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Yet, he did not carry that play with him when he returned to the field on special teams. Andersen’s speed saved a surefire punt-return touchdown by Ray-Ray McCloud.

Andersen played smart in coverage, taking away options for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the middle of the field on most passing downs. One particular sequence late in the game saw Andersen matched up with tight end George Kittle on a seam route. Andersen was up to the task, forcing Garoppolo to look elsewhere and ultimately setting up a fourth-and-1 that stalled the drive for the 49ers.

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“We worked on that in practice a bit. Kittle is a big target,” Andersen said. “We prepared during the week, and it worked during the game.”

Andersen nearly matched his total tackles for the season (13) in his first starting appearance.

Andersen played alongside Rashaan Evans, who took over Walker’s play-calling duties. Evans also had 12 tackles and a forced fumble.

Adjusting to a new partner could have taken time but did not seem to impact Evans.

“I feel like I did really good; there’s always room for improvement,” Evans said. “I need to continue to be a great leader, keep doing what the coaches ask, and the success will come.”

Evans made sure that he highlighted Andersen’s play.

“He did his job. He did everything the coaches asked for him to do,” Evans said. “Sky’s the limit, and I am proud to see what he was able to do and perform.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith and others acknowledged Andersen’s strong game.

Defensive leader Grady Jarrett also praised Evans and Andersen, who helped the defense pitch a shutout in the second half.

“Rashaan was someone I was super excited to have on the team,” Jarrett said. “He and Troy did a great job today with Mykal out. Commanding the defense and getting the calls out, I’m excited to see him grow and keep improving as he has all year. I’m glad he is getting recognition for it.”



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