If the 49ers want to snap their franchise-record 12-game losing streak Sunday in Atlanta, they’ll need to play a complete game for the first time since the season opener.
In earning their way to a 1-12 record, San Francisco often has played well in the first half, only to collapse in the second half. Or, they’ve trailed early and rallied too late.
The Falcons are the NFL’s highest-scoring team, so the 49ers will have to put up as many points as possible to stay with them.
Last week the 49ers followed their usual script, playing better early. They had a two-touchdown lead over the New York Jets, but lost in overtime. San Francisco has taken an early lead in 10 games, yet has lost nine of those – an NFL record. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, too, often has been fairly solid to start a game, only to have troubles in the third and fourth quarters.
“If there was one thing we could do that we could change it, we could,” Kaepernick told the Associated Press this week. “There are a lot of things that play into that. But, once again, we have to be able to be better in the second half.”
Every indication is the Niners are in for a 13th straight loss, however. The Falcons’ Matt Ryan-led offense will be going against the worst defense in the league. And, the 49ers’ offense – just 19th in the league in scoring and dead last in passing – figures to have a difficult time keeping pace on the scoreboard.
The 49ers have won three straight meetings against the 8-5 Falcons, but oddsmakers have made Atlanta a whopping 13½-point favorite.
Niners’ defenders know that they must contain Ryan’s passing game to stand a chance. Ryan is second in the NFL in passing yards, has 30 touchdown passes and has a quarterback rating of 113.2. He also has deep-threat receivers in All-Pro Julio Jones (who has an injured toe, but still may play) and Mohamed Sanu.
Says 49ers starting cornerback Tramaine Brock, of the matchup with Ryan and Jones: “It’s going to be fun to play against a great player like Ryan. I’m ready to go out there and compete with one of the top receivers in the game, too.”
Brock’s cornerback mate, Jimmie Ward says the Falcons’ complex passing game will give the secondary perhaps its biggest challenge of this season. And, he hopes Jones is able to play.
“He’s a phenomenal wide receiver,” Ward told the media this week. “It would be great to cover him.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s game in Atlanta is set for 1:05 p.m. in the Bay Area.