In this week’s film breakdown, we take a look at some of the big plays during the 49ers come from behind victory. In reading through some of the analysts reviews, and comments from various sites, the general perception of this victory has been exceptionally marginalized. There’s a lot of “well it’s just the Rams” talk. Here’s some numbers for you. According to NFL.com, the Rams currently rank 10th in total team defense. They allow 5.2 yards per play good for eighth overall in the league. They hold teams to 38 percent on third down, good for ninth in the NFL this year. Alec Ogletree, their starting inside linebacker, ranks second in the NFL with 95 tackles. Their record doesn’t take into account the talent they possess on the defensive side of the ball. Against this top 10 defense, Colin Kaepernick, completed 73 percent of his passes for 266 yards. He finished the game with a quarterback rating of 99.1, his best of the year. He had a hell of a game. He was the key to this week’s victory, he took deep shots when they were there, but more importantly as you will see in some of the shots from the film, he was accurate. He positioned touch passes and laser shots that were basically impossible to cover. Key players, Jeremy Kerley, and Rod Streater, caught everything that was thrown their way, and were also integral in the win.
We start with 10:28 to go in the 4th quarter. 1st and 10. The Rams have just spread the lead to two touchdowns on their last possession. This play is the same play Carlos Hyde scored on earlier in the first quarter, this time the route is being run by Shaun Draughn. There’s a coverage mishap by the Rams on this one, as both players in position trail Garrett Celek on his route towards the sideline. This leaves Draughn wide open in the middle of the field for 11 yards. Good start to the drive.
9:00 in the 4th quarter. Big 3rd and 6. This play shows the difference in my opinion between Kap, and Blaine Gabbert. Kap’s first read is Chris Harper in the flat, and he’s open. I know for a fact Gabbert would pull that trigger faster than you can say “short of the sticks.” Kap instead moves to his second read, Kerley. He’s running a deep out, and is being covered by a linebacker. Kap drops the pass over the linebacker’s head, but in front of the defensive back. Prime time dime for 21 yards.
8:24 in the 4th quarter. The Rams try to bring pressure with a zone blitz concept. Here’s where I think Chip Kelly shows a facet of his offense that causes defenses trouble. A lot of the plays do look similar, but have different combinations that play on defenders trying to guess what’s coming. For example, all game the 49ers’ running backs were running their routes across the middle on inside slants out the backfield (see first video). The Rams, attempting to counter this tendency, drop a defensive lineman into the middle of the field, while blitzing from the outside. DuJuan Harris, instead of breaking inside however, continues to the flat, and is wide open. The defensive linemen No. 91 is out of position and doesn’t catch Harris until he’s down the field for a first down.
6:36 in the 4th quarter. After a holding penalty, and a false start on Trent Brown, the 49ers sit at 3rd and 21. The pre-snap motion shows single man coverage on the outside. The Rams also come with a blitz hoping to rush the throw. Center Zane Beadles blocks an oncoming rusher with one arm. He’s a strong man. Wide receivers, Kerley and Harper run crossing routes, and both defenders get caught behind Harper. Kap fires a bullet to Kerley on the out route and gains 13 yards on the catch and run.
5:57 in the 4th quarter. After a big gain on 3rd down, it’s 4th and 7. Rams Blitz once again leaving one on one on the outside. Kap, showing anticipation, actually releases this ball before Streater breaks his route. The defensive back positions himself inside and Kap puts the ball near the sideline. It’s a frozen rope that’s placed so perfectly Streater catches, turns, and gains the first down with ease. You can see the defeat on the defensive back’s body language as he sits there on his knees.
5:14 in the 4th quarter. On this play, the Rams, after getting burnt on consecutive blitzes decide to play coverage. They also employ a QB spy. The coverage is solid and no one is open, Kap takes off, and really shows his speed on this play. He blows by the QB spy and 3 other players in less than 4 strides. I slowed it down on the end zone angle just so you guys can see it. One defensive back (No. 26) just gives up. There were also some nice downfield blocks by Kerley and Harper to free up Kap into the end zone.
One score down, One TD to go 49ers regain possession with 2:46 left in the 4th. Rams go straight coverage and employ six DBs in the formation. Kelly aims to beat the zone coverage by forcing the defenders to commit to a man. The initial flat route by Draughn takes the linebacker No. 52 out towards the flat. Kereley’s crossing route, takes the other defender No. 26 towards the opposite flat. Celek sits in the middle of the zone left by the defenders. Kap, displaying accuracy, places the ball away from the defender and allows for Celek to make an easy catch for 11 yards. You can see how good the ball placement was on this one from the end zone angle.
The very next play, with 2:23 left in the 4th quarter, the Rams continue the zone six DB look. Kelly chooses to beat the zone this time around with a flood route combo. You have Draughn in the flat, Kerley runs a deep corner, and Streater runs a stop route between the both of them. Kap stands in and delivers a strike. The ball gets there with so much speed Streater has enough time to catch the ball, fall down, get up and run for an 11 yard gain.
There’s two more quick strikes for about seven yards each, one to Streater, and one to Kerley. We’re now about ten yards out with 36 seconds left in the game. Pre-snap motion leaves one on one on the outside. Kap lasers another strike in Streater’s direction. The defensive back actually has blanket coverage on this play, but ball placement, and Streater’s size and frame make it an easy pitch and catch.
Down one point, after two heart-stopping drives, the 49ers go for two. Once again the pre-snap motion causes confusion on the Rams side of the ball. Two defenders are led out the play as they both follow Streater to the outside of the formation. This leaves only a single defender in Kap’s way, a slow defensive linemen. You can see Michael Brockers (No. 90) trying to keep pace. The deep cross is covered, and two defenders also flock to Kerley, but he falls down on his route. Kap continues to roll and roll until he’s close enough to dive for the two points, victory!
There’s lots of rumblings about what’s going to happen in the off-season. I personally hope Kap, and Kelly stick around. Our offense has some dynamic tendencies, and I think both Chip and Colin have shown some good things to build on for next year. Now this week’s Seattle game will be another test for the offense and defense alike. I’m sure if we win, the consensus will be, the Seahawks were in playoff mode and didn’t give the game their all. If we lose, we suck again. One thing I refuse to join in is this, “we should lose for draft position” race. I’m all about the W’s. The team needs a culture of winning, not a culture of drafting; although I do have some gripes with Trent Baalke, and his All-ACL team. I believe Arik Armstead and Deforest Bucker will be a force in the league next year. Hopefully we can get back our all-pro linebacker NaVarro Bowman, along with some draft picks around him to shore up the interior defense. I think Streater and Kerley are keepers, and picking up a few more offensive weapons will be vital. Happy New Year to all my fellow Faithfuls!