The San Francisco 49ers improved to 5-5 for the season with a dominating 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Stadium. The win sets up a showdown with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday as both teams fight to gain a position in the NFC playoffs.
During their current two-game win streak, the 49ers offense has found its footing thanks to Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Kyle Shanahan’s decision to feature Samuel more often from the backfield may end up being what saves San Francisco’s season. In Samuel, the 49ers running game now has the explosive element that it’s been missing with Raheem Mostert out of the lineup. Like Mostert, Samuel has the ability to get into the endzone every time he gets his hands on the ball.
After having a rookie season that ranks only behind Jerry Rice in 49ers history, Brandon Aiyuk was expected to have a big year in his second NFL season. For a variety of reasons, that never materialized early in the year. Over the first six games, Aiyuk was targeted only 16 times. That’s changed in the last month as Aiyuk has seen the ball come his way 26 ties as the 49ers have won three of their last four.
Let’s look at the prominent roles played by both against Jacksonville.
1st and 10, Jacksonville 11, First Quarter
This is the third carry of the game for Samuel, and it shows the confusion created by having him lined up in the backfield. When Trey Sermon goes in motion, you see both Jaguars linebackers react. This movement provides a better angle for center Alex Mack to get up field and cut down Jaguar’s linebacker Myles Jack. Samuel takes the toss and picks up a nice gain of eight yards.
1st and 10, San Francisco 20, First Quarter
Opening play of the second San Francisco possession. Starting from under center, Garoppolo executes a nice play fake to hold the linebackers and gets his head around quickly to find Aiyuk on the over route for a gain of 33-yards.
2nd and 11, Jacksonville 25, Second Quarter
Later in the second possession the 49ers find themselves deep in Jacksonville territory. Trey Sermon’s motion moves the linebackers and backside safety before the snap. Lined up on the left side of the formation, George Kittle gets up to seal off the linebacker at the second level, and Laken Tomlinson kicks out the outside linebacker to create room a running lane for Deebo Samuel, who explodes through the hole and runs through are tackles on his way to a 25-yard touchdown.
1st and 10, Jacksonville 25, Second Quarter
On the Jaguars first play of the ensuing possession, Laviska Shenault Jr takes a screen pass from Trevor Lawrence and appears to be headed for a nice gain until 49ers cornerback Josh Norman gets to him and punches the ball out. Fred Warner is able to fall on the ball and the 49er offense is right back onto the field.
This was the sixth forced fumble by Norman this season, most in the NFL.
3rd and goal, Jacksonville 7, Second Quarter
At the snap, Garoppolo wants to go to George Kittle on his left side. He finds Kittle well covered with the safety overplaying the tight end. Seeing this, Garoppolo quickly goes to Aiyuk over the middle and puts the pass between his numbers for the touchdown up 17-0.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over at this point and Jacksonville had run a total of four offensive plays.
The 49ers didn’t just beat a bad Jacksonville team on Sunday. They beat them up from start to finish.