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Blaine Gabbert and defense lead 49ers to victory over Falcons

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Blaine Gabbert, making his first start for the San Francisco 49ers, was a game manager in the Niners’ 17-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, keeping things simple while dissecting the Falcons’ defense.

Gabbert not only ended not only his personal 10-game losing streak as a starter, dating to Sept. 23, 2012, but also served as a spark for the once-moribund Niners offense by ending a nine-quarter touchdownless streak.

He threw for a workmanlike 185 yards on 15-of-25 passing with two TDs and two interceptions.

In fact, Colin Kaepernick replaced Gabbert for two plays -- a handoff and a long pass that was dropped by Vance McDonald -- early in the fourth quarter when Philip Wheeler ran over Gabbert, a play that drew a flag for a 15-yard penalty.

The Niners' defense in general, and NaVorro Bowman in particular, also was stout in harassing Matt Ryan all day long.

What were they thinking? After announcing that Kendall Gaskins would start at running back, the Niners instead started Shaun Draughn, who signed with the team on Monday. He looked comfortable in rushing for 50 yards on 10 carries, including a 30-yard burst in the first half.

One reason to get excited: Gabbert was not sacked in the first half, this after Kaepernick was sacked 28 times in the team’s first eight games. Better protection, or better understanding in the pocket?

One reason to panic: It’s all relative, but the 5-yard penalty for illegal motion on center Marcus Martin before the team’s first snap under Gabbert did not bode well at the time.

Fantasy watch: Quinton Patton caught only three passes, but they gained a combined 70 yards. Garrett Celek, meanwhile, had just two receptions for 12 yards, and both scored touchdowns.

Ouch: Outside linebacker and leading sackmeister Aaron Lynch missed time with apparent ankle and hand/wrist injuries. Cornerback Marcus Cromartie's face was cut late in the first half, but he returned after halftime.

And the game ball goes to? Yo Gabbert Gabbert. The Niners' new starting QB was so adept at game managing that his two interceptions did not cost the team. If the offense continues to hum like this after the bye week, why not stay with him?

Up next: The Niners (3-6) enjoy their bye week, and it could not come a better time, with so many injuries and roster upheaval and, well, good vibes from this victory. Their next game is at the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 22. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 20-3 at Levi’s Stadium on Oct. 22.