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Saturday, January 22, 2022

49ers report card: Special teams, all-around praise except cornerbacks

SANTA CLARA — Here’s how the 49ers (8-6) graded in their 31-13 home win on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (6-8):

Pass Offense: A

Jimmy Garoppolo came out super sharp, completing 13-in-15 passes through three quarters. He hit the receivers in strides for big gains, had no pass intercepts, and hung around in the pocket long enough to dump the pass while he hit. George Kittel caught all six goals for 93 yards to continue this season’s second-half tear. Touchdown drives of the second quarter opened with long completions for Brandon Ayuk (36 yards) and Deebo Samuel (30 yards). Kittel, who had 25-yards to open the first scoring drive, said: “We are definitely making a lot of big plays. The boys are confident. Wide receivers are running through the ball.”

Run Crime: A

Kyle Juszyk scored the 49ers’ first touchdown on a 6-yard run and immediately credited his blockers: “I saw a huge hole. But we’ve run that play maybe 12 times in two years, made four TDs on it. It’s not a highlight for me. It’s a draw for Trent Williams and Laken Tomlinson. They attack people when we play it.” Jeff Wilson Jr. ran for 110 yards and a touchdown, after injuring his knee in the middle of the 49ers’ defense, of his goal-line stand in the opening series. While celebrating

Pass Defense: B

On the bright side, it was Nick Bosa’s 15th sack that forced a fumble, and Samson Abukum’s sack was followed by two strokes to open up the second-half action. On the downside, Embry Thomas was being beaten repeatedly to complete despite tight coverage, as well as Arden’s rough-the-passer penalty (“Part of the League,” lamented Kyle Shanahan) who Canceled the third-down sack. More sacks will come, and more goals going to him who stands in the corner spot opposite Norman, all of which Ryan Tanhill will surely know as he and the Titans host the 49ers on Thursday night.

Run Defense: A

Cordarrell Patterson (11 carries, 18 yards) was not easy to stop and it forced Nick Bossa to be temporarily ruled out of the game to be free from potential injury. But the 49ers defense castoff Patterson as well as the 49ers castoff Mike Davis, whose output (six carries, 21 yards) was no more than a scuffle by Matt Ryan (five carries, 20 yards). Fred Warner had a team-high nine tackles while Marcel Harris filled in as his wingman; Aziz Al-Shayer (elbow) and Dre Greenlaw (groin) are out and the 49ers need at least one back for the formidable runs to go on for the next few weeks. Solid, physical treats from Bossa, Harris, Eric Armstead, DJ Jones, and Safari Jacquisky Tart and Jimmy Ward.

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Special Teams 😀

Another sad trip by this unit, as if it were a every week boom or bust. It started with Jamie Michael Hesty failing an early kickoff (courtesy of a poor interception after being drilled), then hitting his encore out of bounds on 9. Coverage units made three returns over 20 yards, and Mitch Wishnowski averaged only 38.3 yards. Four punts (none inside 20). Hey, but Robbie Gould was perfect with a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead, then on all four point-after kicks, so it’s important to re-establish that confidence.

Coaching: A-

Kyle Shanahan said the drive-opening, catch-and-run went according to script, and it’s excellent coaching to find those holes in the Falcons’ zone to ignite the offense. Defensively, it was overwhelming to start with a goal-line stand, then pass rushes were required to address the weaknesses of penalties and coverage. Special teams faltered again, and this caused the season to be halted before it could be played. Smart advice to celebrate it by Shanahan, not with a quick turnaround to face AFC contender Tennessee on Thursday night in Nashville. Garoppolo smiled and said that what Shanahan calls a “soft compliment” he gives to Garoppolo, “they are far and few.” “Not just me, everybody. When you have a guy pushing you, it helps.”

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