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coleryan
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Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

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On 12/17/2013 06:21 AM in NFL
The Monday night football game for week 16 in the National Football League features two good teams, but only one of them will have playoff aspirations. The San Francisco 49ers will be heading to the post season but they cannot afford to lose the Atlanta Falcons if they want to head to the playoffs with momentum. The Falcons may be out of the playoffs, but they are winning ball games down the stretch and still playing hard. Read More

Check back all week as this thread will be updated on a regular basis with information on this game and a free pick by gameday!
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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12/17/2013 02:55 PM
Falcons coach Mike Smith hopes his defense is finally starting to understand how to create takeaways.

Despite being eliminated from playoff contention in a Week 11 home loss to New Orleans, Atlanta has four interceptions and eight fumble recoveries in three games since.

Strong safety William Moore, rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant and defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux were the top catalysts in helping the Falcons recover five fumbles and pick off two passes in Sunday's 27-26 win over Washington.

Smith, though, stopped short Monday of praising the defense too much, particularly considering that the Falcons are still too susceptible to mistakes.

Atlanta began the game ranked fourth-worst in NFL turnover margin, and the abundance of what Smith calls explosive plays had contributed to a fourth-worst ranking in average points allowed.

"The first (point of emphasis) is winning the turnover battle and the second one is winning the explosive battle," Smith said. "You put those two things together, and it's the toxic differential that you look at. More times than not, the teams that are in the top 12, most of those teams are in the playoffs."

Since losing last month to the Saints, Atlanta has allowed 21 plays of 15 or more yards.

Smith said he's not too surprised considering how many young players are on the field at the same time. Five rookies started on defense against the Redskins, but even the most experienced rookies -- Trufant and cornerback Robert Alford -- struggled at times.

Though he batted down a potentially devastating two-point conversion pass on the Redskins' final play and intercepted Kirk Cousins earlier in the fourth quarter, Trufant had a major gaffe on Pierre Garcon's 53-yard touchdown reception in the second.

Trufant had already been flagged for holding Garcon on the play before Garcon beat him to the ball.

"If you're getting beat on a double cut and you're going to hold the defender, make sure you hold him good where he doesn't still get a chance to catch the football," Smith said. "You take the 5-yard penalty on the defense."

Earlier in the second, Alford gave up Aldrick Robinson's 62-yard reception, but rookie free safety Zeke Motta missed an assignment and never had a chance to help over the top.

And in the first, the defense used poor alignment and technique to give up a 37-yard run to Alfred Morris and 23-yard touchdown catch by Fred Davis on the next snap.

"They're all learning opportunities for our guys," Smith said. "As a coach, you want to have those positive learning situations. We've had too many negative learning situations in this ballgame and the entire season."

When Atlanta (4-10) visits San Francisco (10-4) next Monday, the defense will face a tough challenge. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has struggled with completion percentage this season, but he played well in Sunday's

win over Tampa Bay and has some of the league's top playmakers in running back Frank Gore, receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis.

Babineaux, who recovered two fumbles against Washington, believes the defense can build on its performance against the 49ers.

"I think the defense stepped up big by creating as many turnovers as we did which put the offense in the best position to score points," Babineaux said. "We have to continue to press forward and find ways to win out the schedule."
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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12/18/2013 04:22 PM
The Falcons have two games left to play their way out of last place in the division, but both of those games will come against playoff contenders who will need to win to improve or maintain their own positioning. If Tampa Bay wins in St. Louis on Sunday, Atlanta will virtually be assured of a last-place finish in the NFC South for the first time since 2007.

The biggest game within the division this week will take place in Charlotte when the Panthers host the Saints in a game that will almost certainly (Panthers would still need to beat the Falcons in Week 17 to clinch the division) determine who's going to win the NFC South.

If New Orleans loses to the Panthers on Sunday, it would be the team's fifth loss in 10 games since starting off the season 5-0.

The biggest question facing the Falcons this week is whether the team can put together a respectable performance on national television against the 49ers on Monday night. Only four of Atlanta's 10 losses this season have been by double digits, but three of those four losses came on the road.

Monday's game appears to be ripe for another blowout win by an Atlanta opponent since emotions will be riding high in San Francisco as the 49ers play what will likely be the final game at Candlestick Park.

The Falcons have been a major disappointment this year, but an embarrassing lopsided defeat this week on Monday Night Football could take the Falcons back to depths we last saw in 2003 when Falcons owner Arthur Blank felt compelled to write an apology letter to the head of ABC Sports following his team's 36-0 Monday night loss to the Rams.

It's unreasonable to expect this Falcons team to go out West and pull off a win, but as professionals they ought to be able to play a competitive game in what's probably going to be tight end Tony Gonzalez's final prime-time appearance.
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Pfile Nickname roguesalmon
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12/19/2013 02:07 AM
Thanks for the info on the games
» Last 7 Days Record: 44-39-0
» Last 30 Days Record: 264-205-2
» All Time Record: 6653-4266-70
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Pfile Nickname roguesalmon
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12/19/2013 02:07 AM
Thanks for the info on the games
» Last 7 Days Record: 44-39-0
» Last 30 Days Record: 264-205-2
» All Time Record: 6653-4266-70
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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12/19/2013 02:37 PM
The San Francisco 49ers hope to close out Candlestick Park with a celebration of their return to the playoffs.

If they haven't already clinched a postseason berth before this game, the 49ers could take care of it on their own Monday night when they meet the Atlanta Falcons in the final regular-season game at the stadium the team has called home since 1971.

"There will be tremendous memories from everybody that's ever played there," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "That's why it's important for us not to screw it up and make sure we get this win this (Monday)."

San Francisco (10-4) will have a playoff spot wrapped up well before kickoff if Arizona loses at Seattle on Sunday. That result would give the 49ers a wild-card spot and the NFC West to the Seahawks. However, if the Cardinals snap Seattle's 14-game home winning streak, San Francisco would need a win to clinch a playoff berth and still have a shot at the West title.

While it seems unlikely the Niners will win the division and host a playoff game, this could be the final game at Candlestick, where they have an 18-4-1 regular-season record since the start of 2011.

The 49ers have won four consecutive games overall, thanks largely to an improved offense. Colin Kaepernick has a 104.7 passer rating with seven touchdown passes and one turnover in that span after committing 12 through the first 10 games. Frank Gore has rushed for 196 yards over the past two weeks, including big runs to seal wins over Seattle and Tampa Bay.

Gore recorded his seventh 1,000-yard season in last Sunday's 33-14 victory over the Buccaneers.

"Frank's an amazing running back. I feel like he's the most underrated running back in the NFL. He does everything for our offense," Kaepernick said. "He runs the ball. If we ask him to block, he does it. If we ask him to catch a pass, he does it. What he means to this team and what he contributes really can't be quantified."

Facing the Falcons, the combination of Gore and Kaepernick could do some damage. The 49ers rank fifth in the NFL with 137.1 rushing yards per game and are tied for second with 16 touchdowns on the ground. Atlanta's run defense ranks among the bottom five in the league with 131.4 yards allowed per game and 4.6 per carry.

These teams are meeting for the first time since the NFC championship game in Atlanta. The Falcons lost 28-24, and things continued to go wrong this season.

Atlanta (4-10) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

"That was then, this is now. It's the next game," Harbaugh said of the rematch aspect. "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."

The Falcons haven't just given up, winning two of their last three games. The defense has forced 11 turnovers in that span after causing eight through the first 11 games.

Atlanta forced seven last Sunday and held of Washington 27-26.

"The first (point of emphasis) is winning the turnover battle and the second one is winning the explosive battle," coach Mike Smith said. "You put those two things together, and it's the toxic differential that you look at. More times than not, the teams that are in the top 12, most of those teams are in the playoffs."

Allowing big plays remains a problem. Atlanta, outgained 476-243 last week, has given up 59 plays of 20 yards or more to rank in the bottom half of the league. The 49ers have allowed 36, second-fewest in the NFL.

San Francisco had dominated Atlanta at Candlestick, going 17-2 between 1983 and 2001 when the teams met annually as members of the NFC West. Since the Falcons changed divisions, they've won all four meetings with two coming in San Francisco.
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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12/20/2013 10:26 PM
The ugliest low points of a miserable season for Matt Ryan and the Falcons have come on the road.

Atlanta plays its final road game at San Francisco on Monday night. The Falcons (4-10) are 1-6 away from the Georgia Dome. The one road win was more like a neutral site game — against Buffalo in Toronto.

Turnovers have been a troubling trend in the road losses. Ryan said Thursday he can't explain why he has thrown 12 interceptions on the road and only two at home.

"I wish I knew," Ryan said. "I really do. I wish I knew. We've been pretty consistent throughout the six years I've been here, individually and as a team, on the road and at home. Certainly I think records are better at home than they've been on the road in the past.

"I think it's just you've got to be consistent week in and week out, whether you're playing in the dome or somewhere else. You've got to strive for consistency and as a whole I don't think we've been extremely consistent this year."

Ryan was awarded a contract extension worth about $104 million, including $59 million guaranteed, before the season. He has played up to the standards that earned him that contract only at home.

In seven home games, Ryan has 11 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. His 103.5 passer rating at the Georgia Dome in 2013 tops his career average of 96.8 in home games.

Ryan's rating on the road is only 74.3, below his career road rating of 85.4.

Coach Mike Smith said he doesn't believe Ryan's production this season can be directly tied to where the games are played. He said it was just poor execution.

"We have turned the ball over a lot more on the road," Smith said following Thursday's practice. "I don't really know that I could put a finger on it. They weren't really good decisions. They weren't really good throws. It wasn't good protection. That was what caused it."

Ryan is on pace to top 4,000 yards passing for the third straight year and has completed 66.4 percent of his passes — just under his career-best 68.6 percent in 2012. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes, well below his career-high 32 last season.

Injuries at the wide receiver position left Ryan throwing to such new targets as Darius Johnson and Drew Davis much of the season.

A foot injury ended star receiver Julio Jones' season after only five games. Atlanta's other top receiver, Roddy White, missed three games with ankle and hamstring injuries and was limited most of the season. White has returned to form only in the last three weeks.

Some of Ryan's statistics — especially yards and touchdowns — likely would be dramatically better if Jones and White had been healthy. But injuries don't fully explain the interceptions, especially on the road.

"I don't know that it was because we were not in our building," Smith said. "I think we've got to really, truly drill down on it when the season is over, but I don't think ... that was the reason."

Smith is using the final games of the season to take long looks at rookies and second-year players at other positions. He said he never considered pulling Ryan to give backup Dominique Davis more playing time.

"It's something I don't really listen to it or worry about it," Ryan said. "I prepare myself to go out and play week in and week out. ... You have to worry about preparing yourself and going out there and playing, and there's nobody who wants to be out there more than I do."
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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12/20/2013 11:06 PM
The 49ers' defense has generally been stout all season but the club has taken off and won four straight because the offense and specifically Kaepernick have started to show a bit more consistency.

Kaepernick has thrown seven touchdown passes and turned it over just once during San Francisco's current run, amassing a 104.7 passer rating over that span -- a key number because the 49ers are a perfect 11-0 when the second-year starter finishes a game over the century mark.

Gore has also been heating up recently, rushing for 196 yards over the past two weeks and passing the 1,000-yard plateau for the seventh time in his career against Tampa Bay.

"Frank's an amazing running back," Kaepernick said when asked about Gore, who has 1,017 yards on the season. "I feel like he's the most underrated running back in the NFL. He does everything for our offense. What he means to this team and what he contributes really can't be quantified."

The Falcons will try to quantify it but on paper the 49ers' ground game looks too strong for Atlanta. Spearheaded by Gore, San Francisco ranks fifth in the NFL, averaging 137.1 yards a game on the ground. Conversely Atlanta allows 131.4 ypg and 4.6 yards a carry, a bottom-five mark in the league.

To their credit the Falcons haven't given up on the season and have continued to play hard with the finish line approaching. Atlanta has won two of three overall and has forced 11 turnovers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, Ryan generally excels against San Francisco. He is 2-0 in the regular season against the Niners and completed 30-of-42 passes for 396 yards with 3 TDs and a 114.8 rating in last year's championship game.

"The first (a team has to accomplish) is winning the turnover battle and the second one is winning the explosive battle," Smith said. "You put those two things together, and it's the toxic differential that you look at."

Big plays are something the Niners defense is usually adept at stopping, however. The San Fran D has given up just 36 explosive plays (defined as 20 yards or more), the second-lowest amount in the NFL.
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