There weren’t many surprises as far as snap counts go for the San Francisco 49ers against the New England Patriots. Richie James Jr. out-snapped Trent Taylor 16 to three. I noticed on one of the first third downs of the game, Taylor was in over Deebo Samuel. Taylor must not have seen the field after the first drive. Jerick McKinnon only played 12 snaps, but last week Kyle Shanahan said they needed to be cautious with Jet’s snaps after the team felt he played too much in the Eagles and Dolphins game.
Here are the PFF grades on offense.
Laken Tomlinson 91.1
Trent Williams 84.8
Tomlinson and Williams weren’t credited for giving up any pressure. On the ground, the duo paved the way for ball-carriers. What’s been most impressive is both of their athleticism. The Niners can use both Williams and Tomlinson to pull, reach defensive tackles, or pin defenders so the skill players could get to the edge. As Williams and Tomlinson continue to play more together, they’re becoming more dominant.
Brandon Aiyuk 89.0
A reporter asked Aiyuk after the game about how he felt the Patriots secondary was. Heading into the game, New England was thought of as one of the top secondaries in the league. Aiyuk’s response was perfect: “It was a good secondary, and, I mean, (chuckles) just it was a good secondary, I guess.” He had an evil grin on his face and laughed as he walked away. It was hilarious.
Aiyuk finished the game catching six of his seven targets for 115 yards, with 50 of those coming after the catch. He had five first downs, and on the only incompletion, Aiyuk was open. He also forced two missed tackles. The rookie’s confidence is growing, which is good, as the Niners may be forced to rely on Aiyuk even more if Samuel is to miss time.
Kyle Juszczyk 85.7
Quietly, Juszczyk has disappointed as a blocker this year. He’s missed far too many blocks for a player of his caliber. That was not the case on Sunday, as Juice looked the All-Pro player he’s been for most of his career. Juszczyk carried the ball four times for 18 yards, all resulting in a first down or touchdown. He also had an impressive diving catch for 18 yards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Niners lean on Juice more in the passing game if Deebo is out.
Jeff Wilson Jr. 84.3
Seeing Wilson Jr. go down with an ankle injury was the most depressing part of the game. Wilson ran like a maniac and like someone who had zero interest in being tackled by the first person. Wilson finished the game with 17 carries for 112 yards, with six of those going for first downs, three scores, and three over ten yards. Wilson also forced four missed tackles and had 70 yards after contact. He looked like the best player on the field at times.
Five-lowest graded offensive players
Trent Taylor 55.8
Kendrick Bourne 55.2
Richie James Jr. 55.1
Jerick McKinnon 50.4
Ross Dwelley 49.8
Dwelley has struggled all season as a blocker, and that continued Sunday. He’s been responsible for too many negative plays this year.
Top-five defensive players
The 49ers only played 52 snaps. If the offense can control the ball and keep the defense off the field and fresh, expect dominant performances to continue. That type of complementary play has lacked this season. There weren’t too many surprises on this side of the ball from a snap-count perspective, either. Ahkello Witherspoon played some slot cornerback in the Niners “dime” packages, which was great to see. When this defense puts its speed package on the field, not many offenses in this league can move the ball.
Azeez Al-Shaair 85.1
Al-Shaair finished with four tackles, one stop, and a forced fumble. His coverage grade was 90.7, but he allowed three receptions for 30 yards. I imagine most of that came during garbage time and on screens. Al-Shaair has had issues with his eyes getting caught in the backfield, but that was not the case Sunday.
Jamar Taylor 83.8
Taylor had a run stop and two interceptions. Creating turnovers have been an issue for this secondary for several years now. It’s not as if they’re not getting opportunities; they’re just not finishing. Taylor finished. He looked lost against Miami but has bounced back nicely the past two weeks and played well when targeted.
Fred Warner 77.8
Another week, another impressive performance from Warner. He had two run stops and took advantage of a poor throw from Cam Newton. Warner is always around the ball. His playmaking skills always give the 49ers defense a chance to get off the field. We’re running out of superlatives for Warner. At this point, it’d be an upset if he wasn’t an All-Pro.
Kerry Hyder 74.8
Hyder was credited with three pressures on the afternoon, but those came from Newton holding the ball. Hyder was better against the run and continues to play at a high level as a run defender. Hyder was even in coverage on one play.
Tarvarius Moore 74.3
Moore’s performance was a pleasant surprise. It was refreshing to see him play aggressively. Talent has never been an issue. Moore’s tackling was a problem when he started at safety during 2018, but he was flying around Sunday and had a couple of big hits. One of those hits caused a pass breakup. Moore finished with six tackles and two stops on the day, and in coverage, you could see his speed pay off as he was often around the ball.
If Jimmie Ward has to miss more time, the Niners are in good hands. His range could play a critical role against the Seahawks vertical passing attack.
Five-lowest graded defenders
Dion Jordan 57.1
Jason Verrett 54.0
Kenativus Street 53.9
Arik Armstead 51.3
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 31.5
Verrett gave up two catches in garbage time and could have given up a catch or two during the Pats two-minute drill. This is where PFF’s lack of adjustment for scenario impacts their grades. I’m not too worried about Verrett.
The lack of pass rush is concerning, though. The players along the defensive line are not winning. It shouldn’t be up to Robert Saleh to have to generate a pass rush. Injuries have been brutal, but Armstead has to give the team more, as does Javon Kinlaw.