The Boys of Fall: The 49ers Offensive Bright Spots
Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
A loss like the one suffered on Monday Night Football can leave 49ers fans feeling like they went 10 rounds with Jose Cuervo. A week after having their Sunday night game with the Los Angeles Rams flexed out of prime time, a game in which they were to wear throwback jerseys and unveil a statue honoring the late Dwight Clark, the team, led by a once-aspiring country music singer, authored their comeback song of sorts going blow-for-blow with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Lambeau Field, ultimately falling short 33-30. Despite the loss there were plenty of bright spots for the 49ers, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Last year was Goodwin’s coming-out party and both he and the 49ers were hoping it would carryover, but leg injuries have hounded him since the second quarter of Week 1 causing him to miss two games. Goodwin has “don’t blink” speed, which in many ways is the key that unlocks Shanahan’s offense, and that was evident throughout the game. On Goodwin’s first catch the cornerback was playing so far off he was practically in Sheboygan, which made for an easy pitch-and-catch. Goodwin was able to attack all levels of the field -- short, intermediate and deep -- shredding the Packers’ defense for 126 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns. It was clear early that Goodwin was firing on all cylinders which meant the Packers were forced to honor his presence which helped open lanes in the running game.
Against Arizona Beathard’s pocket presence, or more appropriately, the lack of pocket presence led to two sack-fumbles and ended any chance of the 49ers had of winning the game. On Monday night Beathard showed much better awareness in the pocket, avoiding the rush and finding his targets downfield. Downfield throws were missing against the Cardinals (not surprising without Goodwin or Pettis), which was evidenced by Beathard’s 6.46 yards per attempt. However, Beathard’s 10.65 yards per attempt on Monday night was the perfect complement to a run-heavy attack. Beathard continued to show the toughness that caught Kyle Shanahan’s attention before the draft and a mobility that he was not known for coming out of college and he occasionally married the two, taking significant hits at the end of a couple of first down scrambles.
With Matt Breida a game time decision due to an ankle sprain, it stood to reason that the 49ers might try and limit the number of snaps that Breida got, but to the surprise of many (judging from my Twitter feed) the first running back off the bench Monday night was Raheem Mostert and not Alfred Morris. Mostert has, to this point, made his name on special teams covering kickoffs and punts, but he ran the ball really well Monday night, carrying the ball 12 times for 87 yards (7.3 yards per carry) and aggressively attacking the Packers’ defense and was a shoestring-tackle away from breaking a long run at the end of the first half. Perhaps the best part of Mostert’s night was that he showed no signs of the fumble-itis that has plagued him since preseason.
The Offensive Line:
The big fellas upfront don’t get a lot of recognition, and when they do get noticed it is usually because something bad happened, but that was not the case Monday night. The five guys, Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Person and Mike McGlinchey opened up holes in the run game (30 rushing attempts, 174 yards, for an average of 5.8 yards per carry, and a touchdown) and created nice big pockets that allowed Beathard time to find Goodwin on some downfield throws. Staley, Tomlinson and McGlinchey each made the Pro Football Focus team of the week for Week 6, giving up one hurry among them on 29 pass blocking snaps.
As the offensive coordinator and playcaller for the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan deserves some recognition for the game plan and the game he called Monday night. Shanahan was not perfect against the Packers. A lot has been said about the decision to throw the ball that led to an interception with 1:13 left in the 4th quarter when Green Bay had no time outs left, if he calls a run in that situation maybe Rodgers doesn’t have time to get his team in to field-goal range, but that last series aside the game management was good. This game plan did not have a lot of the unique play design Shanahan is known for, but Kyle clearly had a plan to attack the Green Bay defense on the edges with speed using Raheem Mostert as the primary backup to Matt Breida ahead of the usual number two, Alfred Morris. Shanahan also overcame his nature and ran the ball 30 times and asked C.J. Beathard to attempt just 23 passes. The issues with clock management at the end of the game notwithstanding, Shanahan did correctly manage the clock at the end of the first half by not leaving time for Rodgers, unlike two weeks ago when he left enough time for the Chargers to get a field goal in the final seconds of the first half. Overall, Shanahan showed adaptability to personnel and game script that some may have wondered if he was capable of twenty-two games into his head coaching career.
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