Tale of the tape: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers still have a slim shot at the NFC West title, but they will need a win when they host the Atlanta Falcons in the final NFL Monday nighter of the year.

Thanks to the Cardinals' improbable win in Seattle Sunday, the Niners can cling to hope that Monday night's matchup with the Falcons might not be the last game at Candlestick Park. For Falcons, the season may be long over but they still have revenge on their minds after last season's crushing 28-24 loss in the NFC Championship Game, so this game is definitely still circled on their schedule.

Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:

Offense

Due to early-season injuries to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, the Falcons offense has been a shell of its former shelf. But White and Jackson are finally getting back to form and the offense is gaining steam. White has once again created space for the run game and has hauled in 25 receptions in the last four games. While in the same span the rushing attack -  that ranked dead last in the NFL - has averaged 113 yards per game with Jackson finding the end zone five times.

Speaking of receivers returning from injury, it appears Michael Crabtree has been the missing piece to the Niners offense. The ground game is still the focal point, running at a clip of 137.1 yards per game, but Kaepernick seems more comfortable in the pocket with Crabtree as an option. The Niners are on a four-game win streak where Kaepernick has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception with a QB rating of 105.6.

Edge: San Francisco 49ers

Defense

The Falcons are young on defense, starting five rookie last week. They are 28th in total yards (386.3), 27th in passing yards (254.9), 29th in rushing yards (131.4) and points allowed per game. They are also second last in interceptions and have a league-worst 28 total sacks this season.

People began to wonder if the heralded San Francisco defense would be the same after losing key pieces this offseason and having to cope with Aldon Smith's
drama. But guys like rookie Eric Reid and Ahmad Brooks have stepped up big time for the Niners, helping them post the second fewest yards per game in the NFL. NaVarro Bowman has been the anchor for the defense that has only allowed an average of 12.5 points against in the past four games, leading the team with 124 tackles and four sacks.

Edge: San Francisco 49ers

Special Teams


When they have had the chance, the Falcons have been decent at returning kickoffs, averaging 24.4 yards per return. But they have only returned 24 kickoffs this season though, good for the third fewest in the league. Kicker Matt Bryant has only missed three field goals but because of their deficiencies on offense he only has 24 attempts. And its not like Bryant has lost power in his boot, he's nailed three kicks from beyond 50 yards.

Punter Andy Lee may be one of the best weapons the Niners have that no one talks about. He is second in the league with a net punting average of 44.2 yards per punt and has 23 of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line with just seven touchbacks. Phil Dawson is another kicker with an ageless leg. He has hit on 27-of-30 field goals and is good on all three of his attempts from beyond 50 yards, including a 55-yarder.

Edge: San Francisco 49ers

Notable Quotable

"We desperately want to win. I'm sure they feel the same way. It certainly has been evidenced this whole season that everybody's fighting tooth and nail for wins. No team, no exception. The competition has been the most heated." - 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh of the rematch aspect

"The first (point of emphasis) is winning the turnover battle and the second one is winning the explosive battle. You put those two things together, and it's the toxic differential that you look at." - Falcons coach Mike Smith on winning the turnover battle

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Posted by Frank the Bank
3 months ago

"The first (point of emphasis) is winning the turnover battle and the second one is winning the explosive battle. You put those two things together, and it's the toxic differential that you look at." - Falcons coach Mike Smith on winning the turnover battle Mike Smith is a moron!
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Top Response

Posted by Frank the Bank
3 months ago

""The first (point of emphasis) is winning the turnover battle and the second one is winning the explosive battle. You put those two things together, and it's the toxic differential that you look at." - Falcons coach Mike Smith on winning the turnover..."