Kyle Shanahan’s rushing offense opened the season, gaining at least 150 yards three out of four games, topping the 250-yard mark twice. The bulk of the credit was given to the 49ers’ offensive line, who was returning five starters and was thriving on their continuity and chemistry developed in 2018. Tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk proved invaluable for the 49ers’ rushing success early in the season.
From Weeks 6-12, the 49ers only gained more than 150 yards on the ground twice and failed to get to the 100-yard mark against the Seahawks and Cardinals. Injuries to tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, as well as Juszczyk and Kittle, played a pivotal role in the run-game struggles, but it seemed like the tide started to turn on Sunday.
In the 49ers’ first six games, they gave up a total of eight sacks, whereas in the five games after that, San Francisco’s offensive line managed to give up 14 sacks.
With Staley still out of the lineup with a hand ailment, the 49ers moved ex-AAF player Daniel Brunskill, in the wake of Justin Skule’s poor showing vs. Packers. Brunskill and former first-round pick Mike McGlinchey started to find their footing, and the 49ers’ offensive line dominated the Ravens’ defensive front on Sunday.
For the first time since October 27 vs. Panthers, the Shanahan’s rushing attack exceeded 150 yards, gaining 174 in Baltimore on Sunday. Running back Raheem Mostert led the way for the 49ers, with tailback Matt Breida out with an ankle injury. The former Purdue star gashed the Ravens’ defense for 7.7 yards per carry and the cherry on top was his 40-yard run. On each of his runs, it seemed like the offensive line was clearing gaping holes that allowed Mostert to burst through the line and run North-South.
Per Pro Football Focus, McGlinchey was the highest-graded San Francisco player, giving up zero pressures (sacks, hits, hurries) and also zero penalties. It’s the first game this season that McGlinchey has turned in a clean sheet. Since returning from his injury, McGlinchey gave up 11 pressures in the first two games but has only given up one since.
Brunskill was also solid on Sunday, giving up only two pressures to a solid Ravens’ front seven. He graded out better than McGlinchey in pass blocking, which is a testament to the offensive line coach John Benton’s intelligence, playing his two best tackles, even if they are out of position.
When the 49ers ran behind either the right tackle or the right guard, they had six carries of 75 yards, including the 40-yard touchdown run. San Francisco also had success running behind Tomlinson, taking five rushing attempts for 38 yards, including three first-down runs.
The 49ers will have a tough, four-game stretch coming up against the Saints, Falcons, Rams, and Seahawks that will determine their playoff seeding. Here are their respective rankings in run DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
The 49ers’ offensive line will be tested during these four games, and they will need to step up and open up running lanes to help San Francisco’s offense attack the opposing defenses.