San Francisco 49ers: Breaking down why C.J. Beathard can’t handle pressure

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 21: C.J. Beathard #3 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 21, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 21: C.J. Beathard #3 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 21, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Quarterback C.J. Beathard was atrocious facing pressure during the San Francisco 49ers’ 39-10 rout at the hands of the visiting Los Angeles Rams in Week 7. Let’s look at why.

Any team playing the San Francisco 49ers for the rest of the season should take note of what the Los Angeles Rams did in Week 7 en route to blowing out the Niners 39-10 in a completely one-sided affair.

Put as much pressure as possible on quarterback C.J. Beathard.

In his fourth start of 2018, Beathard finished the day going 15-of-27 for a mere 170 yards, one touchdown against two interceptions and a lowly passer rating of 56.1. He was also sacked seven times, including four by Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

And while it would help if San Francisco’s remaining opponents had a Donald-type player up front, Los Angeles revealed an ugly truth about Beathard’s pro-level abilities — he’s not good at facing pressure.

At all.

This stat, courtesy of Pro Football Focus’ Jeff Deeney, tells you pretty much everything you need to know:

So why is Beathard struggling with pressure so much? More importantly, is there any kind of improvement to be made over the rest of the season?

Beathard wasn’t exactly known for his pocket awareness and handling pressure well during his collegiate days at Iowa. That trend continued into his rookie season and, after what happened in Week 7, it looks as if it’s still a thing for San Francisco’s second-year signal-caller.

Per Pro Football Focus, Beathard’s passer rating when facing pressure is a painfully low 46.7 compared to 94.6 without.

Plays like the one below illustrate the issue:

This was just a four-man rush. Forget the blitz for a moment. Beathard failed to feel the pressure from his right. And rather than protecting the ball, which would have set up a likely 3rd-and-18 after taking a would-be sack, Beathard tried to deliver it a second too late. Rams EDGE Samson Ebukam got to Beathard’s arm and forced the fumble, which L.A. recovered.

The smart play would be to admit the pass rush was going to get home. Even if the Niners failed to convert on the ensuing third down, a punt would have led to better field position.

Beathard’s pocket mistake subsequently led to a Rams field goal.

At the 6:17 mark of the second quarter, Beathard attempted a pass under pressure to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, only to have it intercepted by Rams cornerback Troy Hill:

Beathard did a good job stepping up in the pocket to avoid L.A.’s pass rush. But if you watch his head, it’s locked in solely on Goodwin. Beathard didn’t bother looking to his right, where he would have seen a wide-open running back, Alfred Morris, in the flat. Targeting tight end George Kittle outside the numbers to Beathard’s right also might have been a smarter option.

While it’s good Beathard was able to navigate the pressure a little better here, he failed to make his reads after buying a couple additional seconds of time by stepping up in the pocket.

That’s usually disastrous against a four-man rush.

Teams capable of utilizing a four-man rush with success will rely on that heavily over the duration of 2018, hoping Beathard continues to make these kinds of mistakes. But for lesser defensive fronts, it wouldn’t be a shock to see more blitzes called.

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Beathard’s 75.6 passer rating against the blitz isn’t terrible, although he’ll have to remember the adage of throwing in the direction of the blitz, as there’s one fewer player in coverage that side of the field. That requires pre-snap recognition and quickly processing defensive movements when the blitz is coming.

Again, an aspect Beathard has never shown prowess at both the college and pro levels.

Fortunately for Beathard and the 49ers, few teams are capable of generating the same kind of four-man pressure Los Angeles displayed in Week 7.

And with the Niners set to face three one-win teams the next three weeks (Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants), one might hope Beathard’s abilities under center while facing pressure improve significantly.

The 49ers’ hopes for turning around their woefully painful turnover issues hinge on it.

Next. Position grades & analysis from 49ers' 39-10 loss to Rams. dark

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