No. 1: 49ers Avoid Sam Hubbard in the Run Game
A little Football 101, for those new to this sport: Play-action passes don’t work unless the run game is established and working.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense, especially with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, is predicated on getting the ground game working early and often. If it is working, play fakes can mean the difference between a defensive back biting on the run, giving up a step or two to a receiving target (like Marquise Goodwin) trying to stretch the field.
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The Bengals did a good job containing the Seahawks running game in Week 1, holding Seattle to just 72 rush yards and an average of 2.9 yards per carry.
That’s impressive against a Seahawks team, which gained more yards on the ground than anyone else a year ago.
A big reason was Cincinnati defensive tackle Sam Hubbard, who was particularly effective in both pass and run defense last Sunday.
The good thing for San Francisco is Shanahan doesn’t mind trying to get his runners, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, to the outside in many cases. This should help negate Hubbard’s excellent run-stopping abilities up the middle, forcing the Bengals’ other defenders to make plays in space.
Despite Cincinnati’s early promises against the run, Pro Football Focus did credit this group with seven missed tackles. Those tend to be more problematic in space, of course, meaning a game plan focusing on runs away from Hubbard would be a wise approach.
The 49ers and Bengals kick off on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. ET from Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.