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49er Defense Grows Up a Little More at Falcons' Expense

November 20, 2000|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco 49ers' investment in young defensive players is producing returns.

San Francisco's defense, last in the NFL in yardage allowed entering the game, held the Atlanta Falcons to 211 total yards Sunday in a 16-6 victory. Rookie cornerback Jason Webster returned an interception 70 yards for the game's only touchdown.

These 49ers bore little resemblance to the tentative group that allowed eight teams to score 30 points or more this year.

"I think we're showing progress, and I think the confidence is starting to creep in a little bit," 49er Coach Steve Mariucci said. "We need to develop a swagger here. It's going to take a year or two to get that 49er swagger back."

San Francisco (4-8) sacked Chris Chandler four times--two by all-pro defensive end Bryant Young--and kept the Falcons out of the end zone. The 49ers, who defeated Kansas City, 21-7, last week, held consecutive opponents under 10 points for the first time since the third and fourth weeks of the 1997 season.

"We always knew we were capable of playing this way," Young said. "Now everybody has to believe it."

Charlie Garner had 135 total yards, and Wade Richey emerged from a lengthy slump to kick three field goals, but the 49ers struggled to move the ball and had 85 yards in penalties.

Despite a strong defensive performance of their own, the Falcons (3-9) suffered their third consecutive loss and eighth in the last nine games. Atlanta Coach Dan Reeves said the Falcons will stay in the Bay Area and work out at Stanford until next Sunday's meeting with the Oakland Raiders.

The Falcons, who defeated San Francisco, 36-28, in Week 1, haven't won there since 1991. Jamal Anderson was held to 76 yards rushing, and Chandler was 16 of 33 for 154 yards.

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