Sunday was a tale of two halves for the 49ers. The offense looked lost, inept, and without a plan for much of the first half. Then, the final drive happened. The defense gets the assist for getting the team the ball back with enough time to score.
From there, the team that finished fourth in offensive EPA per play from Week 11 on and eighth in success rate looked like the team we had gotten used to during the second half.
One question that I saw pop up during the game quite a bit was why JaMycal Hasty received a target on third down or where was Deebo Samuel early. The Rams went out of their way to double Deebo throughout the game — especially on third down.
That’s how you end up with Jauan Jennings catching multiple first downs or Brandon Aiyuk 1-on-1 with the entire field to work with.
You always hear about “making the right play” in basketball. LeBron James makes the extra pass to the open man. That’s what Jimmy Garoppolo did on the throw to Hasty down the sideline. Could the pass have been slightly out in front of Hasty? Sure. To me, it was a better play by the defense, and it was nothing more to it than that.
Both of Jimmy Garoppolo’s worst plays of the game came when the offense went with max protection — meaning they left seven players in to block. Garoppolo can’t hold onto the ball that long on the strip-sack and needs to check it down to the running back so the offense can stay in a third and manageable situation.
I’d like to see Jimmy show pocket movement on the interception at midfield to keep the play alive instead of forcing it. Both of those throws plays can’t happen when you’re in max protection.
I didn’t have a problem with the decision on the second interception after re-watching the game. George Kittle had inside leverage on Jalen Ramsey, and the safety was nowhere near close enough to Kittle to make a play.
In the video breakdown below, you’ll see how the offensive line failed to pick up a “creeper” blitz from the Rams, which caused an errant throw. This play was one of those where both things are true. The throw could have been better while the line also has to pick up an elementary blitz.
Jennings and Aiyuk pick up the slack
When you double team Deebo, put your next best cornerback on Kittle while giving both safety help, you run the risk of leaving the other wideouts on the field 1-on-1. The Rams went into this game thinking, “Jauan Jennings or Brandon Aiyuk are going to beat us.”
Well, Aiyuk went over 100 yards receiving, and Jennings was six yards shy of the century mark. Jennings picked up third down after third down, including his big catch and run down the sideline.
Aiyuk averaged nearly 18 yards per reception. His initial catch on the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter isn’t getting enough respect. In the video below, I discuss how Jimmy did a nice job of manipulating the defense with his eyes, played on time, and got the ball to his receivers in stride so they could run after the catch.
Also, the Rams had two coverage busts at the end of the game that aided the 49ers' big plays.