It was important that the 49ers had Deebo and Trent Williams back for this game, of course. It was important that McCaffrey and others were freshened up by last weekend’s bye. It was important that newcomer Chase Young seemed to fire up the entire defensive line on its way to five sacks and constant pressure on Trevor Lawrence. It was very, very important for Purdy to get past the five combined interceptions he threw during the 49ers’ recent three-game losing streak after throwing none during the 49ers’ 5-0 start this season.
Purdy is willing to throw passes that might be intercepted if he thinks his guys can make a play. Again, it’s a complicated mix. It’s fascinating. It’s not everything Shanahan wants, but it also kind of is — you don’t want a QB who’s unwilling to take some risks, you just want those risks to be well calculated.
“I know he’s had some turnovers here and there in our losses,” Shanahan said. “But you ask anyone who’s watched all those games, he’s been one of the best players on the field in those games. … I love having a guy who isn’t thinking about that. He’s trying to make the right decisions, letting it rip, and he’ll live with the consequences and try to get better when it’s not.”
“Shanahan is right that it’s probably overblown. But that distance from the press box looms large when things aren’t going well.
Wilks was, and to some extent, still is an outsider. Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans were young, physical presences on the sideline. They’d seen Fred Warner’s growth from pup to franchise lynchpin. Wilks wasn’t there for that.
He had to re-establish trust. Having him on the sidelines with his players creates a level of connectivity and added communication that’s not worth shrugging off. You’re not going to talk behind your coordinator’s back when you’re literally behind his back. At least, you shouldn’t.
And if the decision didn’t mean anything, Shanahan and Wilks wouldn’t have made it.
“Meanwhile, nickel cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who gave up two touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8, didn’t play much in Jacksonville. He was replaced by Deommodore Lenoir, who often matched up against slot receiver Christian Kirk.
The results were mixed. Kirk finished with a team-high 104 receiving yards while Ambry Thomas, who enters at outside cornerback when Lenoir moves inside, gave up a couple of mid-range completions and was flagged for pass interference at the end of the third quarter.
Thomas, however, also made what would have been the 49ers’ wildest defensive play of the year so far when he dislodged the ball from Kirk in the shadow of San Francisco’s end zone, then picked it up and ran 92 yards the other way for a touchdown. The score, however, was nullified when a gaggle of 49ers, who thought the play was over with the fumble recovery, stepped onto the field during the return and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.”
“The 49ers trotted five defensive linemen onto the field. They’d used that formation before, but only sparingly. Their intentions were clear: The Jaguars were to be dissuaded from running the football against a 49ers’ run defense that had — shockingly — been performing as one of the league’s worst units over its first eight games of the season.”
“The Niners’ defenders came out with purpose, poise and polish — and looked pissed off in the process. They opened the game by forcing a quick three-and-out, with Warner in Lawrence’s face on the first play (a rushed incompletion) and Arik Armstead and Hargrave combining to sack him on third down.
It snowballed from there, in a manner that should ease the angst of Niners fans everywhere. This team is far from perfect, but at its best the 49ers are still capable of doing big things in 2023.
What’s clear after Sunday is that if the Niners can indeed make a Super Bowl run, their defense will fuel it — and their defensive coordinator will be very, very close to the action.”
“This is a defense used to younger, energetic coordinators joining them on the sidelines, which ensured open channels of communication with players during the game. This brought that back. For a coordinator who came in as an outsider, it’s hard to shrug that off.
He also made changes, returning to a five-man defensive front to open the game. He shuffled out nickel corner Isaiah Oliver and pushed Deommodore Lenoir inside on nickel packages. Ambry Thomas came in as the outside corner on those downs. Lenoir continued to look like the weakest part of the defense.”
“On Thursday, wideout Deebo Samuel, who returned from a shoulder injury Sunday, said Monday’s practice felt like “Day 1 of training camp” with how fresh and fired up the team was about the chance to get its season back on track. It was a big reason why Williams played on his injured ankle despite being at about 75% to 80% health, per his estimation.
“I think it was huge,” Williams said. “Losing four straight, I think a lot of people would have wanted to turn the panic lights on or could have had our proverbial back against the wall. I think coming out and getting this win on the road against a really good team that’s been rolling, I think is definitely what we needed.”
“Eighteen games in a row is a big record,” Shanahan said. “So if we had a chance to do it, I was going to do it for him. It’s a little nerve-wracking. The last thing I want to do is get him hurt.”
Shanahan was pressed about keeping his workhorse back in the game. McCaffrey arrived ranked third in the NFL in touches (169) and was playing through an oblique injury before last week’s bye. Did Shanahan consider how much heat he would have taken if McCaffrey had been injured in the final minutes of a blowout?
Shanahan smiled at his questioner.
“I try to make decisions not based on having to talk with you after the game,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong. But I’m not going to think about you until after the game.”
“You’ve got to feel the pain and embarrassment of today,” Lawrence said Sunday. “That’s what it is. It’s terrible. One of the worst games I’ve probably played in my career. So I feel that and I take responsibility for that. We couldn’t do anything right today. But you’ve got to flush it too. It sucks but the reality is a 31-point loss — and that’s crazy to say — but a 31-point loss is the same as a three-point loss. We lost today and we’ve got to move on. We’re the same team we were five hours ago.”