Sun Dec 15 8:19pm ET
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
Atlanta Falcons' Olamide Zaccheaus (17) celebrates after scoring against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) sits next to the goal line after scoring against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) runs against Atlanta Falcons defensive back Kendall Sheffield (20) and outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs in front of San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes as San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99), defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and defensive end Solomon Thomas (94) apply pressure during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) runs against San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner, left, and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan watches the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan scrambles against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley (44) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass in front of San Francisco 49ers defensive back Emmanuel Moseley during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) stiff arms Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) looks to pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Matt Ryan teamed up with Julio Jones on a 5-yard pass that was ruled a touchdown after a replay reversal with 2 seconds left, sending the Atlanta Falcons past the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers 29-22 on Sunday.
Jones was called short of the goal line with the Falcons trailing 22-17. But a replay showed the ball breaking the plane with the Jones in the air while being tackled by Jimmie Ward.
When things couldn't get crazier, they did: On the final kickoff, Atlanta scored another touchdown when Olamide Zaccheaus came up with the ball as the 49ers were tossing it around in desperation.
The 49ers still clinched their first playoff berth since a 2013 run to the NFC championship game with the Rams' loss at Dallas.
In an afternoon when Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense hardly shined, San Francisco's other units did their best to hold off Ryan until the quarterback exhibited the poise of a former MVP in a dramatic final minute - or, make that 12 seconds.
Kyle Juszczyk recovered a fumble on the punt return team early in the fourth quarter then caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo two plays later as the 49ers (11-3) briefly gave themselves some room before failing to close it out.
Fill-in safety Marcell Harris broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Austin Hooper in the waning moments. Then with 8 seconds remaining, Hooper couldn't keep hold of the ball in the end zone though the Falcons were already celebrating an upset when the play went to a review and the catch overturned because the ball hit the ground.
They got one more chance, and made it count. Then Atlanta celebrated for real, leaving San Francisco's players stunned.
Before Juszczyk's timely pounce, it appeared there was no way Ryan would get the best of Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco just a week after the Niners put up 48 points in New Orleans.
The Falcons (5-9) got within 19-17 on Qadree Ollison's 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth.
Garoppolo was 22 for 34 for 200 yards and had 13 completions to George Kittle for 134 yards. Garoppolo's streak with a passer rating of at least 110 ended at four straight games when he finished at 90.3. The only San Francisco QB to do that previously was Steve Young with six-game streak in 1994.
Facing his former team and now in his third year as 49ers coach, Shanahan's high-powered offense fizzled much of the day.
Shanahan spent two seasons as offensive coordinator in Atlanta coaching Ryan during his 2016 MVP year when the Falcons set a franchise record by scoring 540 points and Ryan had career bests in yards passing (4,944), TD passes (38) and passer rating (117.1). Then the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead on New England in the Super Bowl and Shanhan left for the Bay Area shortly after.
Out West, Shanahan and Garoppolo hope for their own special playoff run with a different result.
Ryan threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jones midway through the second quarter and the Falcons led 10-7 on Younghoe Koo's 43-yard field goal late in the quarter before the Niners tied it with a 22-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
SECONDARY STEPS UP
The 49ers made plays on defense despite their depleted secondary that was missing cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Jaquiski Tarrt and slot cornerback K'Waun Williams.
Harris, in for Tartt, made the big breakup late and also batted away a third-down pass by Ryan on Atlanta's opening series then Dre Greenlaw had a deflection as the Falcons punted again their next chance.
FUMBLE FOR NOTHING
In the closing minute of the third, Grady Jarrett forced a fumble by 49ers running back Matt Breida and recovered at the Falcons 34 but Atlanta couldn't make good on it.
Falcons: DE Takk McKinley went down with a shoulder injury near the 49ers sideline at the 8:28 mark of the opening quarter and didn't return. Atlanta then lost linebacker Foyesade Oluokun to a shoulder injury in the second half.
Falcons: Host Jacksonville on Sunday.
49ers: Host Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
Minnesota Vikings kicker Dan Bailey had himself a game in Week 15, going 4-for-4 on field goals attempts and knocking in three extra points in a 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Bailey hit from 26, 27, 38, and 44 yards and is now sitting at an impressive 92% field goal percentage for the season. Bailey is a recommended start in Week 16's home matchup against the rival Green Bay Packers.
Oakland Raiders WR Tyrell Williams caught two of his three targets for 45 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown, in a 20-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: After scoring in five consecutive games to open the year, Williams had gone six straight games without a touchdown prior to the Week 15 contests. He's an all-or-nothing, touchdown-dependent flex option.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. caught two of three targets for eight yards and a touchdown in Week 15's convincing win over the Los Angeles Chargers. His score was a one-yarder off of play-action to open up the game's scoring in the first quarter. It was the second touchdown of the promising rookie's career, with the first coming back in Week 11. That being said, Smith Jr. is still working behind Kyle Rudolph and does not receive enough volume to be in consideration for fantasy rosters heading into Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Chris Conley caught four of his eight targets for 49 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-16 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Conley has been good for a handful of grabs and around 50 yards most weeks, but he entered the game with just two touchdowns. At best, he's a risky flex option.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey rushed 19 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks. He also added eight grabs for 88 yards on 10 targets.
Fantasy Spin: McCaffrey continues to put up amazing numbers, win or lose. He will be in the conversation for No. 1 overall fantasy pick heading into the 2020 season. The Panthers travel to meet the Colts in Week 16.
Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore finished with eight catches for 113 yards on 12 targets in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Fantasy Spin: That's four 100-yard games in the past seven outings, and at least 75 yards in all seven during the span. He is a legit WR2 in PPR formats, and a nice WR3 or flex option in standard play. The Panthers travel to meet the Colts in Week 16.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 19-of-25 for 207 yards and a touchdown in a dominating Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He also added three rushes for 14 yards. He did toss an interception, but the blame for that one lays squarely on backup running back Ameer Abdullah. Cousins was very efficient again this week, but he simply didn't need to put up big fantasy numbers as the Vikings held a two-possession lead and heavily emphasized the ground game for most of the second half. His lone touchdown pass came on a one-yarder to Irv Smith Jr. to open up the game. Cousins will be on the low-end QB1 radar for Week 16's home matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
The Washington Redskins Defense ended a three-game streak of playing admirably in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. Carson Wentz launched three touchdowns through the air, while Miles Sanders racked up 172 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns of his own. The Redskins didn't help their bottom line with turnovers and sacks the way they have been of late, getting to Wentz just twice and recovering one forced fumble. The end result was 31 points surrendered defensively and not enough complementary stats to account for those points in fantasy lineups. Washington's defense will have a chance to bounce back against the Giants at home next week.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph caught all three of his targets for 48 yards in Week 15's 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Rudolph finished second in targets and receiving yardage on the team this week as he surprisingly remained relevant despite Adam Thielen's return. Rookie Irv Smith Jr. vultured a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but Rudolph's continued involvement in the offense is definitely encouraging. Continue to view him as a touchdown-dependent TE2 heading into Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers.
Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon had one grab for 58 yards on his only target in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers and he also threw a pass and was picked off.
Fantasy Spin: Gordon is a big-play receiver capable of being a fantasy contributor. He just still isn't 100 percent part of the offense yet. Avoid him outside of deeper fantasy leagues in Week 16 against the Cardinals.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette rushed 15 times for 42 yards and caught five of his seven targets for 31 yards in a 20-16 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Fournette has been held to 50 rushing yards or less in three straight games, but fortunately for fantasy owners, his increased role in the passing game this year has allowed him to salvage decent point totals more often than not. At worst, he should be a volume-based RB2.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner totaled 10 tackles with two passes defensed in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly totaled 17 tackles with two quarterback hits in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon was largely absent from his team's offensive attack for the second week in a row on Sunday. Harmon caught two passes on three targets and accumulated just 22 total yards in a loss to the Eagles. This is a discouraging trend for Harmon after he appeared to be carving out a spot in the pecking order in late November and early December. In any case, the fantasy season is at the point where owners just have to trust what their eyes are telling them. Harmon has dropped too far off the map to be considered a realistically safe bet in the late stages of the fantasy playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett posted eight receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Carolina Panthers on a team-high nine targets.
Fantasy Spin: Lockett had been banged up recently, battling a shin contusion, but he is back just in time for fantasy owners. The Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson rushed 24 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers.
Fantasy Spin: With Rashaad Penny out of the picture it's the Chris Carson Show, and he more than looked capable of handling the entire workload. He is in line for a huge fantasy performance in Week 16 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson rushed 16 times for 66 yards and a touchdown and caught all three of his targets for 25 yards in a 37-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: An injury to Derrius Guice has Peterson leading the Washington backfield once again, and he has topped 75 total yards and scored in each of the past three games. He's a legitimate RB2 candidate heading into a favorable Week 16 matchup against the New York Giants.
Cleveland Browns kicker Austin Seibert hit one of his two field goals in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15. Seibert also tacked on three extra points in the loss. The rookie kicker missed a 45-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, his fourth missed field goal of the season. In all, Seibert has been a reliable kicker for the Browns this season, although their poor offense has limited his scoring chances. Seibert will not be a recommended fantasy option in Week 16 against a tough Baltimore Ravens Defense.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen was quiet in his return, catching all three of his targets for 27 yards in a 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He added one rush for three yards. The Vikings only attempted five passes in the second half as they held a solid lead shortly after halftime, severely limiting Thielen's chances at a big game. Stefon Diggs was actually the only receiver to see more than three targets in the contest and Irv Smith Jr. caught the only receiving touchdown. The good news is that Thielen appeared fully healthy, and he can be utilized as a WR2 in next week's crucial tilt with the Green Bay Packers.
The Cleveland Browns Defense struggled in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15. In addition to coughing up 38 points, Cleveland managed just one turnover and was unable to notch a sack in the loss, despite Arizona's offense line being one of the league leaders in quarterback sacks allowed this season. Things will get much worse for Cleveland's defense in Week 16 as they will try to limit a red-hot Baltimore Ravens offense. They will be a unit to avoid in fantasy for the fantasy championship round.