What 49ers will need to do to defeat Tennessee

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Winning three of the past four games was neat and all, but beating the Tennessee Titans would be really impressive.

The 49ers’ three wins came against the Giants, Bears and Texans — three losing teams who aren’t going to the playoffs. They had nothing to play for.

The Titans are playing for a playoff spot. They currently are the fifth seed in the AFC playoff race, and their record is 8-5. They need to the beat to the 49ers to stay ahead of the Bills, Ravens and Chargers in the wild card race. Losing would be catastrophic for Tennessee.

Are the 49ers good enough to beat a potential playoff team?

Here are five things the 49ers must do to beat the Titans.

Click here to read my column.

This article has 57 Comments

  1. I’m not saying our O-line is anything special, but Az has had its issues there all year.

    https://arizonasports.com/story/1347927/change-coming-arizona-cardinals-offensive-line/

    “Unless of course you’re the Arizona Cardinals, and then it’s death, taxes and offensive line changes. Another one is coming this week. That makes seven in 14 games this season.”

    “Veldheer has been lost for the season, becoming the third starting offensive lineman to be placed on injured reserve, joining left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Mike Iupati.”

    “This year the magic number is four, as in four different starters at both left guard and left tackle.”

  2. “This season, everyone seems to have figured out how to defend Shanahan’s play-action rollout pass game. It almost never works.”

    A more consistent running game would help with that.

    “The Titans passing game is limited. Their most dangerous weapon is tight end Delanie Walker, who’s good, but should be a complimentary piece rather than the centerpiece of a passing attack.”

    Agreed. He called out Foster. I think 5AVA6E will be up to the challenge.

  3. Grant, you just jinxed us. Love your columns but your win/loss predictions have been wrong more than they’ve been right this year. Just sayin…

  4. Mariota may be somewhat limited in mobility due to getting dinged last week. Containing and pressuring him should help. But yeah, need to keep those Clydesdale RBs from controlling the ball.
    Better get Beadles some help too. Seriously!

    1. Mariota seems like one of those QB’s that if you hit enough and often enough, he crumbles.

      I guess you could say that about a lot of QBs, but I’ve watched a few of their games this year, and he does panic after being hit.

  5. On another note, Grant and Senor I.T. need to do some housekeeping. The popular tags box on the right margin has AJ Jenkins, Roman, Harbaugh, Kap, and all sorts of Paleolithic types who haven’t been relevant in a long time. What are these, childhood artworks on the fridge?

      1. Ha! With apologies for off the wall, but reminds me of an old (anctient) movie line. I’m not sure if even the old timers here will get it:
        ‘The flagon with the dragon holds the brew that is true. The chalice with the palace holds the potion that is poisoned.’
        C4C is good at this game but may be too young.
        HT Waits? Oregon? Under? Juan? Lowell?
        : -)

            1. Good line, Brotha. Quite familiar with it, as I grew up on all those old classic movies. Danny Kaye was quite convincing as a bumbling knight of the realm. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore….

            2. Ha, good work guys. My Dad took me to see it in a theater, even though it had been out for 5 years or so. It was silly fun. It was such an extravaganza. I was reminded of it in Blazing Saddles when the cowboy fight broke into to the Musical film studio.

        1. I have to say that I think the 49ers are going to lose this game. While the Mariota is dealing with injuries, the 49ers will have a patchwork secondary and OL that is missing their RT. The winning streak stops at two with a 34- 20 drubbing.

  6. Grant, I’m glad you agree with me that the Niners will cover the 1 1/2 and go under the (45 1/2), though I think the score will be slightly lower if the winds of today continue tomorrow. I like your analysis except you missed two critical points. They must use their “timeouts” judiciously and they must not allow the Titans to “shape” them. ;-)

        1. It is a beautiful feeling knowing my past musings have been spot on with the growth of this team. Now only if Lynch would take my recommendations going forward we could easily witness a 9-7, 10-6 team next year.

      1. Oh! and who can forget plums like “run it into the teeth of the defense” and allow the catch and drive the feet out of bounds! Or invite the blitz and throw it to where there is no defender! These are like the ronco of football sayings! You had to laugh every time they came up!

    1. He would be the guy that they have longed for since Barry Sanders.
      If we are in the top 5 we need to take him. If we are in the 6-8 range I’d go Fitzpatrick. The 7-10 range Id go Quenton Nelson.

  7. http://ninerswire.usatoday.com/2017/12/16/why-jimmy-garoppolos-aggressiveness-is-endearing-to-kyle-shanahan/

    “The most important thing to me is people who process and how quick you can see it. I don’t look at it as, hey, it’s time to be aggressive, it’s time to be conservative. I look at every play the same. Make the right play. If that guy’s covered, we have a varied process of where we look,” he said.

    “It’s like filling in a puzzle. And I want guys to find the open piece of the puzzle and not hesitate and let it rip. I don’t see it as risky or being conservative. I see it as doing your job to the best of your ability.”

  8. You lost me BT!I like tjf’s three stooges reference though. Grew up with those guys. My favorite was when they were the plumbers at the mansion. Classic stuff.

    Your right Justme (precious timeouts!) you are so conversant. Hopefully they will run some reverses and screens, and roll Jimmy out where he can fend off defenders with his arm and leg strength and make jaw dropping throws. That would be so prodigious. Excuse me for being so verbose. :)

    1. Also don’t forget: Our ball carriers need to fall down as soon as they are touched by a defender in order to avoid having the ball stripped. Our defenders need to carry the receivers out of bounds before they can get their feet down in bounds.

  9. https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/10/11/steve-young-book-excerpt-49ers-cowboys-nfc-championship

    Offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan pulls me aside. He tells me that he’s making a last-minute adjustment to our offensive scheme. He doesn’t want to take a chance on Dallas getting to me. He’s going to use Brent Jones in pass protection as an extra blocker. He’ll be assigned to help out on Haley. That means Brent won’t be available on most passing routes.

    I get on the phone with Coach Shanahan, who is up in the press box. He’s not satisfied. “Don’t let up!” he shouts in my ear. “The only way we’re gonna beat the Cowboys is we gotta go for fifty.” He’s right. We might need that much to beat these guys. I hang up and grab Jerry, Ricky Watters, and my offensive line. “We’re going for fifty!” I yell at them.

    For the first time all season Dallas has gone an entire game without registering a sack. And we are going to the Super Bowl. I have finally made it in San Francisco.

  10. “This season, everyone seems to have figured out how to defend Shanahan’s play-action rollout pass game.”

    Does anyone know what the 49ers QB rating is on PA passes? Is there a split that breaks it down to PA rollout?

    This was a problem that the 49ers ran into back in the days of #7 playing QB.

    1. Couldn’t find the stat you wanted, but I found this.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/12/04/in-first-49ers-start-jimmy-garoppolo-appears-an-ideal-fit-for-kyle-shanahans-offense/

      Garoppolo is mobile enough to run the traditional Shanahan play-action game, with bootlegs incorporated off the outside zone running scheme. One of his first passes came on such a play.

      Here, Garoppolo fakes the outside handoff to the right before rolling to his left on the bootleg. He quickly turns his body around and resets his feet to throw to the tight end on an underneath crossing route.

      1. Yeah. I’m pretty sure PFF has at least the PA stat, but might not break it down past that.

        I’m not trying to dispute Grants assertion, just would like to see the numbers. My feeling is that there’s been some improvement with Garoppolo, especially with play action from the pocket.

        1. Yep. That’s something to watch for tomorrow. Should be an interesting battle between Shanny and LeBeau.

          https://www.49ers.com/news/article-2/What-Are-the-Titans-Saying-About-the-49ers/ce26991b-c0a8-46fe-be77-5da7ed7bf9f9

          LeBeau on what Hyde brings to the 49ers offense:

          “He’s a really good all-around back. And he’s perfect for what they want to do. They want to run the ball and take a play action bootleg off of it and they have a good quarterback to do all of that.

    2. Don’t have the numbers, but haven’t you seen what I described? Almost every time the quarterback play fakes and runs a naked bootleg, it seems the unblocked end is right in his face bringing pressure.

      1. Yes, that’s good D. He’s not fooling anyone. Agree with you on the need to mix it up with a waggle, especially if they want to push the ball downfield.

      2. Another problem with the PA game is their lack of success on 1st down.

        The 49ers have run 374 plays on 1st down this year and have been left with 2nd and more than 7 to go 185 times or 49.3%

        That’s a jump by almost 10% compared to a year ago in Atlanta. (487 1st downs and 2nd >7 to go 195 times or 40%).

        Teams aren’t going to bite on the run as much in that down and distance which is allowing that backside de to slow play it instead of crashing down.

    3. I found every Garoppolo pass from the past two weeks.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W10ax6MggM

      I assume the videos really do have all the passes, not sure though. I’ll link the passes against the Texans in the next comment. I’m too busy to go through it myself right now. I’ll check it out before the tomorrow’s game if nobody beats me to it.

      1. Just finished watching the Texans video. I was glad the video included the sacks, so I would know if they came on a PA rollout.

        There were three plays that were clearly PA rollouts. One went for 1 yard. One went for 18 yards. And one ended in a sack, exactly as Grant described.

        These are the possible, (not clearly) but probably PA rollout plays. On two of them it appears Garoppolo starts to rollout, but is met by a defender, (as Grant described) and rushes a throw that ends up incomplete. On the other possible PA rollout, Garoppolo starts to rollout, but quickly throws it to an open Celek who scored on the play.

        If you include the possible PA rollout plays (which they were IMO), you get…

        6 plays: 3 completions, 25 YDs, 1 TD.
        2 incompletions (was figured out as Grant described).
        1 sack (was figured out as Grant described).

  11. Damn you Grant.

    Well before Grants prediction and curse.
    I was thinking it would be a close win for SF.
    Something like 23-20…
    or I thought it could be our first blowout in years. Something like 30-13.

    But I found out this news and last night at my friends annual Christmas party that a friend of mine will be going to the game, and she is the biggest jinx ever. They are literally 0-8 with her going to the games and 0 and forever when she shows up to my house for a party for road games. I literally had to do my hex on her last night. I hope it works. 🤣

  12. Agree on the blitz pickup. Pretty key. We do have a slight advantage in that Garopollo reads defenses at an elite level so if they do blitz he’s got a chance to kill them with quick reads on 1-1 match ups. The other key is if we get the normal inconsistent 49er defensive pass pressure can that secondary cover? It looks grim, IMO, in that department..

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