For 54 minutes on Sunday versus the Lions, the 49ers led a lopsided game 41-17 in a game where they seemingly dominated all phases. However, unable to capitalize on a 3rd down throw to ice the game with just under six minutes left, the 49ers allowed the Lions to march down the field in garbage time to score, cutting the lead to 16.
Then George Kittle muffed an onside kick that took a funny bounce before it bounced off his facemask. The Lions scored again, cutting the lead to eight. Then, Deebo Samuel fumbled after Garoppolo extended the play and found him over the middle.
This time, the 49ers put the brakes on the Lions' offense as they marched downfield to tie the game. All of this happened in the game’s final five minutes, and the 49ers held on 41-33.
Before that, however, the 49ers did everything you’d expect them to do against a bad team: converted key 3rd downs, ripped off huge chunk plays in the passing and running games, and pressured Goff 22 times (three sacks).
The running game carried the offense for the most part, despite losing Raheem Mostert in the first quarter. Trey Sermon was a healthy scratch leading to Elijah Mitchell’s heavy usage.
Mostert, Mitchell, and the offensive line’s run game dominance
Raheem Mostert left the game after this drive, and it was revealed later on Monday that he chipped some cartilage in his right knee and will miss the next eight weeks. Nonetheless, the offensive line was opening some big holes for him on his only two carries.
The first play call is toss zorro, where fullback Kyle Juszczyk jet motions across and blocks the first defender inside of Kittle. Mostert takes the toss. Trent Williams (No. 71) and Laken Tomlinson (No. 75) do an excellent job blocking the edge as Mostert hits the hole. Out on the perimeter, Deebo is pushing his defender downfield, allowing Mostert to gain 11.
In the second play, essentially the same call, this time with Ross Dwelley (No. 82) coming in motion across before the snap. Again, the offensive line seals the defenders inside and runs them out of the play on the perimeter, creating a huge lane for Mostert to gain nine.
Mitchel later entered the game and was impressive in his first outing as a rookie. He forced the Lions into an 8-man box on 36.36% of his snaps but had 37 rushing yards over expected, per NFL NextGenStats metric that measures how many yards a running back can gain on a given play in relation to defender positioning, speed, blocking assignments, etc., and ran for 104 yards and one touchdown.
Mitchell did all this with a blend of speed, strength, and vision. One of the first things that stood out in his college tape was how he combined these traits to be a ball carrier that’s incredibly physical and tough to bring down on contact.
The 49ers are running an outside zone toss to the right out of 12 personnel. The formation is a YY formation to the right with another receiver in tight in a condensed formation.
Mitchell takes the toss running to the right behind Kittle, Woerner, and the right side of the offensive line. They give him a ton of room to run and turns on the jets. In particular, watch the blocking of Kittle and the offensive line. Kittle pile drives one defender into another while the rest of the offensive line pancakes at least one defender.
Two defenders, including first-round pick cornerback Jeffrey Okudah and safety Will Harris (No. 25), collide as Harris tackles Mitchell up high. Mitchell shakes the attempt and sprints into the end zone.
On the second play in the clip above, the play call is the same outside zone toss as Mitchell’s earlier touchdown run. However, this time Mitchell is running to the left behind Kittle and Woerner. The two tight ends kick out the edge defenders as Williams races downfield to block for Mitchell.
Williams engages linebacker Alex Anzalone and drives him out of the play as Mitchell gains 10. Mitchell sees the hole by his third step, quickly sprints downhill through the lane, and nearly breaks another tackle before being brought down.
The offensive line continued to dominate, but Mitchell was just as decisive and dominant on these next two runs for gains of 10 yards.
Displaying impressive vision and balance on this first run in the clip above, Mitchell presses the A-gap before deciding to squeeze through a small crease between Alex Mack (No. 50) and Williams. He never slows down, lowers his shoulder, stays square, and runs through the tackle attempts at the line scrimmage on his way to an 11 yard gain.
Jimmy Garoppolo up arrow
For the most part, Jimmy Garoppolo played well. He had some head-scratching throws that should’ve been completions, and he made others that show us why fans fell in love in the first place. And up front, his touchdown throw to Deebo wasn’t even his best throw. In fact, that throw wasn’t even that great; Deebo even said so after the game.
Nonetheless, Garoppolo made some good throws to convert third downs, and some came against pressure.
His best throw was a 15-yard completion to JaMycal Hasty that beat a safety blitz off the edge. Hasty was his hot read, and he flung it out there quickly before taking a shot. He hung in the pocket on the touchdown throw, and he rolled out of the pocket extended the play on a throw late in the fourth quarter that Deebo eventually fumbled trying to covert.
However, he needed to complete one throw in particular that would’ve iced the game and prevented the late scoring onslaught by the Lions. Garoppolo tried to convert this throw on a quick slant to Deebo that was high and behind him. This is just who Jimmy is.
Defensive up arrows and down arrows
It’s only been one game, so it’s tough to judge how defensive coordinator Demeco Ryan’s scheme will continue to look or how it will change over the next several weeks, so for now, we’re going to take a look at some players who stood in some good and not so good ways.
Up arrow: Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Arik Armstead
Nick Bosa hasn’t played a game since week two of last season. In his first action back since then, he recorded five total pressure, including one sack, working against rookie left tackle Penei Sewell.
It was a good battle for the two, but Bosa got the best of Sewell when Bosa bull-rushed Sewell to the ground, forcing quarterback Jared Goff to leave the pocket. Goff eventually went down, and Bosa touched him while on the ground, but Bosa made that sack happen when he flushed Goff.
Bosa also had two tackles for a loss on DeAndre Swift in the run game, where he used a nice inside move to beat the blocker.
In the first clip, Bosa sets the edge and can’t be moved outside. As soon as Verrett comes down as the force defender, Bosa slips back inside and stops Swift in his tracks. The Bosa brothers are best known for the outside power step with 2-hand scissors move, but Nick Bosa is also a very effective inside pass rush or run defender. Here he uses an inside rip, stays low into the B-gap, and stops swiftly again dead in his tracks.
Dee Ford also finished the day with five pressures, including one sack, and was pivotal in creating the pick-6 late in the second quarter.
On the pick-6, Ford is in a 3-point stance out in a wide-5 technique alignment rushing against right tackle Matt Nelson (No. 67). Ford uses his speed, lowers his shoulder, and drives Nelson right back into Goff. As Goff is throwing, Ford clubs Goff’s arm, forcing the pass to fall short and right into the arms of linebacker Dre Greenlaw who returns it for a touchdown.
Arik Armstead recorded the most pressures in this game with nine (one hit, eight hurries) and showed that having Bosa, Ford, and Armstead back together can be lethal.
Armstead rushed from the interior and edge in the clips above and generated his pressures from both spots. In isolation, pressures can sometimes not affect a single play. Overall, the 49ers pressured Goff on 21 dropbacks that resulted in three sacks and one pick-6. When they were unable to get pressure on Goff, they nearly came back and tied the game. Armstead was effective in more ways than one.
Down arrow: Dre Greenlaw
Even though Greenlaw had the pick-6, he didn’t really have to do anything except stay in his zone while Ford ensured the pass was short. Greenlaw also had three missed tackles, with two coming on the same drive.
Two of the missed tackles were the result of bad run fit assignments. The other he just completely missed. This is a recurring problem for Greenlaw, who often has a tendency to shoot past the ball carrier.
Other times, Greenlaw was playing the wrong fits and fitting the same gap with Warner and getting blown off the ball by the Lions' offensive line, allowing big plays to go right past him. In one of the clips, you can see linebacker Fred Warner express his displeasure with Greenlaw for not sticking to his assignment. Not an ideal day for the linebacker in his third season. It’s only one game, though, but these issues were present last season, and they will be something to keep an eye on this season.
There isn’t any reason to believe the defensive collapse is indicative of anything DeMeco Ryans did throughout the course of the game, but they will need to clean up their mistakes with run fits and being out of position. Otherwise, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts will hurt them with his legs.
In any case, the 49ers shouldn’t lose to the Eagles. They are a much better team on paper and on the field, but they will need to play a little more discipline on both sides if they’re going to handle their business in Philadelphia on Sunday.