The Atlanta Falcons (4-9) have won three of their five games since the bye week, and San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan believes the defense has had a big hand in that.
"It's not a surprise when you watch the tape why they've won three out of their last five games," Shanahan said. "They're getting sacks, they're getting turnovers and they're putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback."
In their last five games, the Falcons have recorded 16 sacks and 10 turnovers. In their first eight games before the bye, the Falcons had just seven sacks and four turnovers.
The 49ers (11-2) have turned the ball over 19 times this season, which is tied for 18th among all NFL teams, and seven of those turnovers have come in the past five weeks. San Francisco has also been reliably protecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, allowing just 27 sacks this season. For comparison, the Falcons have allowed 41 sacks in 2019.
Injuries have plagued the 49ers' offensive line throughout the year, and three former Falcons, Mike Person, Daniel Brunskill and Ben Garland, have all received playing time. Person and Garland are expected to start for San Francisco on Sunday, meaning there should be plenty of familiarity between the 49ers' offensive line and the Falcons' defensive line.
What may not be familiar for players like Garland and Person is the recent play of defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who is having arguably the best season of his career. Jarrett has already set a new career high in tackles with 59 and has 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for a loss. He's been a consistent force along the defensive line and will need to be a factor in disrupting a 49ers offense that is second in rushing yards per game and 13th in passing yards per game.
"He was pretty good when I was there," Shanahan said of Jarrett. "I thought he was one of the huge reasons we made a run to go to that Super Bowl. I thought he was playing at an extremely high level on our defense. I hoped that it would look worse now when I turned on the tape Monday, knowing I've got to go against him this week, but unfortunately it didn't. It only looked better. I'm really happy for him, he's gotten everything he deserves. He's a really good person and a great player."