On Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his team dismantled the Los Angeles Rams, head coach Dan Quinn suggested everyone "throw the records out" when immersed in December football, adding, "Who we're playing and where we're playing – that's kind of irrelevant, so to speak, because you want to just go and battle for it. (That's) the intent of the players, that's what we're set out to do."
The Falcons plan on taking the same approach again Sunday when they battle the 1-12 49ers. Although San Francisco hasn't won since its season opener, the Falcons, who maintain a slight edge in the NFC South, don't plan on overlooking Chip Kelly's team.
Nor should you.
Here are three reasons why the 49ers shouldn't be underestimated.
Hyde is a Dangerous RB
Few running backs produced more in Weeks 13 and 14 than Carlos Hyde. The 26-year-old Ohio State product, whom Paul Worrilow called "a complete back," ran for 92 yards in Chicago on Dec. 4; last Sunday, he gashed the Jets for 193 yards on 17 carries. Hyde is averaging 4.6 yards per rush this year and has certainly earned Atlanta's respect.
"He's a player that we don't talk about a lot, and we should," head coach Dan Quinn said. "He's got real speed. He's a bounce-out runner. You try to set the edge and you think you might go back in – he's got the speed to get outside. I think he uses his stiff arm (well), he's physical, he's got the speed to take it for the long ones, so he's been very impressive to me."
Kaepernick Has Performed Better Than Many Believe
Since reclaiming his role as the Niners' starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick has played solid football more often than not. In 2016, the six-year veteran has completed 131 of 239 passes for 1,577 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions for a respectable 85.4 QB rating. He's been a legitimate running threat, too, as evident by his 416 rushing yards on 55 attempts – a 7.6 average.
"I think Colin has gotten better each week with us," San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly said. "The more comfortable he gets in our system, the more comfortable we are around him. … We've been pleased with Colin."
Buckner Has Been One of the League's Best Rookies
Drafted seventh overall last spring, DeForest Buckner has become one of the NFL's most promising D-linemen. His five sacks in 2016 rank fourth among rookies; his 10 QB hits lead the Niners, according to Pro Football Focus.
Buckner has shown signs of steady improvement, as well: By notching two sacks and 11 tackles last week, the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder displayed the blend of size and athleticism that made him such a coveted prospect.
"For the inside guys, that's a rare combination," Quinn said. "Sometimes you have some big guys who can be real stout against the run or a guy who's got enough length but maybe isn't strong enough to play down and dirty. … (Buckner has) got the size and strength to do both. That's a pretty rare guy. I think in time he's going to turn into a really good player. His effort for a big guy is also, I think, one of the things that sets him apart."