49ers film review: How Christian McCaffrey impacts the passing game

The 49ers performance against Los Angeles on Sunday was their best of the season.

Kyle Shanahan had the offense moving throughout the game. They were able to overcome a few mistakes and produce their highest scoring output of the season.

The impact of Christian McCaffrey was clear, and Shanahan did an excellent job of setting Jimmy Garoppolo up for success.

On the defensive side, DeMeco Ryans’ group was able to shrug off a rough first half and return to form.

After reviewing the coach’s film, here are the plays I found key to Sunday’s victory.

Christian McCaffrey’s impact on the passing game

One thing which jumped out while going through the film was how Kyle Shanahan used Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle to give Jimmy Garoppolo clearly defined reads.

Example 1

Facing third and seven early in the second quarter McCaffrey and Kittle both line up to the left side. Los Angeles sends a five-man blitz, Garoppolo sees it quick and gets the ball out to McCaffrey in the left flat for a gain of nine.

Example 2

The next play once finds McCaffrey and Kittle lined up on the left once again.

McCaffrey runs a choice route while Kittle works up the left seam, putting the Rams linebacker in conflict. Garoppolo quickly sees the linebacker go to McCaffrey and zips the ball to the tight end for a gain of 23.

Example 3

Another first half example.

This time Kittle runs a ten yard curl while McCaffrey runs a stop route in the left flat. Garoppolo sees Rams linebacker Leonard Floyd drop with Kittle and quickly gets the ball out to McCaffrey to pick up another first down.

Example 4

Moving to the fourth quarter for this one.

Kittle is lines up as the outside receiver to the right side with McCaffrey in the backfield.

After a play fake to Brandon Aiyuk, Garoppolo boots out to his left side and looks to McCaffrey in the left flat. The Rams cornerback does a good job of staying outside, but the threat of McCaffrey draws safety Taylor Rapp towards the line of scrimmage.

Garoppolo quickly flips his hips and lofts a perfectly placed ball to Kittle in the back of the endzone for the fourth San Francisco touchdown of the day.

Garoppolo’s connection with McCaffrey

Trailing by four in the third quarter, the 49ers offense authored what may end up being the signature play of the 2022 season.

Working from the gun, Garoppolo looks to his left then to the middle before starting to slide to his right.

Noticing his quarterback is in trouble, McCaffrey spots a hole in the secondary and takes off up the right sideline. Garoppolo spots this and drops a dime to the running back for the go-ahead score.

This play is the result of excellent pass protection from the offensive line to allow Garoppolo the time to work the entire field. It’s also the result of a quarterback and a play maker being on the same page and simply making a terrific football play.

Stacking plays

There were several examples of Kyle Shanahan stacking plays or concepts together throughout the game to keep the Rams defense off balance.

I chose to focus on his use of Brandon Aiyuk running a quick out to demonstrate how Shanahan manufactured an explosive play.

We start in the second quarter. Aiyuk is lined up on the line of scrimmage to the left side of the formation.

Christian McCaffrey motions to his outside. The running back runs a go route while Aiyuk runs his quick out.

Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t like what he sees, comes off Aiyuk too early and is sacked by Leonard Floyd as he tries to work back to the middle of the field.

The missed opportunity in the first half doesn’t stop Shanahan from coming back to it.

During the second possession after halftime, Aiyuk again runs a quick out to the left side. This time Jimmy Garoppolo is able to make the throw in rhythm and hits the receiver for a gain of 11.

Moving into the fourth quarter, the 49ers open with another quick out to Aiyuk on the left side. This time the cornerback is ready for it and drops the receiver after a gain of only five.

On the next offensive possession Kyle Shanahan goes to the well once again. This time he goes back to something similar to what we saw on the first play.

Instead of Christian McCaffrey motioning outside of Aiyuk, Shanahan has Ross Dwelley line up there.

Jimmy Garoppolo looks to the Aiyuk running an out to the left side, but the Rams cornerback isn’t going to let him hit that again and jumps the route

Garoppolo sees it, pulls the ball back and lofts it deep down the left sideline to an uncovered Dwelley for a gain of 56.

Defensive turnaround

The 49ers defense struggled to get off the field in the first half, and during the Rams first possession after halftime it looked like they were once again in control.

After a 13-yard strike from Matthew Stafford to Allen Robinson, the Rams had first and ten at their own 38. That’s when Charles Omenihu made the play that changed the course of the game.

Cooper Kupp gets behind the 49ers secondary on a deep corner route, but Charles Omenihu runs over the left guard and forces an inaccurate throw to bring up second and ten.

The reason this play is so important is it led to the 49ers defense finally getting the Rams into third and long.

During the first half Los Angeles faced third down eight times, but only twice were they in third and six or longer.

That flipped in the second half when the Rams found themselves in third and six or longer on four of their six third downs.

With the Rams offense now on its heels, DeMeco Ryans was able to send pressure at Matthew Stafford. As a result, the Rams were able to generate only 30 yards of total offense over the last 25 minutes of the game.

This article has 17 Comments

  1. Good read and presentation Jack.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed the play of CMC, I was very happy with Jimmy’s game last Sunday.
    JG looked as comfortable in the pocket than I’ve seen in a while. He was able to scan the field and go to his second and even third reads.

    Maybe having CMC is a big part of it, but I believe that the Oline is also giving Garoppolo the time he needs to make his reads. Silencing the Rams with so many starters out certainly should give the 49ers a big psychological boost going forward.

      1. allie,
        If CMC was an average player, I doubt that many fans would give it much thought.
        It’s nice to have players with good character and morals, but that’s not enough to guarantee their employment on a team. Just ask Alex Smith.

        1. True but CMC is so much like the guys I grew up with here in Pacific Heights. He is perfect for the Stanford-Bay area. Character counts! His talents count. The character becomes apparent over time as Deebo lack of leadership has become apparent. Many of our players are already looking to two excellent character players in Warner and CMC to lead and guide them.

          1. Allie,
            One of the best 49ers character players that I know won a NFL Humanitarian Award.
            And he never went to Stanford. You probably
            need to google who it is, but it’s all good.

            1. AES,
              Are you trying to tell me that you can be a high character individual and not go to Stanford? BLASPHEMY!!!!

              1. Coach,
                Looks like Stanford has a “character 101” class that I’ve never heard of 👨‍🎓

            2. I went to Bryn Mawr College. I have applied to Stanford law school. Daddy went to Harvard Law. I just feel CMC is sooooooooo Stanford. Such a good and caring person to lead the Niners. I think the character is so overlooked. A good character can take a player through his entire career. Niners have been burned by bad character players as you know. I saw an interview with TO recently and he regretted having had a shortened career with the Niners and with other teams in part because of a lack of maturity.

              1. Allie,
                I do respect your value for good morals and character. But, its not exclusive solely to Stanford U.

              2. I am joking about Stanford. Good morals, maturity, and character can be found everywhere. But CMC is so much a representative of the best of Stanford and the NFL. I knew many boys at my prep school University High School.

  2. Outstanding stuff Jack. By far, these film breakdowns are my favorite posts. I really like how you showed the stacking of plays and how they impacted the defense to lead to a big play to Dwelley. Great job. A few thoughts:

    Example 2: This is a great job by Jimmy. Perfect timing. You can clearly see Jimmy is reading that LBer. As soon as that LBer comes up on CMC the ball is in the air to Kittle wide open in the soft spot on that seem. Very effective play against that defense when the Safety is so deep.

    Example 3: Hard to criticize a play where you get 7 or 8 yards and a first down but I think I’d rather see Jimmy go to Wilson on that play. Wilson lines up in the backfield and motions to the right. The route combo has Wilson cutting under the Out route from Aiyuk. Wilson is wide open. I like the idea of spreading the ball to other RBs so the defense has no idea where to key.

    Example 4: Alls well that ends well but this isn’t great QB play from Jimmy. He’s 5 steps too late on that throw. He needed to see the attention on CMC at the beginning of his roll out and hit Kittle much sooner.

    Defensive Turnaround: 49ers had 4 guys on Kupp and the Rams still almost completed that pass. I remember this play during the game. My thought when that happened is the Rams are really in trouble. They are 1 dimensional on offense. The Rams just aren’t very good. Great win but the 49ers should blow a team like the Rams out of the water. I’m hopeful this was a confidence building game that helps drive the 49ers standard of play to a higher level in the 2nd half of the season.

  3. >>During the first half Los Angeles faced third down eight times, but only twice were they in third and six or longer.

    One of those longer third downs in the 1st half was 3rd and 9 which they easily converted with a 20 yarder to Kupp. Leading to the first of back to back scores off of long drives. At that point I was thinking…this is the defense bounce back game? This? Kudos to Ryans and staff for the halftime adjustments. Additional kudos to McVay for abandoning what was working for them in the 1st half.

  4. Good videos and what goes around comes around. In example 4 Kittle is left open after Safety Rapp moves towards CMC. Last year versus the Eagles , Kittle is triple covered (pause at .02 and .03) leaving Jennings wide open for a TD. Just wait until opposing Ds have to cover CMC, Kittle , Aiyuk and Deebo. Deebo will have a big 2nd half of the season.


  5. Jack, really appreciate all the video. It truly makes your commentary come alive. Btw, on that pressure by Omenihu, it appears he was purposely tripped by that left guard.

    1. Thank you for the positive feedback, George!

      Omenihu was definitely tripped up the guard.

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