For one day in a lost season, the San Francisco 49ers recaptured their winning ways. They did it against an Atlanta Falcons team that also has endured a dramatic fall.
Bryant Young sacked Chris Chandler in the end zone for a safety and Wade Richey kicked a 23-yard field goal for the 49ers (4-9), who avoided matching the longest losing streak in club history by snapping their eight-game skid. .
"It's not fun when you're losing. It never is. But you knew it was going to end and it did today. We're two teams going nowhere and it just came down to who wanted it more."
Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said he was disappointed by the lack of fight in his team.
"They beat us about as bad as you can get beaten," Reeves said. "I have been beat a lot of times in my life but I don't think I have ever been beaten where we just didn't even react to it in any way positive."
Cornerback Ray Buchanan said it appeared the Falcons had their minds elsewhere.
"I didn't see anything to smile about. This was terrible," Buchanan said. "This one right here just seemed like to me people were hurrying off the football field and get on the plane. That's what it felt like to me. I did't see no effort, man."
Jeff Garcia led three scoring drives, helping San Francisco break in front 19-0. And after being shaken up by a blow to the head and missing a third-quarter series, Garcia returned to lead a fourth scoring drive in the 49ers' first win since Oct. 3.
"We were pounding the ball, moving the ball well on the ground," said Garcia. "When that's working, it's a great situation for us and we have to take advantage of it.
"We're playing for pride," added Garcia, whose offense held a 2-1 possession advantage over the Falcons. "We're doing what we can to salvage the season and finish on a good note."
The Falcons (3-10), who ousted San Francisco from the playoffs last January en route to their first Super Bowl, played the final quarter without Chandler. They finished with just 105 yards in offense.
The Atlanta quarterback went down with a rib injury when he was sacked by Charles Haley, who registered his 100 1-2 career sack on the play. It appeared that Chandler also took a shot in the chest from defensive tackle Young as he went down.
Garner, racking up his first career 1,000-yard season, ran for 107 yards on 26 carries in boosting his season total to 1,032. His 8-yard touchdown run got San Francisco on the board and Garcia led a 14-play, 8:14 drive that Beasley finished with his first TD run, a 2-yarder.
Young broke through the Atlanta protection to take down Chandler in the end zone. Richey added a field goal, and the 49ers led 19-0 at halftime.
Richey also stepped in as an emergency punter for San Francisco after Chad Stanley was knocked out of the game with a concussion midway through the third quarter. Stanley was leveled by Jammi German's devastating blindside block that cleared the last obstacle for Winslow Oliver's 58-yard return for a touchdown, Atlanta's only score of the game.
Atlanta avoided its first shutout in six years when Oliver, behind a series of blocks, broke loose down the right sideline on his 58-yard punt return for a touchdown.
But Oliver also muffed a punt that was recovered by the 49ers and led to Beasley's second touchdown run as he dove in from the 1 with 13:08 remaining.
The pregame coin toss brought a light moment when referee Johnny Grier mistakenly told the 49ers they had won the toss even though the Falcons captains had picked tails.
The flustered Grier quickly made it right, however.
"Correction. Atlanta won. They did call tails," Grier said over the field microphone.
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