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Four takeaways from 49ers-Jaguars: The offense’s red zone efficiency is No. 1 in the NFL

The defense continues to be stingy on the ground

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers won their third game in Eastern Standard Time this season Sunday. San Francisco strong-armed the Jacksonville Jaguars and moved up to eighth in the NFC playoff standings.

Here are my takeaways from Sunday’s victory over the Jags.

Brandon Aiyuk catches every ball throw to him

Aiyuk caught all seven of his targets at TIAA Bank Field Sunday. He displayed his ability to be a ball-winner, savvy route running, and has a connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

After the game, Aiyuk said his chemistry with Jimmy has gotten better since he had “the talk” with Shanahan. It also helped after having more communication with Garoppolo having asked him what he wants to see out of Aiyuk.

The “sophomore slump” narratives have been clouded by his limited targets. That’s no longer the case after Aiyuk caught all seven of his targets for 85 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Shanahan had high praise for Aiyuk Monday:

“Yeah. I think B.A. has been playing at a real high level here these last few weeks in all aspects of the game. Just his physicality in the run game, his physicality when he’s got the ball in his hand, and his physicality when the ball is in the air. His game has become a lot sharper, he’s not hesitating on anything, and I feel his confidence growing, and you can see the quarterback’s and his teammates’ confidence growing around him.”

Deebo Samuel reviving Shanahan’s rushing attack

Samuel has arguably been the highest-performing 49er this season. He has been featured as a running back with great success the last two weeks. Jeff Wilson Jr. did not have his best game with Elijah Mitchell out Sunday. However, Samuel provided a spark in the run game as his 25-yard rushing touchdown was the game's longest rush.

Samuel etched himself into the record books with the most rush yards in a game by a 49er receiver. “Combined with his three rushing touchdowns as a rookie in 2019, Samuel is the second wide receiver ever with three-or-more rushing touchdowns in two of his first three seasons in the Super Bowl Era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau [Frank Jackson (1961-62)].”

Samuel impacting the game as a receiver and rusher is just another example of Samuel playing at an All-Pro level.

Everything is fine when George Kittle is scoring touchdowns

Kittle has scored a receiving touchdown three weeks in a row, becoming the first member of the 49ers to do so since wide receiver Dante Pettis in Weeks 12-14 of 2018.

In 2020, it felt like Kittle did not get enough red-zone targets when he was active. When you have a top-five tight end in the NFL, you give him the ball as much as you can. Kittle’s impact may be felt most in the run game, but he is a great pass-catcher that has to be given the opportunities. Kittle has three red-zone targets this season. He’s caught all three for touchdowns.

The three-headed monster of Aiyuk, Samuel, and Kittle is finally starting to flourish. These three have to be consistent targets for Garoppolo to keep this winning streak going. With that being said, other pass catchers have to step up, so the weight is not solely on those three players.

The improved rush defense will be tested in the next three weeks

Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should be impressed with the growth of San Francisco’s rush defense. The Niners' defense has held opponents under 54 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks. Much improved from the displeasing performances against the Colts, Bears, and Cardinals.

The 49ers are fifth in defensive rushing DVOA this season. Per RBSDM, since Week 5, the 49ers have allowed a 32.2% success rate on the ground, which is .2 percent lower than the league-leading Patriots.

You must run the ball and stop the run. While the league is changing, the principles of winning remain the same. The 49ers have figured that out as of late, and it’s showing up in the win column.