Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
Life goes on without franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Second-year quarterback C.J. Beathard is now the man under center for the 2018 49ers, and the future rests in his hands. His first game as a starter this season came in a road game -- though you wouldn’t have known it was a road game if you looked in the stands -- and he showed improvement in year two under head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Beathard played well enough to win, he wasn't perfect by any means, but the team had a 14 point lead early and had a lead late in the game. Defensively it was an up and down game. It started strong for the young defense with a pick-6 on the first drive of the game, but lapses in zone coverage and poor tackling plagued the team throughout the game.
Defensive responsibility can be difficult to figure out when you don’t know the exact play call, but when you have two guys carrying one route, leaving a running back wide open, it’s clear a breakdown in zone coverage happened.
The running back comes off of play-action and sees nothing but green grass in front of him. Two linebackers and a cornerback end up carrying the same route. The outside receiver runs a post route that carries the outside corner and occupies both linebackers,leaving a huge void in the middle of the field. One of the linebackers should have stayed in the middle of the field to occupy that area. These are the kind of lapses in coverage we saw on multiple occasions.
C.J. Beathard is a tough dude; that is one thing no one can argue. On this play, he stares down a blitzing defender and delivers a perfect ball to tight end George Kittle in the middle of the field. Beathard understood the route combination by the tight end and the slot receiver, he knew if he held the ball just long enough to let the tight end get out of his break, that he would be open. The slot corner, running an out breaking route, holds the corner. Beathard, under serious pressure, throws an on time ball to the tight end for a nice gain. Beathard had to let this ball go at the right time, just after the tight end is out of his break, but before the safety could get there. An encouraging play for the young quarterback.
Beathard shows he has no issue fitting a ball into a small window in the red zone. One of the better throws I've seen from Beathard in his NFL career. The play-action holds the linebacker and the safety just enough to give the receiver Kendrick Bourne enough space to be one-on-one with the corner, who Bourne gets just a step on. Beathard hits Bourne in rhythm and on time for a touchdown.
Here, a slow developing play to Kendrick Bourne, who seems to be one of Beathard's favorite targets. This is another one of those concepts that works off of the 49ers base run play, the outside zone.
Outside zone run play, you can recognize it by the flow of the offensive line to the play side of the field.
When you add play-action boot off of the outside zone it creates problems for a defense. First thing it does is neutralize a good pass rush. With the offensive line moving the defensive line in one direction, and the quarterback moving in another direction, it takes the quarterback away from the defensive line. It gives a quarterback more time to let routes develop downfield.
The outside receiver (Bourne) is going to run a post, but the outside corner has to respect that he may run a go towards the end zone, or a deeper post route. The inline tight end (George Kittle), who the defense has to respect, does a stutter-and-go post towards the sideline.
After Bourne comes out of his break on the post, the corner is too deep, who was worried about the deep go route or deeper post, and who also knew he should have inside help. The middle linebacker has to stay in the middle short part of the zone due to the tight end or the running back that could come off a block to run a route in the middle of the field or towards the boundary. The safety over the top was caught peeking at the tight end Kittle, who had been the go to player for Beathard throughout this game. These three things lead to a lot of green grass in front of Bourne out of his break. Beathard is a tad late on the throw, but the design was executed so well it didn’t matter, Bourne had plenty of room to work with.
A loss is a loss, and any coach will tell you that. But this loss the team will remember. Coming off of a game in which the franchise quarterback was lost for the season, the team had a chance to win but couldn’t finish. This young team needs to learn how to do just that:finish.
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