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Here at the 49ers Hub Stock Watch, I needed to take a breather. The San Francisco 49ers had been playing poorly and there was not enough “Stock Up” to write about to justify running this article weekly. Now that the 49ers have completed the season sweep of the Los Angeles Rams with a thrilling 23-20 victory, Stock Watch rises from the ashes just like the 49ers’ playoff hopes. Let’s get to it!
Stock Up: Playoffs?!?
It might sound crazy between all the injuries and downs the 49ers have faced this season but they are now just a single game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the final NFC Wild Card spot. At 5-6, San Francisco is now within striking distance of the race with five games remaining on the schedule. A pair of “home” games (more on that next) with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team could propel them over the .500 mark for the first time since Week 3.
Stock Down: Home, Sweet, Away?
Before boarding the plane to head to LA on Saturday, the 49ers were blindsided with the news that Santa Clara County has new COVID restrictions that require anyone traveling from more than 150 miles away to quarantine for 14 days with no exceptions. This makes the next two home games unplayable at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers won against the Rams on Sunday only knowing that they did not know where their games would be played. The Arizona Cardinals and NFL collaborated and will allow 49ers to play in their stadium for Weeks 13 and 14. This time away from family so close to the holidays will either bring the whole team together or have their minds wandering. It is up to head coach Kyle Shanahan and staff to keep their heads in the game.
Stock Up: Robert Saleh’s Head Coaching Opportunities
All season long, the 49ers defense has played with a decimated group at all levels. Injuries to key starters have not only thrust reserves into major roles but have forced defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to make huge adjustments and he has done so in spades. The last two games have been Saleh’s magnum opus as his group has shut down the New Orleans Saints and LA Rams with ease. His gameplan has been masterful for both matchups and it almost impossible to imagine that his work is going unnoticed around the league. With openings already in Detroit and Atlanta, with more assuredly to come, Saleh will be on the short list for many a franchise when it comes time to find the next man to take the reins.
Stock Up: Impactful Returns
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel and cornerback Richard Sherman were both returning to the lineup after lengthy injury absences and immediately reminded the Faithful what they were missing. Sherman intercepted Rams QB Jared Goff in the first quarter and set the tone for the defense. Samuel, on the other hand, only managed a career-high in receptions (11) and receiving yards (133) including 35 of those yards on the final drive to set up kicker Robbie Gould’s game-winning kick. The 49ers getting key players back from injury at the right time could propel them into the brand-new seventh NFC playoff spot.
Stock Down: Mullens Shows He Isn’t the Answer
Quarterback Nick Mullens did not have a terrible game by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, his 24/35, 252, 0/1 line in the box score seems to be a perfectly acceptable performance from a backup quarterback. However, the eye test shows how much was truly left on the field despite the win. The Rams stacked the box and dared Mullens to throw the ball against them and he could not consistently move the ball down the field. Deebo Samuel finished with 133 receiving yards but nearly all of them came after the catch. If Shanahan wants his offense to take the next step, he needs a quarterback that can effectively throw the ball past the sticks.
Stock Up: The Defensive Line Showed Up Hungry
Kerry Hyder had two sacks, Arik Armstead has his best game of the season and rookie Javon Kinlaw dropped into coverage to take an interception back for six points. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek’s group had their best game of the entire season and routinely abused the Rams’ offensive line all game long. Goff was never able to get into any sort of rhythm, resulting in fewer than 200 yards passing. The 49ers dominated up front during their Super Bowl run last season and Sunday was eerily reminiscent of that.
Stock Down: McGlinchey Continues to Struggle
Right tackle Mike McGlinchey entered his third season with high expectations to take the next step. His run blocking continues to be the best among all offensive tackles in the league but his pass protection has left many people wanting. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is incredible and he showed on Sunday how much better he is than McGlinchey. The 49ers have McGlinchey’s fifth-year option decision to make next offseason, so the remaining five games of this year and all of 2021 will be his final audition before they make the call.
Stock Up: Jimmie Ward Channels the Peanut Punch
Former Bears’ defensive back Charles “Peanut” Tillman used his signature “Peanut Punch” to knock the ball loose from ball carriers to force fumbles. On Sunday, safety Jimmie Ward caused a pair of fumbles in the first half that were both recovered by the defense. Not only that, Ward was also excellent in coverage and, as always, an incredibly reliable tackler on the back end of the defense. It may have been Ward’s best game in a 49ers uniform during his seven-year career.
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