Next man up is one thing. Next 11 men up is something else entirely. The San Francisco 49ers (3-3) went into Sunday’s 28-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (3-3) without six defensive starters, one of whom was pass rusher Nick Bosa. That’s a biggie.
“It truly does suck,” said linebacker Fred Warner. “The five years I’ve been here, this isn’t anything new. I’ve seen it. At some point, you’ve got to adjust. Guys have got to be ready to go…We’ve got to find ways to win, regardless of the circumstance.”
Late in the first half they lost Charvarius Ward, aka their shutdown corner, to a groin injury. Since they lost cornerback Emmanuel Moseley for the season last week, this was a particularly bad development.
“I mean you’re in the NFL, so when your number is called, you’ve got to go out there,” said defensive lineman Charles Omenihu. “That’s just what it is, so it doesn’t matter who’s out there.”
Sunday proved that it might matter a little.
The issues were clear early, when the 49ers allowed a first-half touchdown for the first time this season. Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir started in place of Moseley for the first time since 2021. Rookie Samuel Womack, who had only played nickel up to this point, replaced Ward on the outside. The Falcons capitalized.
“We still got to play,” Lenoir said. “We hate for a guy to go down, but it’s always next man up. We’re always hard on each other in the film room. We try to get each other better, and make sure one another is ready.”
Falcons’ quarterback Marcus Mariota completed his first 13 passes, with his first incompletion coming in the fourth quarter. For context, Mariota entered the game with a 57.7% completion percentage. The 49ers also allowed a season-high 168 yards rushing, while the Falcons with 9-of-14 on third downs and had three long touchdown drives.
With all of that and all of the losses on defense, it was a day that 49ers’ offense had to come up big and make up for deficiencies. Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen.
“I think we had our chances to overcome and made it harder on ourselves,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I’m not taking anything away from them. Yea that’s a big deal missing those people, but we had every chance to pull that off and you just have a little bit less room for error. I thought we made some real big plays too, the way some of those guys were running with the ball, especially with that lead, they were pretty soft zone during most of the game and to watch our guys break some tackles and do some stuff like that, but it was tough to get the big one. I thought we had a couple of opportunities with those two drops and when we finally got a big one, we got called back on a holding. So, that’s kind if the story all day and it makes it a lot tougher.”
There was a Jeff Wilson fumble that the Falcons recovered and ran in for a touchdown. There were two drops on two Jimmy Garoppolo deep passes. There were dreaded fourth quarter penalties that stalled a fourth quarter drive that potentially would have made it a one score game.
“Self-inflicted wounds was just the story of the day,” Garoppolo said. “Those are correctable, but you can’t have as many as we had today. When you do, you have to overcome it and we didn’t do that today. It starts with me, and we have to do better.”
The 49ers are going to want to correct them quickly, as Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs come to Levi’s Stadium next Sunday.
- RT Mike McGlinchey left the game with a calf injury, the severity of which is unknown.
- Shanahan said there’s a chance the 49ers get Bosa and LT Trent Williams back for Kansas City.
- Brandon Aiyuk had the first multi-touchdown game of his career, finishing the day with eight receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns.