The depleted San Francisco 49ers were defeated in Week Six by the Atlanta Falcons by a final score of 28-14. Once again, the offense stalled out in the second half and the Niners now have a 3-3 record. Here are the top three takeaways from Sunday.
Too Many Injuries To Overcome For The 49ers
The 49ers were without seven of their defensive starters along with Samson Ebukam who was injured early in the game and had to go in and out of the game. It was just too much for the defense to handle, and even then they did a decent job. The Falcons who came into the game averaging 23 points per game only scored 21 points on offense against the Niners. One of their touchdowns came off of a fumble by Jeff Wilson Jr. that was recovered and returned for a Falcons touchdown.
However, the defense struggled to contain Marcus Mariota in the running game who had 50-rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on six carries. He also only had one incompletion the entire game, finishing 13 for 14 on passing attempts for 129 yards and two touchdowns. The defense did the best they could without both of their starting corners from Week One and practically the entire starting defensive line. But against a team that isn’t necessarily a playoff threat, this was a bad sign of things to come for the 49ers who are trying to contend.
If these injuries linger or persist, how can the 49ers battle with the best teams in the league? Especially when the offense stalls out? It doesn’t seem like they can overcome this amount of injuries if they were to play an elite team. Hopefully, they get relatively healthy the next handful of days because next week the Niners have Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at home.
Brandon Aiyuk Breakout
A positive to take away from Sunday’s game was the performance by Brandon Aiyuk. The third-year receiver had eight catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets. Both of his touchdowns on the day came in just the first half alone. Aiyuk seems to give Garoppolo and the offense a different element from years past. Aiyuk seems to be the 49ers’ best route runner as he was creating separation against A.J. Terrell with ease on Sunday.
With teams overloading to stop Deebo Samuel this season after his all-pro run last year, it would probably benefit the Niners to take advantage of that and utilize Aiyuk more in the passing game to keep the chains moving. We also saw throughout camp with Trey Lance that Aiyuk is capable of making catches downfield in traffic. While we are unlikely to see Garoppolo take many shots, although he had some good ones that others dropped, we at least know that Aiyuk has reliable hands a quarterback can trust.
Maybe Aiyuk and Kittle are the answer this season. It seems the offense has also looked to get Kittle more involved the last few weeks as he matched Aiyuk’s receiving totals for the game minus the two touchdowns. At this point with an offense stalling the way that it has been, try anything to get it going.
The 49ers Can Probably Win This Division With Nine Or Ten Wins
This is the reason the loss although bad doesn’t seem detrimental to the big picture which is to make the playoffs. The 49ers in Week Two defeated the Seahawks 27-7, shutting out their offense which has lit other teams up. That Seahawks team defeated the Cardinals this Sunday who now fall to a 2-4 record. The Niners are tied with the Seahawks and Rams but currently hold the tiebreaker due to the divisional games and beating both of them already.
The Rams also look like a completely different team and they may have lost their starting left tackle to an achilles injury. They seemed to be struggling against the Panthers for a large portion of the game on Sunday as well who the 49ers just dominated last week. Not to mention this 49ers team under Kyle Shanahan seems to always have the Rams’ number.
Point is, it looks like the Niners can finish with a similar record to last season and end up hosting a playoff game in January. What was once a powerhouse division now looks like the NFC East of years past. And talent-wise when healthy, the 49ers surely have the best team in the west.