In the wake of the 49ers 20-17 loss to Tennessee on Thursday night, the Faithful came strong with questions this week.
Since I opened the mailbag yesterday morning, a lot has changed around the 49ers current situation.
The most notable change is the announcement that Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a UCL tear along with a fracture in his right thumb. San Francisco has yet to rule Garoppolo out for Sunday’s contest against Houston, but it seems like only a matter of time before that announcement is made.
The other notable development for San Francisco was the New Orleans Saints loss to Miami on Monday night.
The loss by New Orleans puts San Francisco back into control of its own playoff destiny. The easiest route for San Francisco is to win their remaining games against Houston and the Los Angeles Rams. In addition, San Francisco can clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a victory over Houston and a Saints loss at home to the Carolina Panthers. Carolina won their first matchup back in week two, 26-7.
Now on to the mailbag.
@Ovinator – When is the right time to switch from Jimmy to Trey?
Given the injury he sustained to his right thumb on Thursday night, it appears the time will come on Sunday against Houston.
After making his first NFL start against a very tough Arizona Cardinals defense, getting the start against Houston at Levi’s Stadium would appear to be the optimal spot for Lance.
While the Texans defense is not good, allowing the fifth highest net yards gained per pass attempt and sixth highest yards per rush attempt in the NFL, they will come into Sunday tied for the fifth most interceptions in the NFL with 16.
Lance was very good about protecting the ball in college, throwing only one interception during his time and North Dakota State before having one on the first drive in his initial NFL start. It will be paramount for Lance to protect the ball on Sunday for San Francisco to win.
Matt Merritt, @midcone26 – Many point to the Titans game as the biggest loss of the season But I see the Az loss as bigger. A back up QB. No RB. No WR. Which game was the biggest reason SF doesn’t make the playoffs? No one really expected SF to win on a short week. Titans loss was not surprising.
While that second loss to Arizona was tough to swallow, I believe the the biggest losses of the season were to Seattle.
The Seahawks have won only five games this season, and two of them came against San Francisco in games the 49ers blew due to special teams errors, turnovers, and defensive lapses in key moments.
I agree the loss to Tennessee was not surprising.
When the NFL schedule came out many looked at the Tennessee game as a scheduled loss due to the strength of the opponent, and travel involved for such a short turnaround.
The recent struggles for Tennessee caused many to miss the mismatches between the two teams and we saw them play out on Thursday night. Tennessee has a very good defense and an explosive offense with A.J. Brown on the field.
Despite all of this, San Francisco was able to battle throughout and could have come out with a victory if not for a few bad throws by Jimmy Garoppolo and big conversions by Tennessee in the second half.
@SilenceCourant – What is the objective evaluation of Ambry Thomas? Overall performance in last game and trajectory of improvement, if any.
Thomas has shown improvement in his play. Against Tennessee, Thomas was targeted five times and finished with two pass break ups and two receptions allowed for 46 yards. Unfortunately for Thomas and the 49ers, 42 of those yards allowed Tennessee to convert a third and 23 on a drive that would end with Tennessee taking a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Expect the rookie to continue starting opposite Josh Norman until Emmanuel Moseley can return from injury. Kyle Shanahan told us yesterday the team is hopeful to have Moseley back for the final game against Los Angeles.
Al’s Pa, @zackiejoe – Why is Kyle not manufacturing more touches for Brandon Aiyuk? No bubble screens, no jet sweeps, etc. Is this all because Shanahan put him the doghouse in August? Also, who is responsible for Jauan Jennings inexplicably getting more targets and touches the past few games than Brandon Aiyuk, Kyle or Jimmy?
I think the reason we don’t see a lot of screens and jet sweeps for Brandon Aiyuk is he is not very good with on those type of plays.
Aiyuk has arguably the best hands among 49ers receivers and is very good at the run after catch, however screens and jet sweeps are a different beast.
On these plays there is often more congestion and the need to set up and read blocks. Other than the one highlight reel play against Philadelphia in 2020, Aiyuk has not shown the ability to make the most of these plays.
With regards to Jauan Jennings getting more targets than Brandon Aiyuk the past few games, if we must put it on one person, I will say that is more on I Kyle Shanahan than Jimmy Garoppolo.
The threat of Aiyuk coupled with Deebo Samuel being used more in a running back role has allowed defenses to put more emphasis on taking Aiyuk away. This in turn makes it easier for Jennings to get free and the targets that follow.
@CBlock2382 – Why do we not design deep pass plays for players like Aiyuk and Deebo?
There are deep routes built into several plays. We don’t see many deep throws for Aiyuk or Samuel for two reasons; Jimmy Garoppolo struggles to hit these shots and the 49ers offensive line often struggles to hold up long enough to allow the deeper routes to develop.
This may change with Trey Lance taking over at quarterback. Throughout training camp, Lance showed a propensity to push the ball down the field more often than his predecessor, hitting a number of deep shots on a regular basis.