The offense again failed to score when receiver Michael Crabtree lost a fumble at the Atlanta 1, but after forcing the Falcons to an ensuing three-and-out, the defense was delighted to see Frank Gore run for a 9-yard touchdown and a 28-24 lead.
“We believe in our offense,” Willis said. “We understand that if we get stops, they’re going to score points.”
The turn of events contrasted sharply from the early stages of the game when the 49ers appeared to have no answer for Ryan, White, Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
By the first minute of the second quarter, Jones had scored two TDs, beating cornerback Tarell Brown both times. On the first score, it seemed that Brown mistakenly released Jones on a deep route, and the blown coverage allowed Jones to outrun free safety Dashon Goldson for a 46-yard score.
After Falcons kicker Matt Bryant’s 35-yard field goal made it 10-0 on Atlanta’s second possession, Ryan and Jones hooked up on a 20-yard TD. Jones caught the ball over his right shoulder in the left back corner of the end zone and deftly kept both feet inbounds to make it 17-0.
Jones and White combined for 226 yards receiving on 13 catches in the first half, many of them coming on underneath crossing routes as the two wideouts made several athletic plays.
In the second half, however, Jones and White combined for six catches and 62 yards.
Good fortune helped the Niners rally, too.
On the Falcons’ final drive, cornerback Carlos Rogers fell down while covering slot receiver Harry Douglas on a deep pass near the right sideline, but San Francisco caught a big break when Douglas stumbled on his way to making a disputed 22-yard catch at the Niners 28.
Had he stayed on his feet, Douglas could have scored a touchdown on Atlanta’s final drive.