The San Francisco 49ers have plummeted to the slums of the NFL and the evidence was splattered everywhere in the team’s 13th consecutive loss, this time 41-13 against the Atlanta Falcons.
To put into perspective how unacceptable the 2016 season has been, only nine teams have gone 1-15 since 1978. The Jaguars and Rams have already made head coaching firings and speculation will increase down in Santa Clara with both GM Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly.
The 49ers did manage to set a new record in the loss to Atlanta: most rushing yards allowed in franchise history. If there’s one trait this team will be remembered for, its the appalling run defense, which was forced to play 210-pound safety Vinnie Sunseri at inside linebacker for portions of the game.
Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan made a mockery of Jim O’Neil’s wounded unit, showing CEO Jed York his head coaching candidacy in person. The routine script commenced: Devonta Freeman became the 11th running back to rush for 100 yards against the 49ers and added three touchdowns along the way. Little gadget receivers Aldrick Robinson and Taylor Gabriel torched the secondary on the Georgia Dome carpet, combining for 171 yards receiving and one touchdown. Matt Ryan tossed for nearly 300 yards until he was pulled in garbage time.
The explosive Falcons are the exact opposite of the 49ers. They prioritized drafting and developing playmakers, and in turn, have the tools to outscore teams every Sunday. York will have to decide if he has the patience to give Kelly time to coach legitimate players on the offensive side of the ball.
For as long as he could, Colin Kaepernick did manage to keep this game from becoming an utter embarrassment. He led two touchdown drives and did his usual impersonation of an NFL quarterback in the first half: 15/21, 143 yards, two touchdown passes — one to Garrett Celek, one to Rod Streater.
But when the second half arrived, so did accuracy issues from Kaepernick and drops from a obscure collection of playmakers. The 49ers punted on their first four drives of the second half and saw the fourth quarter clock expire in their fifth. Carlos Hyde rushed 13 times for 71 yards, but he fumbled early in the first quarter which led to an immediate Atlanta touchdown.
Already depleted, San Francisco saw a bloodbath ensue at the Georgia Dome. Jimmie Ward, Nick Bellore, Quinton Patton and Blake Bell all went down with injuries. In addition, Gerald Hodges was inactive for a violation of team rules, leaving Michael Wilhoite as the only active inside linebacker. He played admirably and forced a fumble on the goal line in the second quarter.
Sideline shots of Kelly and GM Trent Baalke increased from the Fox broadcast crew. Kelly looked visibly irate at the offense in one sequence in the fourth quarter. Baalke was caught both standing on the sideline in the first half and sitting in a suite in the second half.
The 49ers will travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams next Saturday on Christmas Eve. They still hold the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft.