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3 uplifting and deflating plays from 49ers-Titans: The Niners’ weaknesses get exploited

Six plays Niner fans will love or shove from their Week 16 meltdown.

Syndication: USA TODAY Andrew Nelles / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week, the 49ers dropped the ball against the Tennesee Titans. This week, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan looks to rebound at home against the Houston Texans. Houston is coming off a confidence-building win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

We take a look at six plays Niner fans will love or shove from their letdown lost against Tennesee.

Samuel almost scores on Niners opening drive

Deebo Samuel has been the heart and soul of the 49ers dating back to his monster game in Week 1. Samuel has remained in the top five of receiving yards despite having to revert to running back to spark the running game. His 159-yard receiving performance last Thursday was his fourth game, with at least 156 receiving yards this year.

This “Yac bro” catch above was just one of his many explosives. He is top-five in both 20 and 40-yard reception this year. Samuel is capable of making any touch. He gets explosive, and he has held this 49er offense together.

Garoppolo misses a walk-in touchdown

In my opinion, this is easily the most deflating play from last week’s primetime match. There were plenty of blunders throughout the game, but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo failed to redeem himself after having a turnover in the endzone the drive before.

I stressed that Garoppolo had held the vertical passing game back, and you cannot get a clearer look at it than this. San Francisco let their momentum slip early on the road, and it cost them big time. Garoppolo’s status is uncertain with the news of his chipped bone and torn ligament in his right thumb.

Ebukam continues to improve

The 49ers needed Samson Ebukam’s development to speed up with Arik Armstead moving inside, and he has delivered. San Francisco's edge group continues to suffer without Dee Ford, and Ebukam has been a bright spot in aiding the pass-rush.

Tennesee is in 7-man protection, and Ebukam breaks through a double team for the sack. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense was able to get four sacks, but Brown’s third-down catches kept the Titans’ drives alive throughout the second half.

Brown’s 42-yard reception

This play can be deflating in several ways, including the refs missing a clear push-off by Brown. 49er rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas looked to be in a position to make a play on the ball here. The 49ers outside cornerbacks have continued to suffer on deep targets or in jump-ball situations.

It worries me having an inferior cornerback group heading into the playoffs where the NFC has a wide array of talented receivers. But, the deficiency at cornerback could be exploited in the final two regular-season games.

Samuel’s catch sets up the game-tying touchdown

Samuel ignited the offense after several stagnant offensive drives in the second half. The 49ers needed a spark, and Samuel came through. You can see him win on the route, then accelerate past the defense. You can’t quantify how important Samuel is to the offense.

(via NextGenStats)

Football analytics can get a bit extreme when it comes to some of the stats created. However, Samuel’s YAC Over Expected (YACOE) has been the highest since he entered the NFL in 2019.

Tannehill seals the game

Honestly, I wanted to put Garoppolo’s second interception as the last deflating play of this article, but this (play above) likely sealed the game. San Francisco’s game-tying touchdown was answered with Tannehill extending the play with his legs.

Arden Key has helped waken this pass rush, but his penetration forced Tannehill to step up, and he scrambled for 23 yards. This 49er defense won’t see any more mobile quarterbacks for the regular season but could see one if they make the playoffs. Fred Warner has to make that tackle.

The Titans torched the 49ers on third downs, which was a big part of the reason the Niners fell on the road.