A few choice quotes came out of the San Francisco 49ers 30-27 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 2. Those from Richard Sherman resonated with me more than the others. “A win’s a win, but it feels like a loss to me,” Sherman said. He went on to add, “I think it’s a good lesson for a young team that we needed. It’s a humbling lesson. Thank goodness we got the win out of it, but there’s a lot of good tape, a lot of good learning from this.”
Thank goodness we got the win. There’s several reasons why. The first being the obvious momentum we need this season. It’s been a weird start to this season. After we lost to Minnesota, the overall sentiment was positive, it was a loss that felt like a win. However this week after we won, it felt like a loss, as Sherman said above. Second, there’s a stat that’s thrown around ever year after week two that indicates teams who start 0-2 have about a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs. We did not want to be under the statistical eight ball this early in the year.
What I saw on Sunday was a team in flux. Jimmy Garoppolo went from gunslinger in Week 1, to a timid quarterback in Week 2. He held the ball for an extensive amount of time, and despite great offensive line play, the Detroit Lions still managed six sacks. Kyle Shanahan, to me, seemed all over the place with his play calling this week as well. At times, he mailed it in, simply calling a play just to call it. I saw him reacting to offensive failures versus challenging the Lions defense which was often reeling during the contest. At other times, he pushed the envelope with over the top formations and calls, when all we really needed was a solid play the team could execute effectively.
In the clips below, I’m hoping to emulate film study on Monday with the team. I intend to point out some misses both from the quarterback position and from a coordinator perspective that could be worked on this week. It’s easy for us to look at these clips and say Kyle should’ve called this, or Jimmy should’ve thrown that. Especially with the slow motion option on the coaches film. I want this to be more of a running story line for this year, because this year has just begun and the team we see now should be a lot better and more consistent in the future. Let’s see if any of the things I noticed are improved upon next week.
In our first clip, it’s the 3rd quarter with about five minutes left. It’s a key 3rd down and 6. We have Trent Taylor running an out at the bottom of the screen. The area is cleared out by Dante Pettis running a deep route. From the top of the field we have Pierre Garçon and George Kittle in a bunch, which creates a natural pick. In looking at the tape, I feel like Garçon was open more, however the pass to Taylor still could have been completed. It was unsuccessful because of ball placement. The out route should’ve been thrown to the far outside, instead it was too far inside allowing the defender to break up the pass. When I saw this play in the game I immediately said if that was a better corner, it would’ve been a pick six. Jimmy never seemed to scan the rest of his options on this play. This play also foreshadows a bigger play that we will look at later.
After this play, we were forced to punt, and Detroit drove down the field and brought the game to within three points. If we converted there, we flip field position, and with a few more successful plays, possibly get into field goal range and extend the lead. Instead we ended up in a dog fight.
In our next clips we get the ball back and this is where most teams get into their four minute drill. We have the ball and the lead, we want to basically run as much clock as possible. Here’s were I want to challenge Kyle to push the envelope. First thing, we lined up in a big body bunch set with one wide receiver, an obvious run formation. Second, Alfred Morris entered the game, while he’s a great downhill runner, Matt Breida at this point had over 100 yards rushing and didn’t get enough carries in the 4th quarter, especially when it mattered down the stretch. In fact, We ran the exact same running play two times in a row, in the same formation same direction. Despite those obvious keys, we gained four yards on first down, and four yards again on second down. Those clips are below.
However on third down, we bring in Matt Breida and run him on a pass route. Why? Even the announcer Thom Brennaman was heard saying why are we passing when we’ve been running the ball down their throats for most of the game. And so, on 3rd and 2 to gain, this happens.
There’s so many things to analyze with the play above. We went from super basic line ‘em up and smash ‘em football to putting our best running back in the slot to run a route. I felt like Kyle overthought this third down. I’m not the offensive mind he is, I have zero accolades, but he comes across sometimes as arrogant with his play calls. Simply calling a dive, or a stretch run with our running back wouldn’t show off his expertise enough. He wants everyone to know how great he is. Just my opinion. Also remember the clip above, Jimmy threw the out route too far inside, and stared down his receiver. This play is no different, he stares down Breida and fails to throw the ball to the outside, except this time it ends up an interception that almost cost us the game. Shanahan did have this to say about the play after the game:
“It was a man-zone read. We got a man look. A receiver was supposed to do something to help out [RB Matt] Breida right there. He didn’t. trying to go inside, make them play over the top. We got the wrong route from a receiver. Obviously, we’ve got to see that and still try not to throw it though.”
Thankfully, for lack of a better term, we kept the ball on the penalty, and we go back to the same formation and plays as before with Alfred Morris. By now however Detroit knows for sure that we’re here to run, because of all the previous tells. It almost seemed like Kyle got gun shy as well. Out of all of his vast offensive expertise, he goes back to the same exact plays? Are there no other running plays in the playbook? It was just overall confusing to watch for me. We run the same play once to the left once to the right with limited gain. Putting us in 3rd and a long 8. I combined those plays into one clips below.
Our last clip is another situation I have questions on. I could say Kyle is using the first few games to see what works what doesn’t, maybe seeing who excels in certain formations and who does not. So it’s now 3rd and a long 8, we need to convert, we also need to run some clock to prevent Matthew Stafford from dicing up our defense again to win the game. The formation is creative, but the personnel I don’t get. Kittle is by far our best receiver, and the Lions knew this, he was often doubled limiting him to two catches on the day. He did draw several penalties which kept drives going, including the pivotal defensive holding call that saved the game.
In this formation though he stay in the backfield to pass block versus being a weapon on the play. In theory I can grasp the concept, as he actually occupies three defenders. The one he’s blocking, and the two defenders that would’ve covered him if he ran a route. Here’s the problem, he gets manhandled by the defensive end and pushed into the Jimmy’s lap, and then one of the defenders guarding him smartly realizes he’s blocking and blitzes. All was not lost however, as highlighted in the video, Jimmy hit his plant foot with no pressure, Pettis was open on the drag route, and would have at least had a chance to run for the line to gain, but Jimmy doesn’t throw it. Instead he gets sacked, and we are forced to punt.
As Sherman was quoted above, there’s a lot of good tape from this game. There’s several teachable moments all throughout on both sides of the ball. I’m pretty sure some of the things we saw today, the team also saw on Monday and they plan to improve upon those things in Week 3. Kansas City’s defense isn’t as tough as Detroit’s so I would hope to see a similar offensive performance. In most instances if your offense puts up 30 points, you should win.
I do want to see Kyle get less “cute” in the red zone (no more sprint reverses to Pettis) and instead keep feeding the running game. The Lions were lost because the play action worked to perfection with Breida tearing up the field. I want to see Jimmy continue to settle down and get comfortable in the offense. This weeks match up will be tough, but if we can slow down the Chiefs offense (easier said than done) we could pull this one out as well. Go Niners!