Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
No one could fault the 49ers for losing that heart breaker to Brett Favre and the Vikings in Week 3.
This defeat -- at home against a Falcons team that hadn't shown much to this point -- could prove more costly.
The 49ers, so close to a 4-0 start, find themselves 3-2 with road games against the Texans and Colts waiting on the other side of a Week 6 bye.
Their grip on the NFC West lead appears considerably more tenuous after the Cardinals and Seahawks won Sunday.
For the first time this season, the 49ers failed to come anywhere close to realizing their potential in multiple areas. They were sloppy with the football, committing frequent turnovers. They were sloppy in pass coverage, allowing Falcons receiver Roddy White to enjoy a career day at the expense of their proud defense.
The 49ers also did not get the breaks this time, as when Shaun Hill's tipped pass floated directly to a Falcons defender, setting the tone ominously for the 49ers. Hill struggled when the 49ers fell behind and needed their quarterback to bail them out. That had to come as no surprise to the 49ers, who have protected Hill with a sometimes overly conservative offense.
This outcome demonstrated emphatically that the 49ers cannot always count on their defense and special teams to score touchdowns against good teams. The 49ers are going to have to grind it out and they'll need to play much more efficiently than they did Sunday.
The 49ers are a mentally tough team. They should weather this defeat.
But they are also a limited team offensively, as expected, and that will sometimes cost them.