ATLANTA – The 49ers had already placed eight key players on injured reserve this season.
Left tackle Joe Staley and wide receiver Torrey Smith were not active Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons due to injuries. The 49ers' lack of depth was dealt another blow when starting inside linebacker Gerald Hodges was deactivated for violating team rules.
Then, the 49ers lost five more players due to injuries during the course of the team’s 41-13 loss to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The 49ers (1-13) lost for the 13th consecutive time after an opening-game victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
“I haven’t been in a game like this,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “We lost five during the game. (We) had to do a lot of mixing and matching.
“That’s just the nature of the game. That’s the league. We all have the same rules. Everybody dresses 46 (players). You just got to make the 46 work.”
The 49ers lost three players to injuries on offense for the second game in a row. A week ago, in addition to Smith’s injury, center Daniel Kilgore and tight end Vance McDonald sustained season-ending injuries against the New York Jets.
On Sunday, wide receiver Quinton Patton (foot), center Marcus Martin (ankle) and tight end Blake Bell (shoulder) did not return after sustaining injuries.
“It’s a difficult situation,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “Two weeks in a row we’ve had a center, a tight end and a wide receiver go down. So we had a lot of players who have to step up and players who had to move around.”
--Kelly declined to get into specifics of Hodges’ deactivation, which he termed a “coaches decision.” Before the game, the 49ers announced Hodges would not play due to his violation of team rules.
That meant Nick Bellore and Michael Wilhoite were the only two inside linebackers available for the game. After Bellore went down on the third play of the game with an elbow injury, the 49ers tried Vinnie Sunseri, Antoine Bethea and Ahmad Brooks as the fill-ins.
Bethea had not played inside linebacker since high school, he said. Brooks broke into the league as an inside linebacker before converting to outside linebacker after the 49ers claimed him off waivers in 2008.
--Martin went down with an ankle injury in the second half, which forced veteran Zane Beadles to play center for the first time in his life. Beadles, who started the first 12 games at left guard, opened the game at left tackle in place of Staley.
“It’s been an interesting couple of weeks,” Beadles said. “That’s something I pride myself on, being able to play multiple positions.
“It’s tough. I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a season like this, where as many guys get hurt. But I think we have a lot of guys on this team that take the approach that there’s a job to do and we’re going to do it to the best of our ability. We’d like to be winning more ballgames, but I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
--Cornerback Jimmie Ward left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury. Rookie Rashard Robinson took over for him and finished the game.
--The 49ers had another depth chart change that did not impact the game. Kelly decided to promote Christian Ponder to the job as the team’s backup quarterback, unseating Blaine Gabbert. Ponder did not play.
“We’ve seen him in practice do some really good things and earned a spot,” Ponder said. “It has nothing to do with Kap. I thought Kap played well today. He earned a spot as the No. 2. “
When asked if he wants to see Ponder get some game action at some point in the final two games, Kelly answered, “We’re trying to win football games. This isn’t open tryouts right now.”