As the 49ers put up another goose egg in the second half of their third loss this season, the heat within the building has started to pick up on the offensive struggles.
So far this season, the 49ers have three losses where they’ve lost to teams with a combined record of 4-11 (outside of when they play San Francisco).
In those losses, the 49ers have averaged 11.3 points per game while only putting up six total points in the second halves of those three games.
In the second halves of the three losses, the 49ers’ offense has punted five times and turned the ball over nine times while only scoring on two of those 16 possessions.
It’s an embarrassing output considering the 49ers’ talent on offense and their offensive head coach.
So what’s wrong with the offense? Is it a quarterback problem? Is it on the offensive line? Is it poor and inconsistent execution?
Ultimately, the offense hasn’t been executing and putting points on the board when it matters, and that’s a reflection of the offensive designer in Kyle Shanahan.
Their offense is currently ranked 15th in Defensive Value Over Average (DVOA) and 18th in Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/play). Both are lows for Shanahan’s offense in seasons where Jimmy Garoppolo has been healthy (2019, 2021, 2022).
The part that doesn’t make sense is that the 49ers are able to move the ball well but not actually put points on the board. They’re currently 11th in yards per play but 19th in points per game.
Taking it one step further, the 49ers are 11th in the NFL in first-half points per game but fall all the way to 26th in the NFL in second-half points per game.
In the first halves of games, the 49ers are 10th in EPA/play and 14th in Success Rate. In the second half, that drops to 21st in EPA/play and 26th in Success Rate.
Their fantastic coming out in the first quarter, ranking 9th in first-quarter points scored per game, but fall to 28th and 14th in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
Beyond this, the 49ers’ struggles can be pointed directly back to their inefficiencies in the run game. San Francisco is 27th in Rushing EPA per play this season. That’s by FAR the lowest mark since Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers. They’re 12th in rushing yards per game and 15th in rushing yards per attempt, so it’s nothing to quite write home about.
Despite their struggles, Shanahan refuses to go away from the run game. On early downs, the 49ers run the ball 55 percent of the time, which is the third-highest rate in the NFL. Despite the fact that the 49ers are bottom-5 in rushing efficiency, Shanahan still wants to continue to try and run the ball.
In 2019, that approach was perfect. The 49ers had a stable of healthy running backs, an offensive line that created push, and a run scheme that the NFL wasn’t familiar with.
In 2022, the 49ers are down their top two running backs while trying to bring along three new interior offensive linemen, and the run game isn’t efficient right now.
In fact, their quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and passing attack has been far more efficient this season in all situations (since the Denver Week 3 game). Until the 49ers can get healthy running backs, I think Shanahan should start to self-scout and adjust to what the offensive personnel needs right now.
With the run game struggles, Shanahan should lean on his healthy, efficient quarterback, who’s been playing as well as he’s ever played in a 49ers’ uniform. Per PFF, Jimmy Garoppolo has a 5.1% Big-Time Throw Rate, which is by FAR the highest in his 49ers’ career.
The offense is broken right now, and instead of trying to hammer home the same concepts and hoping for better execution week in and week out, I think it’s time for the 49ers to adjust on the fly and start to find an identity on offense.
Kyle Shanahan’s known to be stubborn as a head coach, but if the 49ers want to realize their potential this season, the offensive genius is going to have to do some soul-searching and do what’s best for his team rather than try and fit a square peg into a round hole.
I’m not crazy enough to suggest that Shanahan be on the “hot seat” or be fired. But the offense has been abysmal for large stretches of games, and they make it so difficult on themselves.
As Bill Belichick once said, “you’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”
It’s time for the 49ers’ offensive play-caller to stop allowing the 49ers’ offense to be a huge reason why they lose games this season.