Sunday’s performance was precisely what we wanted to see out of the 49ers. No messing around, just handling business. From the time the game started to the moment the clock struck triple zeros, there was no doubt the Niners would beat the Jaguars.
You have to be the ultimate curmudgeon, more so than our Rob Guerrera, to come away with any losers in this game. So, here are the winners from San Francisco’s win over Jacksonville.
We’ve run out of superlatives for Deebo Samuel at wide receiver. The game plan against the Jags was never going to include Jimmy Garoppolo airing it out on 50 dropbacks. Keeping that in mind, Kyle Shanahan used Samuel primarily as a running back.
Deebo caught one pass for 15 yards. Samuel’s presence was felt as a ball-carrier, however. Samuel carried the ball eight times for 79 yards and a 25-yard touchdown. Samuel — and this isn’t hyperbole — looked like the best running back on the roster.
He did an excellent job setting up his blockers then exploding through the hole for a significant gain. Samuel won’t get credit for breaking tackles because he outruns angles. His physical style of running couldn’t fit this offense any better.
They didn’t connect on the throw, but a deep pass down the sideline to Samuel forces cornerbacks to honor that route. Using the entire route tree with Deebo will only make him more dangerous.
Bosa drew a couple of holding calls, had two sacks on the same drive, and added a QB hit for good measure. Bosa is a superstar. When he plays like one, this defense goes to another level. Bosa’s 10 sacks already surpass his season total from his rookie season.
Bosa came into Week 11 with the 10th best odds to win Defensive Player of the Year. He was already one of the most valuable defenders in the NFL, despite playing on a losing team. If Bosa keeps up his torrid pace now that the 49ers are in the playoff hunt, he’ll finish top-5 in the voting in only his second full season as a player.
Bosa’s going to shatter the record for the highest-paid edge rusher in NFL history once that time comes. He’s one of the few players capable of dominating in the run and passing game.
Noticing a trend here? Three winners are three early-round picks. If this game were competitive, Aiyuk would’ve soared over 100 yards. Instead, he finished with seven receptions on seven targets for 85 yards and a touchdown. His final catch came on the first drive in the third quarter.
Aiyuk made guys miss after the catch, won short, intermediate, and deep. It’ll be imperative to keep Aiyuk involved in the offense early as the season goes along. One team will try to take away Deebo, while another double covers George Kittle.
Aiyuk will have single coverage during the final seven games. Variety is necessary to succeed on offense. Having three viable targets in the passing game only heightens the threat of each player. The way Aiyuk’s playing, I’m willing to bet this won’t be the last time we talk about him surpassing 100 yards.
Losers - Shanahan’s field goal decision
OK, I lied. After the game, Shanahan had this to say about kicking a field goal on 4th & 1 from the two-yard line after possessing the ball for 13 minutes:
“I called the play more out of emotion and the more I thought about it, I didn’t think it was the right decision.
When you go that long of a drive, if you would’ve come out of it with no points, I thought it would have given them a lot of momentum and got them going. I wanted to go for it bad.”
In our postgame recap, I suggested that it was an emotional decision. It seemed as though Shanahan was frustrated with Garoppolo’s wide-open miss to Jeff Wilson in the end zone and never moved on. We can debate until the end of time whether that was the right or wrong call. Since Jacksonville isn’t an explosive offense, some have said that the correct decision was to take the points. Here’s why I disagree.
When you are on the field for 19 plays, the defense is beyond exhausted. More than likely, you have backup defensive linemen in the game with the starters fatigued. Additionally, there were no signs that Jacksonville would slow you down at any point during the drive.
The icing on the cake is, assuming the argument that the Jaguars aren’t a juggernaut offensively, is that your defense gets a stop and within a few plays. From there, you make them punt with a high probability of you getting the ball in your territory with another shot to score.
Winners - Jimmy Garoppolo
On 28 dropbacks, I’d say Garoppolo had two poor plays. First, the miss to Wilson, and on one sack, it felt like he could have hit a receiver. But, aside from that, Garoppolo continued to be efficient and effective.
His first touchdown throw Aiyuk summed up Garoppolo as of late. He threw it with anticipation, knowing he’d take a hit from the defender on third down. San Francisco was 2-for-3 in the red zone touchdown scoring percentage but is likely 3-for-3 if Kid Shanahan goes for it. The 49ers also converted 50% of their third downs. You can thank the quarterback for their hyper-efficiency when it matters the most.
The 49ers don’t need Garoppolo to morph into a Hall of Famer for this offense to score. When Jimmy plays on time, doesn’t flinch in the pocket, and lets it fly, he’s doing his job. When Confident Jimmy shows up, this team is tough to beat. Let’s hope he’s here to stay.
“Norman giveth, and Norman taketh” is how you’d describe his season. Norman forced his fifth fumble of 2021 Sunday. Turnovers have been challenging to come by for the defense. That hasn’t been the case for their peanut punching cornerback.
As frustrating as his missed tackles and occasional coverage woes can be, the turnovers make it easy to forgive Norman. His fumble gave the offense a short field that turned into a touchdown. Timely turnovers will be massive for the Niners moving forward.
Props to Ryans for a brilliant game plan. Trevor Lawrence finished with a 29 quarterback rating and a negative EPA per play. Ryans is on here because of how he used his players. The 49ers leaned on their “big dime” personnel, which meant three safeties on the field.
That allowed them to match up with Jacksonville’s receivers while using each safety in a different role. When you have Jimmie Ward, you can do that. In some plays, Jaquiski Tartt would play the deep, center-field role. On the next play, that’d be Talanoa Hufanga. Each of the three safeties is interchangeable, and instead of relying on a backup linebacker, Ryans used his best players.
We spoke about how the 49ers couldn’t afford to come out flat. They aren’t an 8-2 team that can afford to overlook a team like the Jaguars. Kudos to Shanahan and the coaching staff, as well as the players, for not taking Jacksonville lightly.
You had the forced fumble by Norman and Trent Sherfield recovering a muffed punt. If the 49ers are going to continue to have multiple turnover games, good luck beating them. Knowing that’s not sustainable, it’s refreshing to see this team no longer making boneheaded mistakes.
I don’t remember any drops. There was only one penalty compared to the Jaguars' eight. We saw Jacksonville lose composure while San Francisco seemed unbothered by the noise.
My favorite part about the game was when Jauan Jennings blocked Rashawn Jenkins, followed by a Jenkins punch. Jenkins seemed more triggered because he couldn’t shake free from Jennings than anything. After the play, Shanahan dapped Jennings up. The way Kyle talks about toughness, you know, seeing Jennings mix it up brought a smile to his face.
We’re seeing a team playing together, playing for each other, and playing at a playoff level. That’s two games in a row. With the Vikings on deck, the 49ers will have to keep this momentum rolling into Levi’s Stadium. It should be a playoff atmosphere considering what’s at stake.