Jimmy Garoppolo is human after all. His 7-0 record as a starter now becomes 7-1. On the road in Minnesota against arguably the best defense in the NFL in Week 1 is a tough start to the season for the 2018 San Francisco 49ers. There were three interceptions thrown by newly-paid quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a fumble at the goal line by running back Alfred Morris, and a huge drop from tight end George Kittle. Yet, the team still had a chance late in the 4th quarter.
Kyle Shanahan threw the kitchen sink at the Vikings, and they were mostly ready for it. The Vikings defense is one of the faster defenses I’ve seen, and was ready for some of the plays Shanahan called. But that doesn’t mean Shanahan didn’t get the better of the defense throughout the game, because he did.
This is a Shanahan staple, a play he likes to run once or twice a game. You may recognize it from my preseason Week 2 film study. The Yankee concept is a play action fake 2-deep route passing play. The two routes, deep post and a dig route, work in unison with the play action, can create huge separation for the receivers. The read on this play is deep to intermediate. Garoppolo sees the deep post is carried by the free safety so he goes underneath to the tight end Kittle, who is open in the middle of the field. This is a different look to this concept than in years past for Shanahan as he has the tight end running the dig route as opposed to a receiver. Old Reliable for Kyle Shanahan comes through again.
This is a well-designed play from Shanahan. The throw goes to wide receiver Trent Taylor (#81) in the middle of the field, but there were multiple options for the quarterback to throw to, especially the tight end in the back of the endzone.
In the red zone, execution is key. That applies to both teams. In this instance, a great play design by Shanahan that is well executed by the offense. The slot receiver Trent Taylor (#81) gets one on one with a linebacker, who he should beat easily for a touchdown, right? Well this Vikings defense has elite speed at every level. The linebacker gives up the pass, but uses his closing speed to make the tackle. Against most teams in the NFL this is a touchdown, but the Vikings are a different story.
This is a throw Garoppolo is going to want back. This play follows the previous play. The QB has Kittle open in the back of the end zone and misses him. Garoppolo hesitates before he throws it and is a tad late; the pass sails over the head of the tight end Kittle. The underneath route by the receiver Pierre Garcon (#15) creates confusion between the two cornerbacks and also holds the middle linebacker letting Kittle get open in the back of the endzone. Missed opportunities in the red zone against a team like the Vikings just cannot happen if you want to win on the road.
Everyone knows when you can throw deep to the fullback, you do it. Shanahan does a nice job of designing a route combination to get the ball to his “offensive weapon,” Kyle Juszczyk (#44). Juszczyk runs a drag and go route, which in combination with the route by the outside receiver, leaves Juszczyk wide open down the field. The safety in coverage over Juszczyk assumes he is not going deep and stays covering the hook/curl zone underneath, as Juszczyk runs by him for a long play. Well-designed and well-executed by the offense.
On this play the Vikings offense runs a perfect cover-3 zone-beating route concept. The 49ers defense is in a cover-3 zone, with the two outside cornerbacks responsible for a deep one-third and the free safety responsible for the deep-middle third. The Vikings use a clever route combination to put the slot corner K’Waun Williams (#24) in a tough position with two players to cover in the underneath hook/curl zone. The route combination by the Vikings’ three wide receivers put the linebacker and the slot corner in a tough position, trying to decide which route to cover.
The linebacker Brock Coyle (#50) carries deep route instead of covering crossing route in middle of the field, which puts three defenders on the deep route to the bottom- third portion of the cover-3 zone. The 49ers have all deep routes covered, as well as the tight end underneath. But the linebacker carrying the deep route puts the slot cornerback in an impossible spot.
The route concept is sound, especially against cover-3, which is what the 49ers run a lot. This is a play that should have been covered by the defense, but the linebacker got confused by the route concept and carried the wrong route, creating all that open space for the wide receiver. I would not be surprised if we see this play in Kyle Shanahan’s playbook in the future, especially against a team like the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers have begun the 2018 season 0-1. The Minnesota Vikings have a Super Bowl roster, and has what I consider the best overall defense in the NFL. The 49ers went on the road, made some big mistakes in the game, including four turnovers, and still had a chance late in the game to come away with a victory. This young 49ers team may not be ready to win a game like this: on the road, in an early game, against a talented team like the Vikings. Young teams have to learn how to keep their discipline in a hostile environment in the NFL. I’m confident that this team will learn a lot from this game, and will make them a more resilient and disciplined team in the future.
(All GIFs and images courtesy of the NFL)
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