The San Francisco 49ers rose above .500 with the win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Week 10’s “Sunday Night Football.” Kyle Shanahan’s offense moved the ball well despite hiccups, but his offense needs a new wrinkle. However, Shanahan’s team played with resilience, and that’s a key ingredient for a championship team. Here are three things we learned from The Niners’ victory.
Jimmy Garoppolo is 10-2 in starts with 0 TD passes
I know what this headline looks like, but I’m not here to slander Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo’s persistence on third and long kept drives alive. He was 6-for-7 on 3rd and 8 or longer with four first downs and a 118.8 rating. Garoppolo has converted on 45.2%of passes on 3rd and 8-plus— which is second to Patrick Mahomes, according to Josh Dubow of the Associated Press.
The headline reflects John Lynch’s Super Bowl-ready roster that we’ve all been clamoring about. I wanted to complain about San Francisco’s struggles to get in the end zone, but Brandon Aiyuk’s faults hindered opportunities. There are no excuses for the fumble and dropped touchdown when you have elite-like qualities.
The 49ers’ defense makes a turnaround at the right time of the season
Los Angeles’ offense made me stand and watch the entire first drive. Justin Herbert effortlessly threw receivers open, and his mobility in the pocket gave the defense fits. However, that was the Chargers’ lone touchdown drive. DeMeco Ryans’ defense stood tall against the run as they’ve held rushers under 60 yards in back-to-back weeks.
Dre Greenlaw laid several big hits on Chargers defenders, including one on Herbert that got him ejected. It was a bang-bang play, and the 49er’s defense needs physical plays like these to keep the fire under them.
Nick Bosa, Jordan Willis, and Charles Omenhiu made Herbert’s night a living h-e-double hockey stick. San Francisco’s pass rush must keep the same productivity with a possible Kyler Murray return next week.
My lone gripe is Jimmie Ward at nickel. I’m not saying he cannot do it, but I think his impact would be felt greater at free safety. However, Ward at nickel likely screams that other cornerbacks are unwilling to fit the run.
Can we use Deebo Samuel as a WR again?
This pains to say, but it may be time to limit Deebo Samuels’ rushes. The reigning first-team All-Pro’s usage should be questioned. At first, I thought he lost his elite ball carrier vision, but it feels like Samuel is running too hard before his blocks are developed. Part of that is him trying to make a big play every time he touches the ball.
Most of Samuel’s receiving targets felt like swing and screen passes. His usage was ineffective and he is too good of a player to not have an impact week in and week out. Let Elijah Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey man the backfield until it calls for some Deebo special sauce.
The defense coming back to life is huge for the 49ers. But the offense needs to sharpen things up to become a contender. It is a shame that George Kittle and Samuel didn’t make an impact Sunday. Kittle was barely targeted, and Samuel’s role was limited to rushes and gimmick targets.
Shanahan must get these two involved versus a scrappy Arizona Cardinals team. DeAndre Hopkins has led the NFL in targets since his return in Week 7, and he’s always a thorn in the 49ers’ side. Stopping Hopkins is one key to victory, which could be answered by letting Mooney Ward travel with him.
Anyway, the 49ers won!