49ers Special Teams and Coaching Grades
The 49ers’ play of the game in Week 15 came early in the first quarter, after the Seahawks first touchdown of the afternoon. Given how easily Seattle drove down the field on their opening drive, it was easy to picture the game regressing into another blowout reminiscent of the teams’ last encounter. However, it took rookie wide receiver Richie James just 11 seconds to change the momentum of the game, while giving the 49ers the early lead:
Kicker Robbie Gould converted both of his extra point tries and all four of his field goal attempts, despite the difficult kicking conditions in Levi’s Stadium. Punter Bradley Pinion averaged 48 yards per punt, and the 49ers’ coverage team limited the Seahawks return game. San Francisco’s special teams unit was indeed special on Sunday.
For the second straight season, Shanahan has found a way to keep his players fired up and motivated, even after the team has been knocked out of playoff contention. Saleh even showed some emotion on the sideline after a key defensive play. Shanahan’s strategy of utilizing younger players toward the end of the season has proven to be a solid strategy that has produced victories in the short-term, and should provide dividends in the future. The value of the Sunday’s victory over the Seahawks trumps any potential draft consequences, as Shanahan understands the importance of installing a winning culture in San Francisco. While the Niners’ coaching staff still has significant room for improvement, Shanahan’s 49ers snapped their 10-game losing streak against the Seahawks, while keeping their rival from securing a playoff berth.
In Week 16, the San Francisco 49ers host the 10-4 Chicago Bears in the Niners’ final home game of the 2018 NFL regular season.