Coming into this season the 49ers roster was considered one of the most talented in the league. However, it hasn’t translated onto the field and San Francisco finds itself a game below .500 through seven weeks.
The 49ers defense is overrated!
At first glance some of you are likely thinking this is blasphemous. Let me explain.
Over the first five weeks the Niners defense faced teams with either a bad quarterback or a porous offensive line. As a result, the numbers had many comparing them to the 1985 Chicago Bears defense.
It’s been a completely different story over the last two weeks.
Against Atlanta and Kansas City, San Francisco’s defense gave up 63 points and surrendered a first down on 15 of 23 third down opportunities.
On Sunday against the Chiefs, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was completely overmatched by Andy Reid.
After intercepting Patrick Mahomes on the third play of the day, Ryans had no answers. The only 49ers stop over the next seven possessions was the result of a missed field goal, which came after Mahomes’ touchdown pass was negated by a penalty.
San Francisco’s defense faced 58 snaps against the Chiefs. They gave up 529 yards, 42 points, twenty plays of ten or more yards, and an average of 9.1 yards per play.
Seeing the 49ers’ defense falter in high-leverage situations yesterday wasn’t anything new.
Despite the fantastic early season numbers, we saw them allow touchdowns on three straight possessions to Chicago in the season opener.
In week three against Denver, they could not hold a five-point lead late in the game. Russell Wilson converted all three third-down attempts on the game-winning possession.
After an offensive surge saw the Niners tie the Falcons at 14 midway through the second quarter, Marcus Mariota took off on a scramble up the middle to convert on third and twelve. From there, the defense couldn’t make a stop, allowing an Atlanta touchdown just before halftime.
While it’s true the defense is dealing with injuries, the Niners’ defense saw Patrick Mahomes go after the veterans.
Jimmie Ward made the start at nickelback. He was targeted in coverage six times, allowing six receptions, including a touchdown.
Key free agent acquisition Charvarius Ward wasn’t any better. The former Chief was targeted in coverage six times, allowing six receptions including a 57-yard bomb to Marquez Valdez-Scantling.
For the second week in a row the vaunted 49ers pass rush was almost nonexistent. Patrick Mahomes was hit only three times on Sunday, and Nick Bosa came away with the only sack.
Kyle Shanahan needs to stop using Deebo Samuel out of the backfield.
The 49ers’ offense struggled last season until Kyle Shanahan started using Deebo Samuel as a running back against Los Angeles in week 10.
Samuel was electrifying, finally giving San Francisco’s offense an explosive element.
Opposing defenses are no longer caught off guard.
Whenever Samuel is the backfield, the play call is going to be an outside run or pass.
With Christian McCaffrey now in the fold, it is time for Deebo Samuel to become a wide receiver once again. This doesn’t mean he occasionally won’t get opportunities to run the ball. Those will come off end-arounds and jet sweeps, as we saw before the second half of last season.
The 49ers “playmakers” need to step up.
San Francisco has averaged less than 19 offensive points this season.
The blame usually goes to the quarterback when you aren’t scoring points.
We know who Jimmy Garoppolo is. At best, he is slightly above average, and doesn’t throw the ball down the field or outside the numbers with any consistency.
The quarterback sometimes holds the offense back, but he isn’t alone.
George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Jeff Wilson Jr. Juaun Jennings. These are the 49ers’ “playmakers”.
The reason playmakers is in quotation marks it simple, the guys who are supposed to make plays happen for San Francisco aren’t doing it.
At a rate of 8.4%, the 49ers are leading the NFL in dropped passes.
While there are a couple of terrific plays each game, the positive results are being offset by the drops.
Against Kansas City, on Sunday both Aiyuk and Kittle could not hold on to passes on third down leading to field goals.
There is nothing special about the 49ers’ special teams.
After struggling on special teams the last couple of seasons, the 49ers made improving this area a priority.
San Francisco let Richard Hightower go to Chicago and replaced him with Brian Schneider.
In free agency, the 49ers’ big signings were Oren Burks, George Odum and Ray-Ray McCloud. Each came to San Francisco focused on elevating the special teams’ units.
To this point, the moves have been a bust.
The 49ers kickoff unit has been dreadful the last few weeks, allowing three more 45 yards returns.
A 48-yard kickoff return to open the second half yesterday gave Kansas City its only short field of the game. Three plays and 34 yards later, the Chiefs had a 21-13 lead.
The kickoff return unit hasn’t been any better. McCloud has handled all 13 kickoff returns for San Francisco this year. His average of 17.6 yards per return is over a yard less than the 49ers managed a season ago.
A holding penalty on Ty Davis-Price during a fourth-quarter return put the 49ers’ offense on its own five. Three plays later, Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked in the endzone for safety.
It doesn’t stop there. Two field goal attempts by Robbie Gould have been blocked this season. One of those was returned for a touchdown.
San Francisco has been called for 48 penalties this season, tied for the fifth most in the NFL.
In summation, the 49ers struggle to get off the field, drop a lot of passes, aren’t good on special teams, and commit a high number of turnovers.
Let’s just blame it all on Jimmy Garoppolo.