It wasn’t a trap game nor a lack of effort that caused the Niners to lose to the Falcons, it was an inspired Falcon team playing for their coach’s job who simply outplayed the Niners on Sunday. It was Matt Ryan finding an open Julio Jones all day long including the game winning TD. It was Grady Jarrett who pummeled Mike Person all day long and constantly pressured Garoppolo.
The Niners did play hard and the trio of Arik Armstead, Jimmy G., and George Kittle had comparable games to Jarrett, Ryan, and Jones. The difference is that the Falcons made fewer mistakes and all of the Niners miscues came at critical points in the game. On offense, Matt Breida’s fumble killed a promising drive that could have allowed the Niners to take control of the game. The long pass interference penalty on Julio Jones in the end zone allowed the Falcons to get back in the game and position themselves for the win. The dropped ball by Kittle toward the end of the game after his catch took a potential first down away which would have allowed the Niners to potentially run out the clock.
Kyle Shanahan said before the game, “This is their Super Bowl. If we don’t play like this as a Super Bowl game, we will get our asses kicked.” This turned out to be prophetic.
Zooming out to the bigger picture, nothing really changed as a result of this loss. The Niners still control their own destiny to secure the #1 seed in the NFC. If they beat the Rams at home this weekend and beat the Seahawks in Seattle next week, they will be the #1 seed and host playoff games for the first time since the Harbaugh years. They secured a playoff slot even though they lost to the Falcons but there was no celebration in the Niner locker room as they hold themselves to a championship standard and they did not play championship football on Sunday.