Then came the cornerback's lost fumble during the return and a new decisive moment in the NFC West for Week 4.
Gaining yardage on the return was important for the 49ers because the Atlanta Falcons had all three timeouts remaining while trailing by only a point with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. Making sure the 49ers had possession deep in Falcons territory made sense in case something went wrong once San Francisco took over.
But returning the interception all 49 yards for a touchdown actually would have benefited the Falcons by giving them the ball in a one-possession game with three timeouts and enough time to move down the field.
If Clements were going for a long return, he needed to make ball security his top priority. He did not, and Falcons receiver Roddy White made the 49ers pay, knocking the ball loose. Atlanta recovered at its 7-yard-line and quickly moved to the San Francisco 25, setting up a 43-yard field goal to win the game.