The Atlanta Falcons traveled out west for a visit with Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. Despite being big underdogs to the NFC-best 49ers, the Falcons pulled off a massive upset on the road.
Coming off their thrilling road win against the New Orleans Saints, Kyle Shanahan preached to his team to not let up against the lowly Atlanta Falcons. Shanahan is aware the 49ers are on to bigger and better things when the playoffs come around while the Falcons will be sitting at home, already eliminated from the playoff race. The Falcons 4-9 record, warranted as the record is, does not reflect the talent on the Atlanta roster. On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons talent shined.
The San Francisco 49ers defense was as advertised to start the game. The Falcons were stonewalled in their fist two offensive drives. It wasn’t until the 49ers pulled off a 21-play touchdown drive, that the Falcons would answer with their own 10-play touchdown drive. Both drives consumed most of the first half, which saw the Falcons and 49ers both get field goals before halftime to end the first half tied 10-10.
Dan Quinn and the Falcons got tricky to start the second half. After two successful onside kicks by Younghoe Koo, the Falcons kicked off the second half with a surprise onside kick that would be recovered by the Falcons. What looked like a big momentum swing for the Falcons was stamped out when the Falcons were flagged on the onside kick. Despite the good field position for the 49ers, the Falcons defense would show good resilience to force the 49ers to punt. The Falcons failed to convert their surprise onside kick, but the fact Quinn went for it showed the Falcons were going for the win and wouldn’t roll over to the superior 49ers.
San Francisco would go on to take the lead 13-10 when Robbie Gould converted a field goal on the 49ers second offensive possession of the 2nd half. The Falcons offense failed to find any bust through the 49ers defense, even coming away with no points after the Falcons defense forced a fumble.
The 49ers would add a touchdown, after a fumbled punt return by Kenjon Barner, to extend their lead to 19-10. After an excellent day, Robbie Gould would miss the extra point to extend the lead to 20-10. With a little over 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Falcons were staring at a two-score deficit.
After the San Francisco touchdown, Matt Ryan led the Falcons on a 75-yard touchdown drive in under five minutes. The drive was extended by a Julio Jones pass interference play that happened in the end zone, moving the Falcons from the San Francisco 33-yard line to the 1-yard line. Koo would convert the extra point to make the score 19-17.
The Falcons defense had to hold the 49ers to a field goal or less if the wanted to stay alive. After letting the 49ers move to field goal range, the Falcons defense stiffened up to stop the 49ers. Gould would hit his field goal to extend the lead to 22-17.
The Falcons got the ball with under two minutes to win the game. Matt Ryan is special when it comes to game-winning drives, and he showed why he was so good today. With just two timeouts left, Ryan hit Devonta Freeman, Russell Gage, and Julio Jones to move the Falcons up the field. It was the Jones play that was so special and moved the Falcons up to the 24-yard line. After a Ryan scramble, the Falcons were in the 49ers redzone.
After using their last timeout, Ryan missed a pass to Hooper in the endzone that was a bad throw and lucky to not be picked off. The next throw to Austin Hooper proved to be more controversial. On the next play, Ryan completed a pass to Hooper that was called a touchdown on the field. It was a complete circus catch by Hooper, who after the replay, looked to hold on to the ball. However, the called was overturned, leaving the Falcons with five seconds.
The next play proved to almost as controversial as the Hooper catch. On the next play, Ryan completed a pass to Julio Jones that was not called a touchdown on the field, but after a replay, clearly saw Jones break the plane of the endzone. It was the touchdown that completed the Falcons ten-play game-winning drive to beat the 49ers. The Falcons would go on to score a touchdown after a failed lateral play by the 49ers to end the game 29-22.
The Atlanta Falcons were massive underdogs coming into this game but pulled off the huge upset. It was so fun to watch this Falcons team and these players be back in the position to win a game late against a good team. After such a rough season, it will be fun to bask in this win for the week. Oh yeah, beating Kyle Shanahan is kinda fun, too.