Freeman’s 3 TDs lead Falcons to 41-13 rout of hapless 49ers
ATLANTA (AP) — Devonta Freeman more than made up for his first fumble of the season.
Freeman rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns Sunday, leading the Falcons to a 41-13 rout of the San Francisco 49ers that clinched Atlanta’s first winning season since 2012.
The third-year back capped his big day with a 34-yard touchdown run .
He preferred to focus on a fumble just short of the end zone that kept the high-scoring Falcons from putting up TDs on their first five possessions against San Francisco’s horrible defense.
“I never settle,” Freeman said. “It’s crazy, but at the end of the night I’m going to say ‘Dang! I had a fumble.’ That’s my first fumble of the year. I hate fumbling.”
Matt Ryan completed 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards, including a pair of 9-yard scoring tosses to Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper.
Aldrick Robinson, stepping up with Atlanta star Julio Jones missing his second straight game with a toe injury, had a career-best 111 yards on four receptions.
“It just lets you know how much depth we have and how much we think about those guys,” Freeman said. “We’ve got hungry guys.”
Atlanta (9-5) began the day tied with Tampa Bay for the NFC South lead. The Falcons made sure they didn’t overlook the 49ers (1-13), moving a step closer to getting back to the playoffs after a three-season absence.
“When you get into December football, you better do that,” coach Dan Quinn said. “Every time you have a chance to go battle, you better have your intent right, your preparation right.”
In an interesting twist, the Falcons’ previous winning season ended with a loss to San Francisco in the NFC championship game .
The 49ers have totally fallen apart since that trip to the Super Bowl. They extended a franchise record with their 13th straight loss, keeping the heat on first-year coach Chip Kelly.
“That’s a really good offensive football team,” Kelly said “It’s a team that could make some hay in the playoffs.”
Freeman nearly had four touchdowns, but the ball was yanked out of his hand inside the 1 as he attempted to power into the end zone.
“I’m going to remember that fumble because I’ll never be perfect, but it could have been perfect if I had not fumbled,” he said.
No one else was too concerned after the third three-touchdown game of his career. Freeman scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter, bounced off three would-be tacklers for a 9-yard TD in the second, and got loose down the sideline for his longest run of the day late in the third to give the Falcons a 38-13 lead.
Colin Kaepernick was 20 of 33 for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also was sacked three times.
For Atlanta, it was the second straight laugher over a team from California. The Falcons built a 42-0 lead the previous week on the way to a 42-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
As in that game, Ryan and many of the starters watched the final minutes from the sideline.
The Falcons set a franchise record for points in season, pushing their total with 469. That eclipsed the mark of 442 set by the 1998 Super Bowl team, with two weeks still to go in the regular season.
Atlanta has scored more than 40 points in five games, and at least 30 four other times.
DEFENSE STEPS UP
After giving up a pair of 75-yard touchdown drives in the first half, the Falcons’ defense totally shut down the 49ers over the final two quarters. San Francisco was held to 85 yards and four first downs after trailing 28-13 at the break.
“We go out there and take every game like a championship week,” Atlanta safety Ricardo Allen said. “It doesn’t matter what the record is.”
The 49ers lost wide receiver Quinton Patton, linebacker Nick Bellore, tight end Blake Bell and cornerback Jimmie Ward with injuries. Patton (foot) and Bellore (elbow) left in the first half. Bell and Ward were declared out with shoulder injuries in the second half.
Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell left with a concussion, and Hooper was carted off in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury.
San Francisco: The 49ers wind down a lost season by traveling to Los Angeles to take on the Rams, the team they defeated in Week 1 for their lone victory .
Atlanta: Head to Carolina on Saturday to take on the Panthers in the final road game of the regular season. The Falcons defeated their NFC South rival 48-33 in the first meeting Oct. 2.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .
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