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Another big day for Carlos Hyde needed for 49ers to pull upset

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers (1-12) and Atlanta Falcons (8-5) meet as part of the Week 15 slate on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Kick off is set for the unusual time of 4:05 p.m. ET.

Here's a look at three things to watch from the Niners' perspective:

1. Hyde seeks consistency

Against all statistical predictors, Niners running back Carlos Hyde posted the best game of his NFL career last week against the New York Jets. New York entered that contest fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and second in rushing yards allowed per carry. Although there had been signs of weakness in preceding weeks, Hyde's 193-yard outing caught everyone by surprise.

Even coach Chip Kelly said the Niners didn't expect to be able to have such success running the ball against the Jets. Although Hyde's breakout game was a bit of a surprise, it wasn't completely out of left field because he'd been showing signs of getting rolling in previous weeks.

Including the game against the Jets, Hyde is averaging 109 yards and 6.32 yards per carry over the past four weeks. He's moved to within 121 yards of his first career 1,000-yard season and if he can go over the century mark against Atlanta, it would be the first back-to-back 100-yard games of his career. The Niners haven't had a back do so since Frank Gore's final two games with the team in 2014.

Atlanta's run defense, meanwhile, has been mostly middling against the run this season. The Falcons are 23rd in the league in yards per carry allowed at 4.32 and 14th in rushing yards per game allowed (101.1).

Teams can run against the Falcons but because of Atlanta's high-powered offense, the ability to stick to the run all game has evaded many opponents. In the Niners' case, running the ball well will be key in keeping it close and preventing Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and Co. from doing their usual damage.

2. Taylor made

With star receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu dealing with injuries, the Falcons passing game hasn't really seemed to be hampered too much. Ryan and his receivers still lit up the scoreboard last week against the Rams.

One of the biggest reasons for that comes in a small, relatively unknown package: receiver Taylor Gabriel. The 5-foot-8, 167-pound Gabriel has emerged out of the shadows of undrafted free agency to become one of the league's most electric young players. In the past six games, Gabriel has five receiving touchdowns after posting just one scoring grab in his first 34 games.

Since Week 8, only Washington's DeSean Jackson (25.2) is averaging more yards per catch than Gabriel's 18.9. For the season, Gabriel has 29 catches for 504 yards (17.38 per reception) and five scores.

The 49ers have been focused on slowing down the run game, leaving their corners in more one-on-one situations. Dealing with Gabriel -- with or without the help of Jones and/or Sanu -- figures to be a difficult task for the 49ers secondary.

3. Dealing with Beasley

For the most part, the Niners' patchwork offensive line held up well last week against the Jets despite all of the shuffling. It looks like that group will again be without some key components after center Daniel Kilgore was lost for the season to a hamstring injury. Left tackle Joe Staley is still dealing with a hamstring injury, making his status uncertain though he didn't put in a full week of practice.

If the 49ers are again without Staley, that means they will have a front five from left to right that includes Zane Beadles, Andrew Tiller, Marcus Martin, Joshua Garnett and Trent Brown.

In previous years, the Falcons have yearned for an improved pass rush, putting draft picks and money into revamping that group. It seems like it's paid off this season, as second-year pro Vic Beasley Jr. is enjoying a breakthrough season.

Beasley has six forced fumbles, the most in the NFL, and his 13.5 sacks are tied with Denver's Von Miller for most in the league. With a strong finish, Beasley could become the third player since 2001 to have at least a share of the league lead in forced fumbles and sacks, joining Michael Strahan and Robert Mathis in that club.

Atlanta also gets pass rush from the likes of ends Dwight Freeney and Adrian Clayborn. That puts the onus on a line with a lot of moving parts to coalesce in a short period of time in order to slow Atlanta down.