yard run in the second quarter.

Atlanta’s Matt Ryan completed 19 of 32 passes for 236 yards, 91 on eight throws to leading receiver Russell Gage.

After the Falcons tied the game at 10 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Gage, Deebo Samuel scored a 10-yard rushing touchdown to give San Francisco a lead it never relinquished.

Jeff Wilson Jr. — who led all players in the game with 110 rushing yards — made it 24-10 on a 5-yard run that capped off San Francisco’s first possession of the second half.

The Falcons made a dent in the lead with Younghoe Koo’s 22-yard field goal with 6:38 left in the third quarter, but Garoppolo’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings just over five minutes later was the dagger that made it 31-13.

Red zone failures were the story of the day for Atlanta, especially in short-yardage situations. The Falcons failed to score any points from the 1-yard line on two separate occasions, and were also stopped on a fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 8-yard line.

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