Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
A common theme for the 49ers this season, other than injuries and losing, has been effort. Throughout all of the negatives, this team has continued to play hard week in and week out. Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay was different. The Niners came out flat and played like it the entire game. For maybe just the second time all season, the Niners did not show up.
With how ugly the loss to the Bucs was, there were some positives to take away. Other than Matt Breida’s continued dominance, some other young players emerged in this game. Rookies Dante Pettis and Jeff Wilson had some nice performances and earned some more looks moving forward. Pettis had four catches on seven targets for 77 yards and a touchdown. Running back Wilson, who made his debut Sunday, ran the ball seven times for 33 yards with a 4.7 YPC average. In addition to getting his first few carries in the NFL, he nearly scored a goal line touchdown that inevitably would be substituted for a field goal after review. The last positive in this game was just one surprising carry by George Kittle, who rushed for ten yards and caught everybody off guard. It’s safe to say that Kyle Shanahan should just scheme up plays for George Kittle in every way possible. Just get the ball in that man's hands at all costs.
Aside from the few bright spots in this game, it was just an overwhelmingly negative game. With the Reuben Foster situation looming over their heads coming into the game, you could say that it had an effect on the team's morale. We finally got to see more of Dante Pettis in this game, and the more we saw, the more we realised he has more developing to do. Pettis is quick off the line and has some nasty footwork, which we saw on display on his touchdown catch. What we also saw in this game is that Pettis is not physical at all. Defenders can bully him on the field, and he does not have the physicality to tangle with a lot of NFL defensive backs.
All season long we’ve seen a much improved offensive line. The run blocking has been phenomenal and the pass blocking has been decent as well. 49ers quarterbacks have been hit a lot this year and have been sacked amongst the most in the NFL, with most of them coming from coverage sacks. Niners quarterbacks have held the ball a long time this year and the offensive line has never been the problem, until Sunday. The line did not play their best game against the Bucs, and it showed with Nick Mullens’ mediocre performance. Rushing a lot of his passes, with a constantly collapsing pocket, Mullens was under pressure in some crucial moments throughout the game.
As the Niners continue their quest in finding a true, big-bodied number-one receiver, it's clear that Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon are not the answer. What we found out on Sunday though, is that they are still very important. Without their top two receivers, the 49ers’ offense struggles. Rolling out Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis at the top of the depth chart clearly put Nick Mullens in a more difficult position. If the 49ers want Mullens to continue to develop, it’s key that they get both Goodwin and Garcon back next week, or soon after.
Another frustrating part of this game was the turnovers. Going into this game, the Bucs’ defense had caused the fewest turnovers in the league. Funny enough, their offense had given up the most turnovers in the league. On Sunday, that completely flipped. The Niners’ offense gave the Bucs two interceptions, their first in many weeks. What's even more frustrating is that the 49ers’ defense was unable to create any turnovers on the team with the worst turnover ratio in the league. Week in and week out, Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick throw pick after pick after pick, but the Niners’ defense was unable to come down with any.
Overall it was an embarrassing loss, one that ultimately propelled them towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. With a tough schedule coming up, the team takes a trip north to play the rival Seahawks in a game that looks like it could be another humiliating road loss.
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