Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
San Francisco 49ers winning streaks are fleeting and often tickle the old memories of when the team would topple opponents week after week. With back-to-back wins under its belt, the 49ers were a Large Hadron Collider entering a Week 16 match-up against the Chicago Bears.
Unfortunately, the 49ers’ offense looked more like a box of pop snaps than a particle collider, and the team could muster only three field goals.
No excuses, but I have not watched the film of the game as of writing this article. But, it does not take an expert in the all-22 to note that rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey did not fare well against two-time All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack. While McGlinchey’s struggles were not the reason the 49ers lost, it was one of his roughest games of the year against professional talent.
Like the trees in a Bob Ross painting, we need to include more statistics to paint a clear picture of Sunday’s loss.
93% Perspiration, 6% Electricity...
Coming into Week 16, the Chicago Bears had one of the best run defenses in the NFL. The Bears had allowed 1,170 yards on the ground, five touchdowns and 3.8 yards per attempt before facing the 49ers. Further, the Bears secondary had tallied 26 interceptions and had opposing quarterbacks earning ratings in the low 70s.
Once the final gun sounded, the 49ers had passed 38 times for 241 yards – above what Chicago’s defense allowed per game – and ran the ball 15 times for a whole 47 yards. Quarterback Nick Mullens eked out a 65.8 quarterback rating and did not throw a touchdown pass.
It’s entirely possible that head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan decided to risk throwing the ball rather than challenging the Bears on the ground.
I’ve watched enough film on Shanahan’s offense to see how the run and pass game complement one another. He’s been able to set up great and sub-par quarterbacks with the right set of plays that expose soft spots in a defense. Kirk Cousins wasn’t a master of Shanahan's offense; he was the result of play-action roll-outs that froze linebackers and cut the field for Cousins.
Shanahan’s offense is symbiotic. If one element is gone, like the run game against Chicago, then the pass is useless. But, as fans, we also must always keep in mind that Shanahan and his coaching staff sees things we do not; it’s entirely possible he saw flaws in Chicago’s secondary that Mullens and the receiving corps could easily exploit.
However, here’s an odd statistic from Sunday’s loss. Shanahan called one run over right tackle, which resulted in an 11-yard gain, and five runs over the right end for 8 total yards.
McGlinchey is the second best run blocking tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. His 78.5 run blocking grade is higher than that of veteran tackle Joe Staley.
But with no threat of the run, Chicago could risk sending pressure often which resulted in six hits on Mullens, 12 hurries and three batted passes.
Don’t Care How I Want It Now.
Technology has brought humanity plenty of gifts and modern conveniences, but it’s made us less patient for nearly everything around us. We cannot wait more than two days for some kind of plastic item from Amazon, we must have all the news crammed down our gullet at every second of the day, and we cannot wait for rookie athletes to develop throughout a season or two naturally.
Despite some opinions, McGlinchey was the correct pick for the 49ers in April’s draft. He’s a far better tackle than Trent Brown will ever be, and will remain a cornerstone for the 49ers as the rebuild and reload drags on.
Mike McGlinchey played a poor game on Sunday. His 44.3 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus is his third worst this season. The last time he earned a grade in the 40s, was during Week 1, and that grade included his playing time at right guard. His worst game was against Kansas City when he tossed his cleats on the field and was awarded a 35.1 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Overall, McGlinchey is averaging a 65.8 pass blocking grade as a rookie. He’s only committed five penalties and played three games without allowing a single hit, pressure or sack. Further, he did not incur a penalty during Weeks 4 through 9.
But, in Week 16, McGlinchey met Mack, a ferocious outside linebacker who can chew through any tackle at any moment. Mack played a total of 52 snaps against the 49ers, lining up over McGlinchey 18 times. Mack won the war, and McGlinchey finished the day allowing four hits, two hurries, and six pressures.
Of note, McGlinchey did not allow a sack on Sunday. In fact, the 49ers’ offensive line allowed only one sack on the day. Guard Mike Person is not the star of the 49ers’ offensive line; therefore nobody is talking about the four hurries and four pressures he allowed on Sunday.
I Had to Test You, Charlie! And You Passed the Test!
If you’ve ever played sports – no matter what level or for how long – you’re bound to get your hind-parts kicked up near your neck. Every athlete is going to face an opponent that is physically and mentally better than he or she is. That’s a scientific fact of life, and that’s what happened to McGlinchey on Sunday.
A football career needs to be based over time, not over 60 minutes. The great, wise and powerful Joe Staley has played in 173 games in almost 12 seasons. He's had bad outings during his career but has played very well in the vast majority of those games. There isn’t a team in the NFL that wouldn’t shower Staley with lavish gifts and heavy bags of money to join the roster.
Any fan or so-called expert who calls out McGlinchey for one lousy outing should be ignored like the pajama pants and can of Chinese oysters you received in your stocking. McGlinchey is a crucial part of the rebuild and will be a crown jewel in the franchise’s future success.
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