Now that we are a week removed from Super Bowl LIV, I wanted to look back on the season that was. In this series, I’ll go over one play I liked from every game on each side of the ball from the San Francisco 49ers. These won’t be the biggest highlights from each game. You can google that. I want to look at plays that stood out either from a creative standpoint, or a specific player having an impact point of view. We’ll start with Week 1 when the 49ers went into the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. San Francisco didn’t find the end zone until the third quarter. Neither offense scored in the first half. The only touchdown came when Vernon Hargreaves scored on a 15-yard interception returned for a touchdown. Who was the leading rusher for the Niners after Week 1? Raheem Mostert, who had nine carries for 40 yards.
One offensive play
Richie James’ touchdown was a beautiful design, but that’s not the play I’m going with. This was also the start of a trend where George Kittle had a couple of touchdowns called back to start the season. I’m not going there, either. I’m going with Mostert and the 49ers four-minute offense. San Francisco was up 20-17 with just under five minutes to go. The offense gained two first downs and kicked a field goal, but it was an 18-yard run by Mostert that foreshadowed what was going to come in a few months.
On the surface, it looks like a guy that is faster than everyone and bouncing off tackles for 18 yards. If you watch the linebacker hesitate right before Mostert gets to the line of scrimmage, he’s reacting to Mostert’s hesitation as Mostert gets square to the line of scrimmage. That slight hesitation gave Mostert an angle, and his stiff arm and burst took care of the rest. This run is why San Francisco has their running back of the foreseeable future. Mostert builds up so much speed that it helps him bounce off tackles, and his balance allows him to get tough yards after contact. In short: he’s good.
One defensive play
Mark Nzeocha played 16 snaps at linebacker. Tarvarius Moore was second on the team in tackles. So much can change throughout the season. The defense scored two touchdowns in Week 1, thanks to Jameis Winston being colorblind. I’m not going there, but the guys responsible for those interceptions. We found out pretty quick during the Tampa Bay game that the 49ers defensive line was going to overwhelm opposing offensive lines. The 49ers finished the game with 19 total pressures and four sacks. This was the second third down of the game:
What a luxury to be able to put DeForest Buckner on one side, and line up Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, and Nick Bosa on the other side. Generally, you put your best rusher 1-on-1 in these looks. I’m curious if defensive coordinator Robert Saleh went into the game thinking Buckner was his best rusher, which is fair, considering the season Buckner was coming off. The result of the play was similar to most obvious pass rush situations when the furious four were on the field. Two guys would flash, and one guy would finish. In this case, Armstead overwhelmed the right guard and didn’t give Winston much of a chance. We saw that early and often in 2019.