The 49ers got a huge win in New Orleans last weekend, but their return to the top of the NFC playoff picture was a brief one.
Julio Jones caught a pass from Matt Ryan on the goalline on what appeared to be the final play of regulation and was ruled down short of the end zone on the field. Replays showed that the ball broke the plane as he went down to the ground and was therefore ruled to be a touchdown.
The score put the Falcons up 23-22 and the replay review showed two seconds left on the clock. The 49ers tried to lateral their way to a miracle score, but Atlanta wound up scooping up a fumble for a touchdown that made the final score 29-22 in Santa Clara.
It’s a big loss for the 49ers, who are now back into second place in the NFC West with the Seahawks winning earlier in the day. They still clinched a playoff berth as a result of the Rams’ loss to the Cowboys, but that’s likely small balm after losing a game that they led by nine points in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons were able to rally after Kenjon Barner‘s fumble on a punt return helped gift the 49ers a touchdown that put them up 19-10. Jones played a big part in that effort and ended the day with 13 catches for 134 yards and his first two touchdowns since the third week of the regular season.
Atlanta won’t have any more chances to impact the playoff race as they finish with the Jaguars and Buccaneers. That means the biggest thing to watch is whether their improved play down the stretch is enough to keep head coach Dan Quinn from losing his job.