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Shanahan explains how defenses can’t take all of the 49ers' weapons away

“The only time you can get a guy a ball for sure is you throw him a screen or you hand the ball off to him”

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Since the 49ers acquired Christian McCaffrey a month ago, there has been a lot of chatter about the offense having a lot of mouths to feed. As John Lynch himself later said, “How many footballs are we going to play with?” Kyle Shanahan recently sat down with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco and addressed the target shares of the offense.

“Whoever is the best player, you try to get him the ball, as much as you can. You always have things on your call sheet, ‘What are the plays to get this guy the ball? What are the plays to get that guy the ball?’ I’ve got five guys like that, so I’m always thinking in that situation.

But it’s not like where it used to be. The only time you can get a guy a ball for sure is you throw him a screen or you hand the ball off to him. There’s 25 plays where it’s going to Deebo as number one [read], and then there’s 60% of the coverages he’s not gonna get it, so it goes to number two. Who’s your number two? It depends on the play. There’s just as many percentage of plays where George is number one. ‘Let’s try to get George the ball.’ Well, do I want to try to get George the ball or do I want to try and attack the coverage? It’s the same thing.”

The question for a lot of 49ers fans, I think, is, “Why can’t Shanahan find a way to attack the coverage with George Kittle?” Surely Kyle knows how to draw up plays to get specific people open.

When he was the offensive coordinator in Washington in 2013, Pierre Garçon led the NFL with 113 catches (the only season Pierre ever had more than 79 in his career). Garcon had 181 targets that season. If Kyle wants someone to get the ball, he gets them the ball.

So why doesn’t he employ that same mindset when it comes to Deebo Samuel or George Kittle? In an indirect way, Shanahan himself addressed that question later in the response quoted above.

“That’s kind of what’s different these days. People can take somebody away very easily, but they can’t take away everybody. People can usually take away the pass game or the run game, but they can’t take away both. That’s why you try to balance your five [eligible receivers]. That’s why we also try to balance out our throwing and passing, and that’s why we feel we can dictate it, not them.”

Shanahan is at his best when he attacks the rules of a defense, forces them to adjust to what he’s doing, and then gouges them with wrinkles specifically designed to counter those adjustments.

To this point, the offense has scored 22 points per game, which is tied for 16th in the league. He’s now had a few weeks to see how teams are playing him with Christian McCaffrey in the fold. Hopefully, the scoring ticks up in the second half of the season.

Hear more about this and other stories in today’s 49ers in Five podcast. Our five-minute daily update gives you the latest news, best audio clips, and everything else you need to know about the team. Subscribe to the Niners Nation Podcast Network today so you don’t miss an episode!