The 4-10 Atlanta Falcons are certainly not an attractive team to play on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, but they will do so and fight for their first winning streak of the season at 8:30 p.m. against the 10-4 San Francisco 49ers in the last game at Candlestick Park.
Still in play for one of the top picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Falcons have refused to throw in the towel despite the rough regular season record, shown in the team’s ugly 28-27 victory over the hapless Washington Redskins last week. This game, which is a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game that San Fran won 28-24, was expected by most to determine seeding in the playoffs but instead serves as a forgettable matchup that can help the 49ers clinch a first-round bye.
Atlanta has done a better job over the past four games at staying competitive (2-2 with losses by a combined five points), but the team will have to play near-perfect in order to keep up with San Francisco’s break-neck pace. The main goal for the Falcons is one the team has failed to accomplish at all this season: keep Matt Ryan upright. The former first round draft pick out of Boston College has been pummeled again and again by opposing defenses thanks to an offensive line that will likely cost Pat Hill his spot on the coaching staff, which has allowed Matty Ice to be sacked 34 times and hit 81 times.
The future of the franchise is solely placed on Ryan, but his inability to have any time in the pocket is one of the major reasons the Falcons failed to do anything right this year. Add in the fact that the running game has been as effective as putting your finger in a damaged dam (last in the league with 79 yards per game), and what you have is an offense that cannot execute. Atlanta has been proactive as far as moving players around in different spots to see which combination makes the most formidable offensive line, but the results have been forgettable. Given the fact that San Francisco is 4th in passing yards allowed and 6th in rushing yards allowed, it seems pretty apparent that the Falcons will have to find a Christmas miracle in order to have a chance in this game.
‘Tis the season to opportunistic, which is exactly what the Falcons’ defense has to do on Monday night against a dangerous 49ers offense. San Francisco holds a 10-4 record up to this point in the season, and a big reason for those four losses has been turnovers, as the Niners held a dismal -3 turnover margin in those games. The key player to target for the Falcons is quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is incredibly dangerous but is also susceptible to making mistakes. With eight interceptions and six fumbles up to this point, the Falcons certainly can keep this one close if they hit Kaepernick early and often, leaving the third-year player dazed and rushed to make decisions. Add that with a Falcons team that has made some fantastic plays here and there this season (like Sean Weatherspoon’s touchdown in the Green Bay game), and you have something the Falcons have been playing without for quite some time: hope.
Game Prediction: I hate to be a Scrooge, but to quote comedian Norm Macdonald, “Hope is never good.” The Falcons come out on Monday night ready to face off with their old NFC West rivals (someone still needs to explain to me how Atlanta sat in that division for so long), but instead of putting up a great game like the team did from time to time when Joe Montana was on the opposing sideline, the Falcons lay another egg. Marred by another bad game by the O-Line and a great game from Kaepernick and receiver Anquan Boldin, the Falcons lay an egg in this one, leaving almost all of the Falcons fans’ wish lists for the season completely unfulfilled. Final Score Atlanta Falcons 14, San Francisco 49ers 34