ATLANTA – Marcus Mariota threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another score against the NFL’s top-ranked defense, leading the Atlanta Falcons to a 28-14 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Mariota completed his first 13 passes for the Falcons (3-3) and eventually threw his lone incompletion on his final attempt of the day with less than 11 minutes remaining. He finished with 129 yards through the air in Atlanta’s conservative passing game and also rushed for 50 yards on six carries.
The Niners (3-3) couldn’t overcome two interceptions by Jimmy Garoppolo and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Falcons.
Kyle Pitts caught his first TD pass of the season and just the second of his 22-game career when he hauled in a 7-yard throw from Mariota that prompted the young tight end to break the vintage “Dirty Bird”- dance out.
Veteran tight end MyCole Pruitt, who was elevated from the practice squad for the game, caught the second scoring pass from Mariota, a 2-yarder to cap an 11-play, 74-yard drive on Atlanta’s opening possession.
Mariota knocked it in from the 3 in the final minute of the first half to put the Falcons ahead to stay, 21-14.
Atlanta’s defense outshone the Niners’ touted unit, making things difficult for Garoppolo, limiting San Francisco to 50 yards rushing and even scoring a touchdown of its own.
On a third-and-1 dive at the line, Jeff Wilson had the ball knocked away by Rashaan Evans. AJ Terrell scooped it up at the San Francisco 21 and took off for the end zone. He also fumbled and tried to stretch for a TD, but teammate Jaylin Hawkins gobbled up the loose ball to put the Falcons up 14-0.
San Francisco tied it with touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, both on TD throws to Brandon Aiyuk.
Garoppolo connected with Aiyuk on a 12-yard score, the Falcons went three-and-out, Ray-Ray McCloud broke off a 35-yard punt return and Garoppolo returned to Aiyuk for a 14-yard TD toss.
But that was about all the offense the Niners could muster. The Falcons controlled the clock by outscoring San Francisco 168-50 on a season-high 40 carries.
49ers: Already without DE Nick Bosa due to a groin injury, San Francisco lost two more starters during the game. CB Charvarius Ward (groin) and OT Mike McGlinchey (left calf) both limped off the field in the first half and did not return. WR Ray-Ray McCloud III and S Talanoa Hufunga also missed time to be evaluated for possible concussions. Both were cleared to return to the game.
Falcons: CB AJ Terrell (thigh) was injured in the second half and did not return. Atlanta’s other starting corner, Casey Hayward, also limped off late in the game with a shoulder injury.
49ers: Return home from two weeks on the East Coast to host the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday.