The Pass Game
For all the issues of the run game, the pass game had to be the far more disappointing outcome. After all, Jimmy Garoppolo’s magical run made us think that the 49ers passing offense was going to be special.
But, if we stop and take a closer look at his stats as a 49er last year, we see something a little more telling:
|3 yr||3 yr||NWE||17||2||2-0-0||63||94||67.0||690||5||0||7.3||106.2|
|2 yr||2 yr||SFO||7||6||5-1-0||135||211||64.0||1821||8||8||8.6||88.2|
Seeing the chart, we look at an interesting point to note: eight touchdowns to eight interceptions as a 49er. That’s not to say that Garoppolo isn’t good, but it does show an different perspective with Jimmy G. It shows him as a gunslinger, someone who will throw in contested coverage to make a play.
That could be a problem facing a Detroit defense that only allowed 180 yards and had a pick-six, albeit against a rookie QB. The Lions have a talented cover man in cornerback Darius Slay, as well as a talented safety in Glover Quin. And despite the talk about tension on his team, head coach Matt Patricia is a Bill Belichick disciple who has coordinated top defenses before.
However, the game versus the Jets also showed some problems with passing. Just look at the end of Sam Darnold’s first passing touchdown, where they show a second camera angle on the play:
That coverage near the end is atrocious. The safety, Tavon Wilson, has only one player near his zone to worry about. But still, wide receiver Robby Anderson manages to break free and get away. A somewhat underthrown ball (though still a remarkable throw) makes it more of a play than necessary.
Apart from bad coverage on one route, the Lions were actively struggling with play-action plays. That’s what happens when you’re giving up lots of yards on the ground. Just check out this play compilation:
There are a lot of bites on the play-action fake, another Kyle Shanahan specialty. The game plan seems to line up perfectly. Run the ball well and then use play-action to exploit these inconsistencies.
However, there are two things that could ruin the beautiful game plan created: picks and pressure (alliteration is fun, don’t you think?). Garoppolo, as mentioned several times, threw three interceptions.
Let’s look at the one least his fault:
As much as interceptions are terrible, this is equally on wide receiver Kendrick Bourne as it is on Garoppolo, so let’s consider it a moot point. Another interception by Garoppolo cannot be. He overthrew Dante Pettis on a slant, which instead went right to Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. That’s something the 49ers must fix.
His third interception is an interesting one to think about:
Pressure was clearly in Garoppolo’s face, forcing a hurried throw. Yet, he didn’t have to throw in a crowd of three Vikings. That play had no chance of happening, with or without safety Harrison Smith.
If Garoppolo can keep this under control, then this game will be much easier to win.
The other potential problem is injury. The 49ers have Najee Toran, recently signed from the practice squad, slated to play right guard with both Mike Person and Joshua Garnett expected to be out. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is dealing with a quadriceps problem, per 49ers Webzone. These could be issues for a game plan.
To conclude, the 49ers should go run-heavy with play-action mixed in instead. With that game plan, I’m sure the game will turn out with the 49ers back at even in the win-loss column.