49ers mailbag; Can San Francisco keep the intensity up the rest of this season?

The San Francisco 49ers (4-5) strength and identity are running the football, and they finally committed to it against Los Angeles. In what felt like a must win game if the 49ers were going to keep their playoff chances alive, Kyle Shanahan was able to get his groove back.

Elijah Mitchell led a rushing attack that saw the 49ers relentlessly challenge the Rams defense on the way to 156 yards on a whopping 44 attempts.

Sticking with the running game not only helped San Francisco keep the ball away from the Rams offense, it helped the offense by having only a handful of third down situations with more than seven yards to go. This played a large role in the offense converting on eight of 14 attempts.

This leads right into the first question for this week’s mailbag.

A lot of the 49ers success on Monday night was their ability, especially early, to force the Los Angeles defense into playing five defensive backs. This was only possible due to the versatility of Deebo Samuel and Jeff Wilson Jr.

The presence of Samuel and Wilson on the field allowed the 49ers to use 11-personnel, 1 running back and 1 tight end, which is usually a grouping that would signal pass. The difference with San Francisco however is although Samuel is a wide receiver, he can run the ball like a running back and while Wilson is now a halfback, he has experience in the NFL as a FB. And that is exactly how Kyle Shanahan utilized these two on the opening possession of the game.

In addition to the wonderful ingenious game plan of Shanahan, the Rams defense doesn’t have a lot of strength at the second level. Los Angeles linebacker Troy Reeder once again proved to be a weak link in the middle of the Rams defense, and while Jalen Ramsey is a heck of a cover corner, he doesn’t strike fear in opposing offenses physically. Those two players were put in the crosshairs by Shanahan early and often on Monday night.

Brian asks a great question here, and this has been on the top of my mind since the end of the game on Monday night. There was a different energy and vibe leading into this game, it was palpable on the field as the 49ers went through their pregame routine.

We are going to find out very quickly if this was a one-off effort.

When the schedule first came out this upcoming game jumped out as a potential trap for the 49ers. Playing on Monday night with a short week to prepare followed by a cross country flight and 10am start looked like a daunting task. The only reason to shrug that off was the opponent was the Jacksonville Jaguars. That all changed when Jacksonville was able to take down the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago.

The 49ers have shown themselves to be quite mediocre if they don’t play their best, and that’s what it will take for them to defeat the Jaguars. This Sunday will tell us a lot about the character of the 2021 San Francisco 49ers.


The short answer to this question is no.

Kyle Shanahan builds packages into every game plan for Trey Lance, but unless the 49ers offense is failing to move the ball it’s unlikely that we will see him inserted into the game.

The 49er’s coaching staff has continued to develop Lance throughout the season, and when the time comes to take over, I believe the learning curve will be a little shorter than we’ve seen from this season’s rookie class. However, that likely won’t happen until San Francisco is eliminated from playoff contention.

While these are both areas the 49ers should look to improve this offseason, San Francisco rarely uses the post-June 1 designation when releasing players. The reason for this due to how post-June 1 cuts hit the books.

Basically, in this scenario the dead cap hit is cut in half and prorated over two years instead of only hitting the one.
Of the two players, the one that could potentially be replaced is Samson Ebukam. His dead cap is much lower than that of Dee Ford, and San Francisco typically tries to hold on to players to try and get something out of them instead of having them eat cap space and not be in their building.

In addition, the savings of this move wouldn’t be enough to lure a difference maker at either cornerback or along the defensive front. Those players have begun to bring in salaries not too far off that of franchise quarterbacks.

Hold on to the football!

The 49ers offense has shown the ability to go up and down the field on every defense that it has faced this season. The problem has been they’ve shot themselves in the foot with interceptions and fumbles.

Look at the losses and these are prominent.

Against Green Bay you have the backwards pass from Jimmy Garoppolo that resulted in three points for the Packers which ultimately allowed another Mason Crosby field goal as time expired to steal the win.

In the first game against Arizona a Trey Lance interception on the opening drive killed not only killed a promising start to that game, but it also led directly to the first Cardinals touchdown. Then in the rematch it was fumbles by George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk that sunk drives into Arizona territory.

Against the Indianapolis Colts it was a fumble by Deebo Samuel late in the first half while nursing a tight lead that set up a touchdown which the 49ers could not overcome.

If San Francisco can play up to their ability and hold on to the football, there is a very good chance they will reach the postseason. That doesn’t sound quite as crazy as it did just a week ago. Wow, how quickly things change in the NFL.

This article has 25 Comments

  1. I think the only way the 49ers maintain their level of play they played at in the Rams game is if Kyle Shanahan continues to commit to the run. With Shanahan, that’s definitely not a given. String together a few games of dominant run performances and sprinkle in a few over the top shots to Aiyuk and the 49ers offense will open up.

    1. I’m not sure the style of offense we were able to execute against the Rams would win a lot of games, but it’s a start I guess.

      There’s a reason why most teams don’t depend on 10-20 play drives to score. Too many chances for an error effectively killing the drive. Chunk plays are necessary and that is where I think you’re headed with play action and shots over the top.

      Jimmy made some great throws in tight coverage, which hasn’t been his MO lately.

      I’m not saying it’s an impossibility, but you’re putting yourself behind the 8-ball if you’re relying on multiple double-digit play drives to win games consistently in today’s NFL. Especially when your opposition can score in an instant.

      By the way, I have yet to see this mentioned… @Jack maybe you can comment- Shanny made the same poor clock management decision before the half against the Rams that he made in the Super Bowl. There was 1:50 left on the clock and the Rams were in the red zone. Why the hell would you not use your time outs there to secure a chance to score before the half? If nothing else, run the ball 3x on offense and force the defense to play more snaps going into the half, tiring them out a bit more after your long drives. Plus you again have the ball coming out of the second half, keeping their defense consistently on the field. That was the point of the long drives, wasn’t it? These decisions just don’t make any sense to me. What type of coach gives up? Shows zero confidence in his team. And he never regretted the decision after the Super Bowl, either. Maybe I’m missing something, but the press keeps giving him the benefit of the doubt for making poor decisions, while guys like Carroll and others get reamed every time they make a questionable decision. What am I missing?

      1. Your missing Pete Carroll throwing a hand warmer as a challenge flag on the field. Your missing that this is what Shanahan does (see week 2). The super bowl plan was effective, your missing BS OPI on Georgie.

        If your game plan is death by a thousand cuts, that’s not going to be effective by trying to rush those blows in 2 minutes. The 49ers were already up by 2 scores.

        Lastly it’s an old school methodology.

        1. Carroll dis take a lot of flak for that.

          You don’t have to score. You can effectively force their defense out on the field again. You really have zero confidence in your team if you think you’re going to come out on the wrong end of about a minute+ left on the clock when you get the ball back. Nothing screams scared more than a head coach who is questioning whether his offense can manage that situation, especially since they already were dominating on offense all night long.

          The old school methodology isn’t going to work if you don’t have confidence in your team to execute it. The old school methodology works such that if you have your opponent down, kick their heads into the curb while you have the chance.

          In 2019 Shanny was up big and dominating against both the Vikings and Packers in the playoffs. He refused to throw the ball and give Jimmy valuable reps in live action in a playoff game. Especially when there was zero chance either of the opponents could come back and win those games. But he blew the chance to get some reps in and prepare for upcoming games. Then by the time Jimmy gets to the Super Bowl, we hadn’t consistently thrown any passes for 5 weeks in a row. What did Shanny think would happen if his offense was one-dimensional for 5 weeks going into the biggest game of the season. That all of a sudden the offense was going to just figure it out when needed?

          In the Super Bowl they ran out of time after KC’s dynamic offense exploded on them. I’m pretty sure in hindsight you’d love to have an extra possession back. I mean, it’s the biggest game of your life and you’re coaching scared, as usual. Remember Parcells’ Giants teams? They depended on the running game, longer drives and defense. Same formula, against then dynamic offenses like the 49ers, Rams and Bills. But you’d never see Parcells coach scared in that situation. Instead, he exuded confidence in the team.

          1. And by the way, irrespective of the Kittle OPI penalty in the Super Bowl, Shanahan didn’t use his final timeout letting the Chiefs burn 40 seconds off the clock while tied at 10-10 just before the half. That left Shanny just 59 seconds left to attempt a score. How does that make any sense to you, especially considering he then changed his mind and attempted to march downfield anyway?

            The stuff Shanahan gets away with and is seemingly beyond reproach is frankly frustrating. I don’t see how you can defend the decision not to use a timeout there, and yet here you are defending it.

            1. Gavin/49reasons- a professional head coach could care less what a fan or a member of the press thinks. They’ve devoted there lives to football, been doing it full time for many years, get paid millions of $ and you think you know better than them.? If you don’t understand why a coach does something, it might because they are so far ahead of you in knowledge that you would never understand. Get over yourself man.

              1. Call me whatever you want, but by the same token you can then never judge anyone who does not perform the same job as you. From contractors, your child’s educators, the President, etc. That’s an awfully poor argument to be making. The game of football is a form of entertainment and is 100% fair game for its players, coaches etc to be judged by its audience. Do you give every movie and its actors a 10/10 because you’re not paid millions of dollars to be an actor?

                Your theory is those who make a product should be the only ones who are competent to judge its value in the marketplace, completely ignoring how the product is received by its own consumers in the marketplace. That’s a strange argument to be making.

                So many examples I could come up with to easily prove your theory wrong but why bother?

              2. Nobody is saying you can’t judge the result of product – but let’s not pretend and agree you definitely have no clue how the product was made.

                Bottom-line you have to put an * on your opinions of the product and not act like you really know for sure because you really don’t know for sure.

              3. No one here including myself is making any assertions as far as my opinions being fact. I’m not sure where either of you decided that’s what I’m asserting. Don’t put words in my mouth then attempt to debunk them. They’re your assertions, not mine.

                By the way, before you go there- I’m not opining that Shanny should get fired. Frankly I don’t see any better options out there. But I think the criticisms of him have been more than fair. Just don’t understand how he is beyond reproach given other head coaches don’t have the Carte Blanche he seems to possess.

          2. In 2019 Shanny was up big and dominating against both the Vikings and Packers in the playoffs. He refused to throw the ball and give Jimmy valuable reps in live action in a playoff game. Especially when there was zero chance either of the opponents could come back and win those games. But he blew the chance to get some reps in and prepare for upcoming games. Then by the time Jimmy gets to the Super Bowl, we hadn’t consistently thrown any passes for 5 weeks in a row…

            I don’t know why more people didn’t talk about this. This is by far one of the biggest blunder KS did leading to the SB game! He is a total opposite of Harbaugh when it comes to giving your QB confidence.

            1. It always bugs me when people say that Jimmy can’t throw the deep ball. I think it has become a self fulfilling prophecy. Somehow he managed to hook up with Goodwin more than once in that six game win streak he had in his first year. And then when he was back to health in the SB he managed to over throw a wide open Emmanuel Sanders with what would have probably been the winning touchdown. (Weak arm ya know) But we’re left to speculate because Kyle is so busy running and dinking and dunking his way down the field all game. I saw one pass in the Cardinals game where on 3rd and 15 they had two DBs (safety and corner) within two yards of each other right at 15 yards and Deebo came running at them full speed and he stopped right in front of them without them moving an inch. Double coverage and neither has any respect for the deep throw. How did they know that he would not make a move and go deep? Same way we do – Kyle is calling the plays. Whatever Jimmy’s shortcomings are, they are magnified by Kyle IMHO.

  2. Jimmy G, Kittle, Aiyuk, and Deebo is starting to look real nice. Can’t wait to see how they look over the 2nd half of year.

  3. Trivia: Can anyone name the only coach on the top 10 highest paid coaches list (all US sports including college football) who:

    a) Hasn’t won a championship
    b) Has a below .500 career coaching record

    1. Interesting question but if you consider the difference in Jed’s reaction to the team’s performance that led to Harbaugh’s firing , and his cool and calm patience with Shanahan, then it’s hard to not conclude that for the York’s winning really isn’t that important. Also, when you consider the York’s ownership years in its entirety, you might say that losing is a family preference because both Mariucci and Harbaugh were shown the door despite being by far the best HCs in terms of overall record.

      1. I don’t care what your title is or what your record is, if you tell your boss to get the f out, “this meeting is for men only”, you’d better have your desk cleared by next morning

        1. I’d like to know the source of your assertion of what exactly was said and what the context was before your purported universal declaration comes into play. Exactly what Harbaugh said and the actual circumstances you infer sound like fiction to me. Asking Jed and whoever was with him to leave because the meeting was only for the players (the “men” instead of generally men) less eloquently than might have been preferred could easily be mischaracterized by someone like our current biased media as saying “Get the F of here – this meeting is just for men”. No offense, but to believe that the bad blood that led to Jed firing Harbaugh was principally caused by that one rumored event is naive IMO.

    2. If you mean Kshan – he has won the The NFC Championship Game = the annual championship game of the National Football Conference (NFC)

      1. The Baltimore Ravens also smashed the record with 20 consecutive preseason wins. 🏆

        You knew what I meant. 🤔

            1. next time use the sarcasm emoji – it’s been around since 2015

              Sarcastic emoji
              A classic smiley, turned upside down. Implemented as a flipped version of 🙂 Slightly Smiling Face on most platforms. Commonly used to convey irony, sarcasm, joking, or a sense of goofiness or silliness. Upside-Down Face was approved as part of Unicode 8.0 in 2015 and added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015.

    1. Ask yourself- could you have not used an emoji to express Kshan‘s sideline emotions better?

      Hope this helps put the comment in context for you. —> 🙃

      I know it can be hard… 🙃

      Better? –> 🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.