The timing of ESPN’s Seth Wickersham article about the Patriots franchise couldn’t have been better as New England faces Tampa Bay this Sunday night and Jimmy Garoppolo not playing his best ball.
“When we went to the Super Bowl two years ago, it was really off of the run game,” Young said. “Then off of that run game, George [Kittle] is wide open. You come off a play-fake and George is just running right down the field, Deebo [Samuel] is running (down the field).
“It just rolls. So if we’re not going to run the football, if we’re not going to be that explosive running game — which is ironic because of all the unique and innovative things Kyle does in the passing game ... For quarterbacks that can throw their way through it, the ‘We can’t run the ball today, but I got this.’ That’s where Jimmy needs to graduate to, that’s the next space he needs to be.”
“It’s just going to get even harder,” Young added. “Those big games, if we can’t run it, (Garoppolo) needs to be that guy that can say, ‘Let’s call it and throw it 45 times and I can throw my way through it.’ I think (there needs to be) that trust that Kyle has to allow Jimmy to do it, it’s double-sided. That’s where we were in the offseason when they decided to go all-in with three first-round draft picks, there’s a concern that it can’t happen. If I were Jimmy, I would say, ‘Trust me, I can do this,’ and let him pass or fail on that.”
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on more snaps for Trey Lance: ‘This isn’t the preseason’
The 49ers head coach also could have pointed to the plight of other rookie quarterbacks, five of whom started for the team in Week 3. The results in descending order of ugliness:
• Justin Fields, Bears: sacked nine times, 41.2 passer rating in 26-6 loss to the Browns
• Zach Wilson, Jets: three interceptions, 55.2 passer rating in 26-0 loss to the Broncos
• Mac Jones, Patriots: three interceptions, 55.2 passer rating in 28-13 loss to the Saints
• Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars: two interceptions, 68.1 passer rating in 31-19 loss to the Cardinals
• Davis Mills, Texans: 19-of-28, 168 yards and a 95.5 passer rating in 24-9 loss to the Panthers
That’s five starts and five losses with the Jaguars’ 12-point deficit the smallest of the group.
Shanahan and the 49ers aren’t anywhere close to giving Lance a full game’s allotment of snaps. But what about more than the scant seven he’s played in the first three games?
Steve Young on 49ers defense: ‘The pass rush is not nearly what it was a couple of years ago’
“This team is not what it was two years ago, right now. We gotta figure out how to get there. Defensively, the pass rush is not nearly what it was a couple of years ago.”
“The defense, especially on the second play, when you know you cannot let him into field-goal range, you can’t have it,” said Young. “So the idea that you’re just gonna play off…he’s certainly not throwing for the end zone. You don’t need to guard the goal line. You gotta guard for the next seven to eight yards because that’s the difference in this ballgame.”
John Lynch weighs in on George Kittle’s injury, availability for 49ers-Seahawks
“With George, you guys see it, I think we all see it; he pours so much into each and every play, and he plays a lot,” Lynch said on the Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks show. “I think the combination of that, at times, he sells out. He’s got a calf that’s a little tight, and he’s working through that. But George usually rings the bell and shows up, and you can’t take that for granted.
“We’re hopeful that we have him [on Sunday], and we certainly need him. He’s a tremendous player, as we saw the other night and have seen so many times.”
Solving the 49ers’ slow starts: A look at Jimmy Garoppolo’s early-season efficiency
Perhaps a prime example came on Garoppolo’s miss to Kittle on that third-and-1 against Green Bay. Some pick action from Juszczyk and receiver Deebo Samuel suggests that the 49ers expected man coverage from the Packers, who did a good job disguising their true defensive intentions. Green Bay actually played zone coverage, so the picks didn’t work, and Garoppolo’s timing looked discombobulated as a result.
Still, Kittle was open and a good throw would’ve moved the chains — regardless of the suboptimal play call.
Lease-than-ideal situations early in games are inevitable since defenses will strive to surprise the 49ers before they make adjustments. So accuracy in these tenuous spots can go a long way toward putting Shanahan’s offense on higher ground sooner in games.