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Film room: Nick Bosa dominates again while Kyle Shanahan continues to showcase his expert play calling and game planning

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Nick Bosa turned in another dominate performance while Kyle Shanahan continues to show why he is a literal coaching genius.

Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 49ers scored the most points in a game in their franchise history since 1993 on Sunday when they laid a 51 spot on the Carolina Panthers, 51-13, to improve to 7-0 on the season. The last time they scored 50 points in a game was in December of 2003. Every single player who stepped out on the field on Sunday contributed in some way, and covering just one particular play from each player wouldn’t do them any justice. They thoroughly dominated the Panthers from the first snap of the game.

The offense had 230 yards of rushing led by Tevin Coleman, who had 105 rushing and three touchdowns on the ground, plus an additional receiving touchdown, giving him four on the day. The defense recorded seven sacks, three of which came from Nick Bosa, and three interceptions, one of which also came from Nick Bosa.

On defense, my game ball goes to Bosa. On offense, Tevin Coleman and Kyle Shanahan share that honor. Coleman showed why he is the perfect running back for this offense, and Shanahan showed why he has the most diverse playbook in the league.

Nick Bosa makes a case for Defensive Player of the Year

Before the game, rookie defensive end Nick Bosa was making a strong case for defensive rookie of the year. On Sunday, he elevated that star to the next level, showing why he’ll be in contention for the defensive player of the year award.

Bosa recorded his first sack of the day on their first defensive series on a third-and-3 and showed a blend of his best attributes: technique and sheer athleticism. He’s lined up out wide in a “wide-5” technique (also known as a ghost 9), the spot where he rushes from primarily and where he does his best work. He’s coming out of his stance the moment the ball is snapped against right tackle Daryl Williams (No. 60) and uses his signature two-hand swipe move with power step to beat the tackle.

The technique is reactive and allows Bosa to control the match-up. He uses what’s called a “power step” (jab step to the inside) that gets the tackle to initiate the first contact and lunge with a punch. As Williams goes to punch, he lunges forward, is over his feet, and is off-balance as Bosa gets to him and uses a “2-hand swipe” to throw the blocker’s punch away. He corners and loses his balance as quarterback Kyle Allen hesitates on the pass and scrambles. Bosa gets back up and finishes with the sack

Bosa recorded two more sacks in the span of three plays late in the game, showcasing speed to power, and on the second sack, a high effort motor that doesn’t give up.

On the second sack of the day, Bosa establishes a “half-man” relationship to beat the blocker. He bulldozes through the outside shoulder of left tackle Dennis Daley and pins his arms, keeps a lower pad level than Daley and powers through the blocker with a combination of speed, elite hand technique, and power.

Bosa is in the backfield as Allen hits the top of his drop. There’s nothing he can do at that point. Bosa finishes with the sack.

On the third sack, the 49ers run an end-tackle stunt (E-T stunt) to get pressure on the quarterback. Bosa is lined up out wide again with DeForest Buckner to the inside of him. On the E-T stunt, Bosa acts as the “penetrator” and Buckner acts as the “looper.”

The penetrator is tasked with drawing the guard and tackle combo block, making it easier for the looper to come around the edge with distracted blockers. The guard and tackle key in on Bosa and lose Buckner, who actually should’ve had the sack, but couldn’t finish. Allen escapes the pocket, and Bosa shows here his high effort motor that doesn’t let him quit on any play.

The remarkable thing is how quickly Bosa recovers from his rush as the penetrator, even as leaped up to get into the throwing lane of Allen. His explosiveness in transition to chase Allen down was incredible.

Bosa did most of his work in the first half and took a breather in the second half, but when he came back in, he showed he wasn’t finished. In a remarkable feat of athleticism, he intercepted a pass after being cut down on his rush, and returned it 46 at the end of the third quarter, setting up a first and goal for the 49ers at the Carolina nine-yard line.

After the game, Bosa said, “They had been cutting us a little bit on pass. He got me on a play before, cut me really good. So, just played the cut that time and saw the quarterback’s eyes and just jumped. Then, it went right into my hands.”

Daley tried to slow Bosa’s rush down by cutting him at the thighs, but it must’ve been like hitting a tree. He barely moved Bosa and certainly didn’t slow his rush down.

Allen was trying to hit running back Reggie Bonnafon on a swing pass out of the backfield. Bosa was already in the throwing lane when Allen threw. He leaped up and snagged the pass out of the air, and juked Allen tackle attempt twice on the return. George Kittle excitedly stated after the game, “He got cut blocked, stood back up and intercepted it and ran it 40 yards after stiff-arming two guys. He’s an honorary tight end for National Tight End day. So, he had a catch, and I had a tackle. I was pretty excited.”

Bosa finished the game with four total pressures, three of those for sacks, and has 35 total quarterback pressures on the season (eight sacks, seven hits, 20 hurries). He was also selected as NFC defensive player of the week for the second straight week while his brother Joey Bosa was also selected as the AFC defensive player of the week. This week, Bosa will likely use being snubbed as the number one overall pick by the Cardinals as motivation to continue his defensive player of the year performances.

Shanahan’s expert use of misdirection continues

The 49ers offense came into the game facing the third-ranked defense per Football Outsiders DVOA metric. The Panthers have an aggressive front led by defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin and linebacker Luke Kuechly. The defense also boasts former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who had expressed somewhat of a grudge coming into the game against his former team. Shanahan found new ways to counter the aggressiveness of the Panthers upfront with more misdirection and easy screen passes.

One of the more interesting aspects of Shanahan’s offense is blending the play-action run fake with the passing game. Shanahan’s screen game is unconventional in that it blends run fakes with screen passes to a side vacated by the pass-rushing defender. And it creates just enough hesitation in the second level that it opens up the running lanes for the receiver to fall in behind his blockers.

On two separate drives, Shanahan called his “Filter Screen to Y” play to Kittle because Kittle is more dangerous as a runner. On the postgame show on NBC Sports, Kittle told former 49ers safety Donte Whitner that his mindset after catching the pass is “make them (defenders) tackle you. Run straight through them, and if they want to tackle you, they’ll get in the way, if they don’t, then they’ll take a creative angle.” Getting Kittle the ball in space is advantageous for that reason alone.

On the first screen, he chips defensive end Bruce Irvin and sells the run action. As Garoppolo drops back, Kittle lets him go, turns, and catches the pass. No one was able to tackle him as defenders went low but were content to hold him up, what’s known as “in the grasp.”

On the next screen, Shanahan worked in some misdirection, which has the benefit of setting up easier blocks for the linemen. The play itself revealed several things to the coach, and it would be the building block for Deebo Samuel’s touchdown later in the game.

The offense is lined in a modified wing T formation. Garoppolo sends Emmanuel Sanders on a jet motion to the left while selling the run fake to the right. The defense pursues the run action in that direction as Kittle simulates a sift/influence block on the defensive end. The jet motion pulls the overhang defender out of the box.

Defensive end Efe Obada “follows his hands” and gets ready to engage Kittle, but Kittle lets him go and turns around as Obada loses his footing and balance. He catches it and sprints out to the left sideline, where he gains 12 yards. Kittle has a running lane thanks to the outside zone play-action and the jet motion.

Kittle isn’t the only offensive player who benefits in the screen game. Shanahan would revisit this formation and misdirection later in the game. He also dialed up a “filter screen” shovel pass to Breida on the games opening drive that set a new set of downs and the game’s first score.

The play sells weak side zone (Wanda) and gets defensive end Mario Addison (No. 97) to hesitate in his rush. The play-action allows the linemen to get easier angles on the defenders as they drop back, looking for the pass after the fake. Breida settles into the vacated area as Addison continues on his rush. Garoppolo shovels the pass behind Addison, and Breida finds a crease to get inside the five-yard line.

In the run game, Shanahan added some misdirection to his “Taxi” weak side toss play.

The misdirection pulls the defense out of the box slightly and opens a lane on the weak side as the blockers seal of the defenders in the second level. Breida hits the edge and speeds to a 17 yard gain.

Two plays later, Shanahan found running back Tevin Coleman for the insurance score to go up 21-3 with just under 13 minutes left in the second quarter.

The play is run out of a bunch trips to the right. The receivers are running a spot concept to that side with an “Aggie” screen (slip screen) tagged to the boundary. Garoppolo drops back and looks that way for a receiver on the decoy side.

The defense has to flow that way since he’s looking that way and the middle of the defense, led by Kuechly, flows in that direction just long enough to open up another lane. The blockers get down hill as Garoppolo turns and throws the screen to Tevin Coleman, who hits the lane and speeds to one of his four total touchdowns on the day.

The misdirection game continued as Shanahan would not let off the gas, calling a “dart” run to Deebo Samuel for another score mid way through the third quarter.

Remember the second filter screen to Kittle above? This play to Deebo Samuel builds of that misdirection. In the screen above to Kittle, Sanders jet motion reveals that only two blockers stayed home to defend the motion out that way, one of which was pulled out of the box. The defense flowed to the outside zone play-action, creating a lane for the Kittle. On the “dart” run to Deebo, Garoppolo faked a handoff to Sanders as he and Coleman sprint left and before he hands off to Deebo.

The defense is stationary, just sort milling around the middle of the field because they’re not quite sure what’s going on. The jet fake takes two defenders out with it and sets up easy blocking angles for the pulling guard Laken Tomlinson. All Deebo has to do is outrun Kuechly and the cornerback James Bradbury (No. 24). He does so for a touchdown and a 19-yard run.


The 49ers must quickly relish in their thorough beatdown of the Panthers and stow it away as they begin preparing for a wildly inconsistent Arizona Cardinals team that started the season 0-3-1, won three straight, and just lost on the road to the Saints. First-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury leads them and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, are hurting in the running game department after losing David Johnson, Chase Edmunds, and others.

But they have an explosive offense that could create some problems for the 49ers front. They have not faced a mobile quarterback this season like Murray, who can run around and make plays with a howitzer for an arm. And it’s a short week where historically, Thursday Night Football games are usually very wonky. Shanahan said in his post-game comments to the team that he felt they were locked in all week before Carolina. Here’s to hoping they keep the same energy and confidence on a short week.