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3 keys to a 49ers victory over the Dolphins

Blitz Tua, bend but don’t break against the pass, and score some points, please?


The San Francisco 49ers get ready to crush the naysaying Miami Dolphins. Arik Armstead returns to anchor an elite defense in time for a star-studded Miami offense. Kyle Shanahan has six games to sharpen his team for their Super Bowl run. Capitalizing on offense while limiting Tua and the Dolphins’ deep passing game is key to a 49ers victory on Sunday.

Stand tall against the deep throw

Last week, San Francisco gave up several explosive plays from Andy Dalton as Dalton diced both man and zone coverage. As a result, Ryans has featured more 2-high shells and played some Cover 2 and Cover 5 (2-man) against the Saints. The defense faces Tua Tagovailoa, who leads the NFL in passer rating, yards per attempt, QBR, and percentage of touchdowns thrown when attempting a pass.

Tagovailoa compares to Jimmy Garoppolo as they both love getting the ball out quickly and targeting the middle of the field. However, the ‘Hawaiian Punch’ has willingly thrown the ball downfield this year. Ryans’ linebacker core will ease the stress as they’ve continued to make plays against the pass.

Guarding the second level will prevent cheap yards from RPOs and make Tagovailoa think twice about throwing deep. Pressure escalates for San Francisco’s secondary this week as they must win one-on-one situations. Good luck with Hill and Waddle having supersonic speed.

Make Tua uncomfortable

According to Pro Football Reference, Ryans blitzes on 22.3% of opposing quarterbacks’ dropbacks. Ryans relied on Cover 3 fire zone blitzes to shake things up against New Orleans. The three deep—three under coverage allows the blitzer to give everyone one-on-one opportunities. As a result, we will see a slightly different game plan from last week’s shutout.

Ryans loves to send five while playing Cover 1 behind it. Expect to see more man blitzes with the more explosive in Miami. There’s no ‘go-to’ coverage with twitchy players like those two. Ultimately, finding the perfect mesh of zone and man blitzes can help get Tagovailoa to the ground and prevent any explosive plays.

Garoppolo finds the end zone

Scoring should be a no-brainer, but this team must be reminded until they do it consistently. The defense has a chance to get lit up, so the offense must do more than carry its weight.

Pressure mounts for Jimmy Garoppolo as he lost Elijah Mitchell to injured reserve paired with a banged-up Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. The 49ers staff preserved McCaffrey’s knee by limiting him in practice all week.

San Francisco’s ‘ball-winners’ made plays when they needed to last week. This week is a little different. The margin for error’s smaller, the opponent is better, and most importantly, who wouldn’t want to beat their little brother?

Kyle Shanahan can hush all the noise about how critical Mike McDaniel was to the run game. I’m not discrediting McDaniel’s, but it’s time for Shanahan to make teams fear this offense.