Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
The 49ers have been in a nosedive since starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Kansas City Week 3. Playing an 0-4 team at home should be a good game to get things headed in the right direction. The 49ers outplayed the Cardinals most of the game, but lost by double digits. Why? The 49ers turned the ball over five times, and didn’t get a turnover on defense. When you lose the turnover battle that badly, you almost always lose the game.
The 49ers offense moved the ball well in this game; the problem was that five drives ended up in turnovers. The offense ran a franchise record 92 plays in the game. Let me say that again, FRANCHISE RECORD 92 plays in a loss. The 49ers won almost every statistical measure in the game but just couldn’t overcome the big turnovers.
I want to go over a few successful plays, and cover a few of the turnovers.
On third-and-long you want your quarterback to be at his best. On this play CJ Beathard hits his favorite target, tight end George Kittle, just as he comes out of his break. A three-by-one set with two receivers and a tight end lined up on one side of the formation. The route combination of the two receivers, one on an in-cutting route and one running an out-breaking route, puts the zone defenders in a bind. The tight end’s slant goes right into the soft spot of the zone, and the quarterback puts the ball on him on time. Great play and execution on third-and-long for a first down to keep a drive going.
The very next play:
A fumble by running back Raheem Mostert, who was in the game due to running back Matt Breida being injured a few plays prior. This fumble led directly to the Cardinals’ offense scoring a touchdown.
Left tackle Joe Staley does his best to push defensive end Chandler Jones outside the pocket, which he does a very good job of. But yet it turned into a strip sack.
The turnovers continue to haunt the 49ers late in the game down by two.
A delayed blitz, which turns into six points for the defense. The running back also gets killed in pass protection. Beathard needs to see that this play is failing and just throw the ball at the feet of his running back.
Not all plays were bad, though. This was actually a really nice game from the 49ers offense outside of the five turnovers -- though it's impossible to overlook five turnovers -- they moved the ball well all game.
The first drive of the game for the 49ers offense was fantastic. Kyle Shanahan used multiple formations and looks just on the first drive alone to confuse the Cardinals defense, and it worked. This play inside the 30-yard line is a great example of how to get the ball into one of your playmakers’ hands. The play-action fake causes the linebackers to move inside. The left side of the offensive line lets their defenders go by, and the fullback does the same. The ball ends up in the fullback’s hands with two huge linemen to lead the way.
This was a play that when I saw live I thought to myself what a simple yet brilliant design. A cornerback’s instinct is to cover the deep route, and this route combination uses that against the cornerback, who bites for just a split second on the deep route, leaving the underneath route wide open. Beathard knew this play would work and threw this ball before the receiver was even open. Beathard clearly understands Kyle Shanahan’s offense and trusts what he sees.
The biggest plays on offense for the 49ers seem to be going to the fullback and the tight end this season. When your biggest playmakers on offense are a fullback and a tight end, your offense may have a problem. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best playcallers at getting his playmakers the ball, and that’s what he’s doing. Not having that deep threat on the outside or that dominant route runner at wide receiver is really hurting this offense. There are only so many ways you can get the ball in the fullback’s hands. Injuries are plaguing the 49ers this season, and outside of the quarterback, the weapons on the outside have hurt this passing game the most.
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