clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Golden Nuggets: What makes the 49ers’ run game so dominant?

New, comments

The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen had a tremendous break down of what makes head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme so unstoppable.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

After discussing our least favorite San Francisco 49ers’ head coaches over the last 20 years, let’s focus on appreciating one of the best.

Kyle Shanahan has provided the Niners with a sense of stability since being hired prior to the 2017 season. The 49ers went from NFL basement dwellers to Super Bowl contender in three years.

One of the main reasons San Francisco has grown into a championship level squad is Shanahan’s offensive genius. The Niners finished 17th in offensive DVOA in 2017, fell to 27th in 2018 (QB Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt in Week 3), and climbed all the way up to 7th last season.

Shanahan’s outside zone scheme has made the likes of Alfred Morris, Devonta Freeman and Raheem Mostert look like world-beaters at times. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen did an amazing job of breaking down Shanny’s system:

“When they were finally healthy, they dominated teams on the ground late in the season en route to a Super Bowl appearance. They were the best outside zone team in the league last year. According to Pro Football Focus, the 49ers averaged 5.2 yards per carry when they called outside zone, ranking third. The Ravens and Browns averaged more per carry but the 49ers nearly called as many outside zones as both teams combined.”

As Nguyen wrote, San Francisco finished second to the Baltimore Ravens in total explosive run plays last season, which count as rushes of 10+ yards. We saw just how creative Shanahan’s running plays can be when Mostert shredded the Green Bay Packers’ defense for 220 yards in last year’s NFC Championship game.

Cleveland Browns’ tight end Austin Hooper —who played for the Atlanta Falcons when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator there— spoke to Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe about how smart Shanahan is when it comes to calling plays:

“This guy is Nostradamus,. This guy is a fortune teller. And it would happen every time. I mean, we scored so many points that year. Obviously, players were already bought in, but when the guy is shooting 90 percent at the free-throw line, you tend to believe he’s going to make it.”

Reminds me of what happened against the Packers:

The 49ers finished the 2019 season with 2,305 yards total rushing for an average of 144.1 yards per game, and 23 touchdowns.

Do you think the Niners will go over or under each of these totals in 2020?


On to some links:

The players are due to report for training camp in the coming week. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner looks at some of the big questions facing San Francisco going into next season.

NFL owners are reportedly pushing for a dramatic drop in the salary cap over the next two seasons, while the players’ union wants to smooth it out through 2030. David Bonilla of 49ers Web Zone looks at how this could impact San Francisco and its upcoming free agents.

How much will this unprecedented offseason affect the 49ers’ performance? Fansided’s Luis Sanchez III says that continuity is on the Niners’ side going into training camp.

There is no doubt that tight end George Kittle was a huge steal at the 2017 NFL Draft. NBC Bay Area’s Josh Schrock says Shanahan and general manager John Lynch had the beast graded much higher, and took a gamble that he would still be there further down the draft board.

Getting All-Pro safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets may still be a pipe dream for the 49ers, but his impact on the field would be huge. Fansided’s Rory Humphrey looks at how Adams would take the Niners to the next level.

We will get to know more about 2020 NFL Draft pick Colton McKivitz over the coming weeks. The West Virginia product opened up about how he is preparing for his first NFL training camp. (The Times Leader)