In the first three quarters of the 34-24 win on Monday night by the San Francisco 49ers over the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers’ defense was having a good game. Aside from a broken play, the Falcons’ passing attack led by quarterback Matt Ryan was grounded and not clicking. Then in the fourth quarter, things turned around as the Falcons began to find a rhythm in their passing attack and gashed the 49ers’ defense for two touchdowns as a result in what ended being an interesting finish to the game.
During that fourth quarter, the 49ers once again fell into two bad habits which they have displayed and been prone to either during this season or during the end of last season. The first bad habit that surfaced during a crazy and nervous fourth quarter was that of relaxing. During the first three quarters, the 49ers did a good job of pressuring and getting Matt Ryan to have to move out of the pocket. In the fourth quarter, Ryan was able to sit back and get comfortable inside and it showed.
Ryan ended up with 348 pass yards, and it’s fair to say that the lion’s share of those yards came during a fourth quarter where the defense seemingly relaxed and was unable to pressure Ryan like they did during the first three quarters. While there have been other games where the 49ers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to have a drive where they are able to get into a passing rhythm, it was the first time that it almost came back to bite them. This is something the 49ers’ defense will need to avoid as the team heads into the playoffs.
The other bad habit that the 49ers’ defense showed once again on Monday night is an old one which seemed to have been addressed so far this season after it was a big issue at the end of the 2012 season which is letting opposing wide receivers get behind the defense on deep pass plays. This happened on the 39-yard touchdown pass scored by Roddy White as he ran past Tramaine Brock and Eric Reid without resistance.
While the 49ers’ secondary has done a better job of defending deep pass plays here in the 2013 season, the fourth quarter play on Monday night was just a reminder that they are still vulnerable to getting beat deep and communication and assignment awareness need to be sharpened. While no doubts the 49ers’ defense is one of the league’s best, a couple of old, bad habits reared themselves on Monday night which they will need to be addressed heading into the playoffs.