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Historically, the 49ers' offense has been average in the playoffs under Shanahan

This is the most talented unit Shanahan has had heading into the playoffs. The Niners are perfectly positioned to debunk the myth that Shanahan’s offenses

NFL: JAN 11 NFC Divisional Playoff - Vikings at 49ers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kyle Shanahan is 4-2 in the playoffs as a head coach. However, he enters the 2022 postseason with his best chance to win a championship, despite not being the No. 1 seed in the conference.

That sounds counterintuitive when you realize the 49ers are on their third-string quarterback, but San Francisco is riding a 10-game winning streak and is one of the few teams in the playoffs with more answers than questions.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Paul Hembekides went through each team debunking myths and highlighted how Shanahan’s offenses have struggled once they’ve reached the postseason:

The myth: Kyle Shanahan’s offense can put points on the board no matter who the quarterback is.

Why it’s wrong: Historically, Shanahan’s offenses have not been excellent in the postseason. In Shanahan’s six career playoff games as a head coach, his offenses have averaged a modest 21.7 points per game, with his quarterbacks accounting for a total of four touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Shanahan has won playoff games with defense. His defense has forced at least one turnover in each of his six playoff games and allowed points on just 31% of opponents’ drives. The good news for the 49ers is, shaky performances against the Chiefs and Raiders notwithstanding, their defense has looked all season like one that could carry the team to postseason success. No matter who the quarterback is.

Here’s a look at each offensive output using points, yards per play, passing and rushing success rate, first down rate, and turnovers.

The 49ers offense under Shanahan

Game Points Yards Per Play Passing SR Rushing SR First Down Rate Turnovers
Game Points Yards Per Play Passing SR Rushing SR First Down Rate Turnovers
Vikings '19 27 4.5 43 56 32 2
Packers '19 37 6.9 58 54 37 0
Chiefs '19 20 6.5 47 47 38 2
Cowboys '21 23 5.4 52 39 31 1
Packers '21 6 4.1 29 47 22 1
Rams '21 17 5.6 48 11 30 1

Aside from two games, moving the ball hasn’t been an issue. When we get to the success rate columns, anything lower than 45 percent is considered below average. You’re shooting to be above 30 percent for the first down column.

Unsurprisingly, turnovers have done Shanahan’s offenses in. Also, the plays that the box score won’t remember.

The difference in talent at the skill positions this year compared to years past is night and day. In the Divisional round of 2019, Tevin Coleman ran for over 100 yards against the Vikings. Coleman is currently RB5 and on the practice squad.

Kendrick Bourne’s 42 receiving yards led the team in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs — yes, we know Emmanuel Sanders would have led the team had he caught a specific pass. George Kittle had eight targets in three games. He’s had 22 targets in his previous three games this season.

We have yet to see the best version of the 49ers' offense yet. We’ve seen glimpses of how potent McCaffrey, Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk can be. Everyone is aware of the big play ability of Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell. Sprinkle in Jauan Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud, and you have arguably the deepest group of weapons in the playoffs.

These playoffs won’t be any different than the previous two under Shanahan. Receivers will be open and in a position to score. Will the moment be too big for the quarterback? Can Brock Purdy hit the 4-5 throws over four games? If so, the pieces are in place for the offense to do damage and the Niners to hoist their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Plus, the matchups in the NFC all favor the 49ers. There isn’t a defense that has the leg-up on San Francisco. Dallas has fallen off a cliff. The Eagles can’t stop the run. Minnesota can’t stop anybody. And Tampa Bay is slow and makes too many mistakes.

The Niners' offense is in a perfect position to debunk the myth that Shanahan’s offenses struggle in the playoffs.