Elijah Mitchell impresses in return; 5 Burning questions answered in 49ers 22-16 win over Chargers

The San Francisco 49ers (5-4) struggled early before fixing their mistakes and coming from behind for a 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers (5-4) Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Here are the answers to the five questions I asked prior to the game.

1.) Will Jimmy Garoppolo keep up the strong play? YES

Jimmy Garoppolo has played at a very high level the last two games.

Against the Chargers on Sunday night, he completed 19 of 28 pass attempts for 240 yards. Garoppolo’s 7.9 net yards per pass was nearly two yards higher than the average allowed by the Chargers this season.

What has made Garoppolo’s performance so impressive over the last two weeks has been his play on third down and ability to limit mistakes.

Garoppolo hit on eight of ten third down pass attempts against the Chargers for 108 yards.

Over the last two weeks he has combined to go 11-15, 133 yards, two touchdowns through the air and ran four times for six yards and a touchdown. All on the money down.

Garoppolo has missed some throws, but he has not made a costly mistake in recent weeks.

Not known for throwing the ball away, Garoppolo did just that on a few occasions against the Chargers.

One of the more notable occurrences came after the 49ers drove deep into the Chargers red zone on their opening possession. On first and ten from the Los Angeles nine, Garoppolo dropped back to pass after a play fake, with no one open he fired the ball into the first row of seats behind the endzone.

Although the 49ers were forced to settle for a field goal, the decision not to force a pass showed a difference in Garoppolo’s decision making.

He did this a few other times throughout the game on Sunday night. Garoppolo’s ability to limit mistakes will be crucial to the 49ers success in the second half of the season.

2.) How will the 49ers offense look with Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel both active? Not much different

The 49ers offense was supposed to force opposing defenses to “pick their poison” when it came to defending Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel.

Against the Chargers, although neither stood out they were both solid.

McCaffrey finished with 77 yards on 18 touches and one rushing touchdown. His 21-yard reception to open the second half was his biggest play of the night.

Samuel wasn’t much of a factor at all. While he was targeted six times, he was limited to only two receptions for 24 yards. Both of Samuel’s catches came and third and long with neither resulting in a first down. The receiver did line up in the backfield, and the 49ers broke tendency by having him run between the tackles for a change. His four carries netted 27 yards.

It’s going to take time for Kyle Shanahan to see how defenses react. As the season progresses look for him to find mismatches to exploit with the two play makers.

3.) What will Elijah Mitchell’s role be? RB1

Making his return to action for the first time since week one in Chicago, Mitchell was impressive.

The second year back looked just as explosive as he had to start the season. With all the attention on McCaffrey and Samuel, it was Mitchell who ripped off several big runs on his way to 89 yards on 18 rushing attempts.

With the trio of McCaffrey, Samuel and Mitchell Kyle Shanahan has all the ingredients to put together a running game which can propel the 49ers through a deep playoff run in January.

4.) Can the 49ers defense contain Justin Herbert? YES

After the Chargers opening possession, it appeared the 49ers defense was in for a long night.

Justin Herbert connected on all five attempts including a 32-yard dart to DeAndre Carter for a touchdown to take a quick seven-point lead.

Herbert’s luck quickly changed.

Over the final 56 minutes, the third-year quarterback was able to hit on only 16 of 30 attempts for 125 yards and an interception.

Not having his top two receivers played a role in Herbert’s performance. However, let us not forget the 49ers were missing three starters along the defensive line, a starting cornerback and played without Dre Greenlaw in the second half.

The 49ers defense had struggled with getting off the field at times during the first half of the season. They’ve turned that around recently, pitching a shutout in the second half against both the Rams and Chargers.

Kudos to DeMeco Ryans and his entire defensive staff.

5.) Can the 49ers defense corral Austin Ekeler? YES

San Francisco’s defense knew they needed to take away Ekeler, and that’s exactly what they did.

Coming in as the Chargers leading receiver, the running back finished with seven receptions but was able to gain only 39 yards.

After a 14-yard reception on the opening drive, Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner combined to hold Ekeler to only 25 yards the rest of the night.

The 49ers run defense was just as strong, holding Ekeler to only 24 yards on six carries.

Prediction:

49ers 27 Chargers 17

This article has 43 Comments

  1. The 9ers red zone O is not good. They need to use more play action passes. Teams are loading up the box to stop the run. If they are going to rum, run out of an eleven set. Spread the field. As great as mitchell looked CMC is better in the red zone. Am I the only one who thinks that a RB combo of Mitchell and Wilson would be almost as good as Mitchell and CMC? Lastly I don’t care what PFF says McGlinchey needs to go next year.

    1. Mostly agree on these fronts. The difference stat-wise between Mitchell/Wilson and CMC/Mitchell might not be huge, but the threat of CMC opens up a lot more play possibilities that the defense has to be aware of. That said, I would have kept my draft picks because RB was not a problem on this team.

      McG probably needs to go because he doesn’t share the mindset/toughness of the rest of the team. If he was a 3rd round draft pick you might let his shortcomings pass, but jeez wasn’t he the #9 pick of his draft class? 🤦🏻‍♂️

      The thing that bothers me about McG the most is he doesn’t seem to have that tenacious attitude that you want from an offensive lineman. No one’s going to be as good as Trent Williams, but would at least love to see someone have a little bit of bite to them, like former guard Alex Boone. McG seems content to be just okay. Doesn’t seem too upset when he’s bull-rushed right into the QB or knocked on his ass to the turf.

      All that aside I think they can accomplish a lot more if the head coach would be willing to take some chances once in a while. My biggest worry is they’ll get into the playoffs needing to execute a 4th down and they have zero experience because he never goes for it. How do you expect your team to respond when you don’t prepare them in the regular season? It would also help open up more possibilities in terms of play calling if the defense has to respect the fact that they might need to defend for 4 consecutive downs. As it stands right now teams know Shanny absolutely will not go for it on fourth down unless he has to. Not the message you’d want to be sending if you’re trying to exert your will on an opponent.

      I’m curious why Kyle manages the game this way. Twenty years ago this is what everyone did. But in today’s NFL coaching to a slim margin of error is not working against powerhouse opponents like Buffalo, KC…. you know the types that are you are expected to contend with for an actual ring?

      1. Re McGlinchey, if memory serves me, let’s not forget they needed an immediate replacement for Trent Brown, so RT was their first pick in that draft. Correct me if I’m wrong. So they overdrafted him, probably not realizing it at the time. At the time, though, it was known that pass protection wasn’t his strong suit, again if memory serves me. Perhaps Burford will start next year at RT and do better.

        1. They also knew the Raiders wanted him at the #10 pick. I believe that was the year the 49ers got the higher pick in a tiebreaker on a coin flip. We ended up with McGlinchey and effectively wasted a top 10 pick. The Raiders having lost out on McGlinchy traded back with Arizona and got a better tackle at 15 with Kolton Miller.

    2. Coach, I know you don’t like facts, but McGlinchey gave up only 1 hit by Kilias Mack. That’s pretty darn good. Who and how would you replace him with? It’s easy to criticize yet harder to solve problems.

      1. Felix,
        I’m not calling to replace McGlinchey this season. I am advocating for his replacement next year. My criticism of him is no longer about his pass blocking alone. Did you notice that the 9er RB’s had no holes to run through when they ran right and there was penetration by SD’s D when we ran right. As to me not liking facts, PFF is opinion not facts. Just watch the film and tell me that McGlinchey is not struggling.

        1. Coach,
          I agree with your assessment. But some of this falls on Shanahan as well. Maybe you noticed this, but it seems that every time Deebo lined up in the backfield, he got the ball. When CMC would come in for Mitchell, he inevitably got the ball. It looked to me that the Chargers knew who was going to get the ball and were ready.

          Why couldn’t Shanahan fake to Deebo and CMC at some point to keep the defense off balance and go elsewhere with the ball.

          My point is, that if the defense knows what’s coming it could be difficult for any Olineman to open lanes.

    3. YES! Shanahan’s red zone offense is run straight ahead on first down, repeat on second down, and then throw on third down. Which every defensive coordinator knows by now, so none of it works. Maybe if on first down they did a play action into the end zone, they just might find a wide receiver open with no defender within 10 yards. Also perhaps trying an outside run with someone like Deebo. Frankly anything but what they are doing.

      McGlinchey as a ninth pick should be a Pro Bowl player, but he will never smell any kind of post season honors. Unless someone is doing a worst list. Unfortunately replacing him with no picks in the first two rounds next year is exceptionally hard. You don’t get quality starting tackles after the second round, heck you don’t really get them after the first round. So the Niners maybe screwed and forced to bring him back do to their delusion that he was actually good and poor planning on the OL. They don’t really have the cap to go get anyone either with the guys that will need to be resigned next year (Bosa, BOSA, BOOOSSSSAAAA!).

      1. Frankly anything but what they are doing.

        And what they are doing has them 1/2 game out of the NFCW lead. I predict, and hold me to it, they take that lead within the next few weeks and don’t relinquish it. By, guess what? Not deviating much from the offensive game we’ve seen so far. You “open up the offense” acolytes still haven’t gotten into your skulls Kyle wants the Niners to impose their will on the other team by running it down their GD throats. Why do you think he was hot for Trey, CMC? Rushing, rushing, rushing.

  2. I hope the 49ers don’t sign OBJ. I would like to see them target Jennings more. If his case of the dropsies is over I believe he could develop into a very good WR. He reminds me of Anquan Boldin.

  3. Jack
    Nice game / player summary jack…..Enjoyed the read.

    * Lets face it, KS is going to call a very conservative game plan and depend on his D to control the other teams offense. This game plan works as long as he can depend on the D to get a win.
    * As we know, the opposing defense is going to stack the box and try to take away the middle of the field. If they’re successful, the 9er offense has made mistakes that cost them the game. Teams the 9ers will play in the playoffs have defenses that will force the 9ers to open up their game plan, but not having done so during the regular season, is JG capable of doing it?
    Apparently KS doesn NOT believe JG can, or he would be doing it now……
    I WOULD LIKE YOUR OPINION, PLEASE?

    1. You’re spot on. But Kyle needs to find out. You can’t hide in the post season.

      With players that routinely exert their will on their opponents (Kittle, Deebo, Trent Williams, CMC, Bosa, Warner & the LB trio, maybe Hufanga) how is it that the head coach shows out scared so often?

      It’s running quite contrary to the personality of this team, and frankly that’s wrong. Kyle needs to do some growing of his own; he seems shell shocked from the Super Bowl debacle against Brady/New England. You’ve got the horses, put some fear into the opponent.

      No better time to practice this philosophy than the regular season. Harbaugh was a conservative believe in the D type of coach- but opponents feared the 49ers. That’s the personality Harbaugh injected in his players and he wasn’t opposed to making a call to impose that will at times if needed.

      I’d like to see Kyle understand the importance of that mindset, and not blindly lead us into the playoffs masking everything that could help this team gain valuable experience in next level execution- you know, when the pressure is on late and you don’t have the luxury of being ahead trying to preserve the victory.

      It’s a luxury in and of itself to have so many individual players that are potential pro bowlers and all-pros. The roster is intimidating, but the execution doesn’t necessarily reflect it on the offensive side of the ball or in game management (case in point, declining a penalty that would result in 3rd and 19 and pushing the Broncos out of field goal range because you’re scared Russ *might* pull another rabbit out of his ass against your D).

      1. Wow. I didn’t know you were a coaching savant. You should call York and offer your services to train Shanahan. LMAO.

        1. Frankly I don’t value your opinion at all to be quite honest. You can’t point to a single thing Kyle does and say perhaps he could have approached it better. That goes with every time he’s lost a large lead at the end of a big game. No one is above reproach. With your constant nonsense and treating Kyle Shanahan like he’s some deity you lose all credibility. Once again this is a football blog and if you don’t like hearing an alternative opinion, either move past me or get over it. Either way Shanahan is no Belichick, yet. He’s definitely not beyond reproach. Plenty of coaches have issues and absolutely nothing they do is perfect all of the time, even HoF coaches.

          I think Kyle is a good coach. Probably better than average offensive play caller, but not a very good game manager. I’m not ready to anoint him as the next Vinnce Lombardi, Bill Walsh or BB.

          Unless you’re Kyle’s mother (I’d guess I’d understand your position better) my response to you is frankly, STFU.

          1. If you had intelligent observations of Shanahan or any player I wouldn’t respond but when you write that’s he’s shellshocked or needs to grow up you’re just pulling stuff out of the air to pretend to yourself that know something, which you don’t. How could you? Why would you pretend to? I don’t criticize Shanahan because I’m not qualified to. I also don’t criticize rocket scientists or plumbers.

            1. So I suppose you didn’t criticize either our current President or the last one? Or any politician? Putin? Hitler? Pol Pot? I could go on. How could you criticize- you’ve never led an entire nation, right?

              Your takes are just awful.

              We’re consumers of a product. The NFL is a product. We’re paying fans. We have a right to criticize. Otherwise athletes, coaches and owners wouldn’t be millionaires.

              You’re lacking basic intelligence and basic reading comprehension. And I hope for your sake the next time you hire a plumber you don’t just hand over money if he leaves you a ridiculous bill and a job half-ass done. I’m surprised you even chose that as an example considering there are plenty of bad contractors out there in general. Just laughable really.

              You’re nuts.

              1. You have every right to keep on posting stupid stuff and I have every right to respond. I guarantee most people are laughing behind your back. Watch the game and make comments about what you see. Don’t make stuff up.

              2. [You] pretend to yourself that know something, which you don’t. How could you?

                then…

                I guarantee most people are laughing behind your back.

                That’s quite a guarantee. Do you follow your own advice?

          2. “I’m not ready to anoint him as the next Vinnce Lombardi, Bill Walsh or BB.”

            So Kyle falls short of the most successful coaches in NFL history? Way to strawman there, Newterm.

            1. You’re quite an example yourself of using strawman arguments. Go back and look at your commenting history. Funny, you actually had something to offer in terms of commentary related to the game, the coaching, the planning, the players, whatever, circa 2012.. lately all you do is comment on… commenters. I don’t find anything you say worthwhile, but you’re free to keep it up. Free country and all.

              1. Enjoying the ride, Newterm, enjoying the ride.

                “…whatever, circa 2012…”

                So you’ve been here for a while eh? Maybe I’d be able to comment on your posting history, if you hadn’t been pulling new screen names out of your @ss all along. Who have you been posting as since 2012?

              2. My real first name followed by my area code, which also happens to be my email address (minus the domain). I think I have a valid reason to change it based on the history on this site. I don’t need your approval, but thanks for being the resident blog moderator.

                Yes, have been around since 2008 maybe prior. Maiocco, Branch, Cohn, Branch, Hammer and the occasional guest blogger scattered between. There’s one other than Branch I’m forgetting.

              3. I think I have a valid reason to change it based on the history on this site.

                I’m not sure how many slings and arrows you’ve been subjected to over the last couple of decades here and why, but I’m here, with my same handle from the start, to say it can’t be all that bad.

                I’m not moderating anything, but if you are going to call out my posting history, don’t take the cowards way out by hiding your posting history.

              4. Again, I don’t care what you think. You have something to say about the team or the game, I might read it.

                You used to get into long drawn out wars here with NinerMD, if I recall? Waste of time. I’m not interested in your thoughts.

              5. Newterm, without knowing who you posted as, I’m going to say you posted just a bunch of made up BS, maybe you are MD, still nursing your f-ing conspiracy theories about everything, still butthurt.

                What a pathetic spineless coward, trashing my history, running from your own. FOAD.

  4. Since Sept 2019 the Niners have run the ball 40+ times in a game, 8 times. They have won all eight games scoring 226 points while giving up 90. That is a pretty revealing stat.

    1. Otto,
      I hope you are correct but as a betting man i’m not putting any money on it. Are you a betting man? Are you putting any money on it?

    2. Otto, like Felix and OC I hope you’re right, but the offense, as good and as multiple as the weapons it has, is run-first with the defense built to slow down the opponent’s ability to score. It would be difficult for us to win a game against a good team with a stingy defense, strong oline, and more of an aerial attack. We’d have to get lucky. My opinion only. I like our chances, though, to get to the conference championship, even the SB.

      1. I think you hit the nail on the head. The margin of error is quite small and we have to rely on a dominant D, ball control and no mistakes to have a decent chance. Too many variables.

        While it may get us into the Super Bowl out of the NFC there’s just a few teams out there right now that would blow us out of the water simply because they’ve got robust firepower and a larger margin for error.

        Not loving the idea that we try and play every big game down to the last possession and take our chances. Too many superstars and mentally/physically tough players on this team to just rely on a bit of luck. I don’t know too many teams with more dominant performers on both sides of the ball.

        Quarterback is a key that seems to be holding us back and the main difference with those teams. I wish the head coach would at least make some calls to allow us to develop a dominant, intimidating offense. I say develop because as it is right now, if we get behind to these teams we’re likely toast. If we need a 4th down conversion, well, you see what happens because we don’t have any experience there.

        Maybe Brady can be convinced to come to San Francisco next year. The CMC pickup certainly would be enticing to him.

        1. I’d like to think that the qb is holding back the offense. But what if, say, Herbert were our qb or we were able to sign Brady or Rogers? How much of a difference would that really make? I’m afraid that Kyle’s plan to use Lance as a part runner rather encouraging him to be a scrambler who can bide time until a receiver gets open on any part of the field — which Lance has shown he can do — or his tendency to refrain from bootlegs, for example — reflects a deep-rooted overly conservative philosophy about offensive football. It’s pretty surprising to me.

          1. As one of the younger head coaches in the league the overly conservative approach surprises me too.

            When they attempted to draw the Chargers offsides on a hard count late in the game on fourth down I had a chuckle.

            No one’s buying the fake, Kyle.

    3. All right Otto, good to know another positive fan here that supports the 9ers on this site.
      So many here just are so negitive toward this team. I want them the bring home the Lombardi trophy.
      Go 9ers!

      1. Hacksaw, I’d like to point out that I’m not negative about the team. Saying we’d have trouble winning the SB doesn’t mean it would be a bad season. Let’s not forget that we’ve lost four games already, and scoring 22 points against the LAC wasn’t encouraging. The offensive show against the Rams was fantastic but might have been an aberration. That said, I think we can win our division and maybe go beyond that but will need luck. I think our defense is formidable but our offense looks better on paper than it really is. The loss to KC wasn’t a fluke. Now, would Andy Reid turn us to an offensive powerhouse? I don’t think so. The oline has holes and Jimmy can’t make all the throws. A good defense can control our offense. Saying that is just being realistic, in my opinion.

        1. George,
          In no way did I intend to call out anyone here and if I offended anyone I apologize.
          I am a glass half full kind of guy and my intent was just to throw my hat in with Otto, Go 9ers!
          My few post have been pretty consistent, my perspective on sprots is that they are played by humans and all humans make mistakes. None of us are perfect nor are the games that we play.
          I think because I played/competed/coached sports up untill the age of 65, that I understand how difficult it is to perserver. The old adage is “you win a few ,you lose a lot”
          I just feel privilaged to be able to watch these athlelets who are at the pinnacle of their powers.

        2. We have to go to war with the army we have. Fortunately it’s a very good army (team). No team is perfect and no coach is perfect. We may win the SB and we may not, but I’ll enjoy the process and the success that we have. This is our team and fortunately we have one of the best. I’m just grateful to be a Niner fan. It could be a whole lot worse.

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