San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: NaVorro Bowman, 49ers’ defense play like previous versions

Video: QBs Gabbert and Kaepernick prepare for 49ers-Falcons game

Here's the scene as newly named starter Blaine Gabbert and the player he replaced, Colin Kaepernick, warmed up before the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons squared off in their NFL game on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.
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Here's the scene as newly named starter Blaine Gabbert and the player he replaced, Colin Kaepernick, warmed up before the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons squared off in their NFL game on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.

NaVorro Bowman’s string of big games against the Atlanta Falcons continued on Sunday as the 49ers linebacker looked as close to his pre-injury self as he has this season.

Bowman, who batted down a last-second pass against Atlanta in the 2012 NFC championship game and returned an interception for a touchdown against the Falcons in the finale at Candlestick Park in 2013, finished tied for the team lead with seven tackles and had one of San Francisco’s two sacks on Matt Ryan.

He also helped limit running back Devonta Freeman, who entered the game as the league leader in rushing yards, to 12 yards on 12 carries.

The effort was reminiscent of 49ers defenses in previous seasons and signaled to Bowman that the young players around him finally understood how to shut down an opponent.

“I think us playing with each other and going through adverse times helps us realize that whatever happens, we have to control what happens on defense,” he said. “Going through all that, you’re either going backward or forward. The guys we have in are young, but as long as they’re trying to get better and go forward, we’re going to get better to be able to play the run like we have in the past years.”

San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert gets a lot of attention at the end of the game after he helps lead the 49ers to a 17-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Gabbert's first start in over two years. Video by Manny Crisostomo, mcrisostomo@sa

The 49ers began the game without their top three cornerbacks – Tramaine Brock (shin), Kenneth Acker (concussion) and Keith Reaser (ankle) – all of whom were roughed up in last week’s loss to the Rams. That left Dontae Johnson and Marcus Cromartie as the starters, with newcomer Chris Davis also logging a lot of snaps. Cromartie and Davis were elevated from the practice squad Saturday.

The group certainly didn’t shut down Ryan or his favorite target, Julio Jones. The quarterback finished with 303 passing yards, while Jones had 137 receiving yards. But the 49ers held Atlanta to one touchdown and forced seven punts.

The group certainly didn’t shut down Ryan or his favorite target, Julio Jones. The quarterback finished with 303 passing yards, while Jones had 137 receiving yards. But the 49ers held Atlanta to one touchdown and forced seven punts.

“I think that was a good example of how hard we’re working and how many hours we’re putting in throughout the week to get it right,” Cromartie said. “We showed that today.”

Draughn contributes – Since running back Shaun Draughn was signed on Monday, his days have been the same: Arrive at work at 6:30 a.m. and stay until 9:30 p.m.

The cram sessions paid off as Draughn, one of three newcomers at running back, started Sunday and finished with 96 combined rushing and receiving yards.

96 Combined rushing and receiving yards by Shaun Draughn, whom the 49ers signed Monday

Kendall Gaskins handled the short-yardage role while Pierre Thomas, who was signed Tuesday, and had four carries for 12 yards.

Draughn, meanwhile, had a 30-yard run in the second quarter that was the longest of his five-year NFL career and the longest of the season for the 49ers.

“I really haven’t played offense in a while,” he said. “I’ve been playing special teams and got released two or three weeks ago from the Browns. I wasn’t too bad (today), but it was a bit of an adjustment. When you’re called, that’s part of the job.”

San Francisco 49ers fans on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, weighed in on the benching of quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who started for the 49ers in their NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Right-guard shuffle – The 49ers rotated Jordan Devey and Andrew Tiller at right guard, as they have for the last month. But this time there was a twist.

At one point in the first half, Erik Pears, the starter at right tackle, moved to guard. That allowed Trent Brown, a seventh-round pick, to get his first snaps of the season at tackle.

Et cetera – Cromartie suffered a cut on his lip that required stitches at halftime. He returned to the game. Safety Jimmie Ward and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch each sprained an ankle but returned to the game. Lynch also suffered a dislocated finger.

▪ Rookie Arik Armstead (Pleasant Grove High School) was credited with one tackle and a quarterback hit.

▪ With punter Bradley Pinion dealing with a calf strain, kicker Phil Dawson handled kickoffs for the first time this season. The 49ers had no touchbacks.

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