While many fans thought the Garoppolo injury was the end of the season for San Francisco, there are still many games to be played. While there is a lot of work to be done, the 49ers clearly have some aspects of their team they should be very excited about.
The 49ers defense played like two completely different teams on Sunday. To start the game, they were phenomenal, especially Reuben Foster, who made a huge impact, and was seemingly everywhere on the field. The secondary wasn’t leaving guys open and we forced a couple quick drives for the Chargers, and they looked frustrated. The pass rush is still not where it needs to be to scare opposing offenses, but it was decent, and the defensive play-calling was better than it had been so far this season, with well timed blitzes and looks that seemed to confuse Philip Rivers.
However, the team’s biggest weakness, the secondary, showed why they are a weakness as the game went on into the 2nd quarter and into the 2nd half, as suddenly receivers and tight ends were getting wide open. That, naturally, opened up the running game, allowing 104 yards to Melvin Gordon, and Ekeler hurt us on the ground and through the air as well. Most of the blame for that should be placed squarely on the secondary, proving once again a complete overhaul is needed.
The offense did everything it should have been expected, although the play-calling was questionable. C.J. Beathard had one week to prepare as the true starter, so it would seem wise to put the game in Matt Breida’s hands, as he has shown the ability to make big plays and keep the chains moving. Although he was in and out of the game with an injury, he only had 9 carries for the game. NINE Carries.
The Chargers defense is not good, and the way to win a game where you have an inexperienced starter is to lean on your run game, especially if it’s as strong as the 49ers has been all season. Kyle Shanahan does not deserve all the blame for the loss, but definitely a partial credit, as for the 4th time in as many games, there were not enough well designed run plays to keep the Chargers defense guessing and off-balance. You see the same thing happening with the Vikings so far this year, a team with much more talent than the 49ers, who are also struggling.
While it works for some teams, others fall in love with the passing game and it leads to their demise. A more balanced approach is needed for a young team like the Niners to win football games; winning the time of possession battle is huge and often times a deciding factor in who wins or loses the ballgame.
Looking ahead, if the play-calling becomes more balanced, and the defense can put together one full game where they can actually tackle a ball-carrier, the 49ers may win a fair amount of games. However, if the secondary and tackling do not improve, it will be a loooong season for 49ers fans.