As the world turns, so does the daily drama surrounding the San Francisco 49ers (2-6). In this week’s episode of everyone’s favorite dysfunctional drama, the team benched their ineffective quaterback, QB Colin Kaepernick, and traded away one of the best tight-ends in the history of the franchise, TE Vernon Davis.
Despite all of that, the show must go on, and the Niners have to try and be competitive against an Atlanta Falcons (5-2) team that’s looking to get back to it’s winning ways.
If you’re searching for theme to this week, it’s offense, as in the Falcons have it and the 49ers don’t. Happy viewing everyone.
The 49ers and Falcons closed Candlestick Park in Week 16 of 2013, playing the final game at the stadium. OLB Navorro Bowman made one of the more memorable plays in recent memory for San Francisco, when he returned an interception 89 yards for the game sealing touchdown with just over a minute to play. The Niners would go on to win the game, 34-24.
RB Frank Gore paced the offensive attack with 97 yards rushing and a score, while WR Anquan Boldin and WR Michael Crabtree combined for 11 catches, 174 yards and a touchdown.
Players to Watch
All eyes will be on QB Blaine Gabbert as he takes over for the embattled Kaepernick. Gabbert has started 27 games in his career, all with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2011-2013. During his forgettable three year run, the former first round pick threw 22 touchdowns to 24 interceptions overall. His 2013 season was especially bad, as in three starts (all losses), Gabbert completed less than 49 percent of his throws and was picked off seven times. Has he improved at all since then? We’re going to find out.
Even though the Atlanta offense has struggled a bit in recent weeks, teams are still yet to find a way to stop WR Julio Jones. The numbers are absolutely staggering, as the Falcons wide out is on pace for 140 receptions, 1800 yards and a 12 touchdowns. The 49ers’ secondary hasn’t been very good this year, and will most likely have a hard time slowing Jones down.
Game Changing Factor
Atlanta currently ranks fourth in the NFL in total yards, and fifth in points scored. The 49ers will have to be on their A-game offensively to keep up with the Falcons, and that could be a lot to ask considering who they will be trotting out there Sunday. Other than Boldin (who is still dealing with a hamstring injury and may not play), WR Torrey Smith, and T Joe Staley, the starting offense mostly consists of backups. Even G Alex Boone is having a bad season, and currently has a negative-8.9 run blocking grade. Actually, out of 80 qualifiers, Boone is ranked 79th and his counterpart, G Jordan Devey, is ranked 78th (negative-7.3).
Stats to Know
The 49ers have scored 109 points in eight games this season (13.6 per game), which is by far the worst in the NFL. They have been held to under 200 yards of total offense in four of the eight games they’ve played this season, and have been held without a touchdown in three of them.
Individually, it’s been ugly as well. The team’s running backs are averaging 3.43 yards per carry, and if you take away RB Carlos Hyde‘s explosive Week 1, it’s actually 2.85. If you take Hyde out of the equation altogether (and because of his injury, at this point we have to), 49ers’ running backs have 46 carries for 83 yards (1.80 per carry).
No receiver or tight end is on pace to gain more than 750 yards this year, which would be the lowest total since WR Arnaz Battle lead the team with 600 in 2007. In short, this is an all-time bad offense.
Even if the Niner’s defense gives an inspired performance (and they are much better at home), Atlanta should still be able to win this game easily. The 49ers are playing for next year (or who knows when) at this point, so beating a playoff contender like the Falcons seems hard to imagine.