Top 5 lessons 49ers hopefully learned from Week 13 loss vs. Ravens

San Francisco 49ers defense vs. Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers defense vs. Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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49ers Robert Saleh, Ravens Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens vs. the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The 49ers’ defense isn’t dominant vs. running QBs

Perhaps more properly titled, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and his staff continue to allow running QBs to neutralize the team’s otherwise dominant defensive front.

San Francisco’s 2019 defense is elite, but only when it is properly managed and coached.

Saleh’s defensive game plan against the Ravens was a poor one, and a losing one, as the 49ers did everything in their power to keep the ball in Jackson’s hands in open space against slower defenders. Adding to the problem, an apparent defensive line rotation kept many of the Niners’ top defenders on the sideline during the most important moments of the game.

By crashing down on Baltimore’s running backs on option plays and keeping extra defenders deep in coverage well beyond where Jackson could accurately throw the football, the Ravens’ explosive quarterback — who was essentially a wildcat QB due to his inability to pass the ball in the wet playing conditions — racked up a team-high 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on a team-high 16 carries, for a 6.3 yards-per-carry average.

By comparison, the remainder of the Ravens’ rushing attack averaged a meager 3.5 yards on the ground.

On Sunday, Baltimore quickly learned their offense was in deep trouble, as an integral aspect of their potent offensive attack — their deep passing game — was ineffective, since Jackson was incapable of throwing the ball deep; the Ravens’ quarterback’s lone complete pass over 15 yards was a poorly thrown floater to an uncovered Andrews.

Unfortunately for San Francisco, Saleh failed to make the proper adjustments to his defensive scheme. The 49ers continued to defend against the deep pass that wasn’t coming and decided against actively attacking the quarterback, with the Ravens totalled just 105 passing yards at an abysmal 4.6 yards-per-attempt clip. Meanwhile, Jackson amassed 90 of his 101 rushing yards, as well as his lone touchdown carry, on outside runs.

The 49ers’ defensive failures against running quarterbacks aren’t a new phenomenon; Just two weeks prior, Arizona Cardinals rookie QB Kyler Murray gave the Niners’ defense fits while also leading his team in rushing yardage.

But at least Murray was also a threat in the Cardinal’s deep passing game. In Baltimore, the Niners couldn’t figure out how to stop a high-school style offense. On Sunday, Saleh and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek had the defensive talent they needed for victory. All they lacked was a common-sense defensive game plan.