What 49ers win vs. Panthers taught us about Kyle Shanahan’s offense

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

42. 15. 87. Final. 37

The 49ers put the clamp down against the Panthers in Week 5, and Kyle Shanahan had his best offensive game yet in the young season.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan should be satisfied with how things played out during his team’s one-sided 37-15 victory in Week 5 over the struggling Carolina Panthers.

In many ways, the victory was the most complete he’s had this season. Shanahan’s run-first offensive approach managed to spark the run game, while there was a widespread distribution of passes by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Even after being a pass-catching non-factor for much of the year to date, even tight end George Kittle showed up as a focal point of the receiving game early on.

Overall, Shanahan’s offense mustered 397 total yards against a Carolina defense that’s been surprisingly good this season despite being offset by a horrid offense. San Francisco went 7-of-12, too, putting to rest many of those concerns of a putrid third-down conversion rate stemming from the 49ers’ Week 3 loss to the Denver Broncos.

And the best part? The Niners didn’t let up in the second half, which had been a problem entering the game.

Prior to Week 5, San Francisco was tied for third worst in the NFL with an average of only 5.8 second-half points. Now, after scoring 20 points in the final two frames, the 49ers have climbed to a more respectable 22nd best with an average of 8.6 points.

Let’s take a look at some of the other notable offensive takeaways from the contest.

49ers offensive line isn’t as big a liability

Did the Niners have a clean game in the trenches on offense? No, far from it. Garoppolo was sacked twice, and San Francisco dealt with a number of offensive line penalties that caused setbacks.

But, considering the 49ers are minus All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams and are down to a third-string backup in Jaylon Moore, paired with an entirely new cast of interior starters compared to a year ago, the results haven’t been terrible.

This O-line, going up against a solid Panthers front seven, still managed to help running back Jeff Wilson Jr. get out to 120 yards rushing, and Garoppolo only took five quarterback hits throughout the game.

Notably, the O-line hasn’t emerged as big a liability as initially thought in the wake of Williams’ injury.

Kyle Shanahan got 49ers tertiary pass-catching options involved

Shanahan needed to incorporate Kittle more after a relatively lackluster start to the All-Pro’s 2022 campaign.

Yes, Kittle had a fumble that Carolina recovered, but the Niners’ stout defense was able to help limit that to a field-goal try that failed.

But what’s more telling is some of the other ball distribution by Garoppolo at the discretion of Shanahan, who dialed up one particular play for fullback Kyle Juszczyk whose stiff-arm move opened up the door for a massive 18-yard gain:

Juszczyk, the mismatch weapon, finished the game with two catches for 27 yards, while No. 3 wide receiver Jauan Jennings added two catches of his own for 45 yards.

In total, seven different San Francisco players each recorded a reception, and that kind of distribution will take a lot of pressure off the ground game and opponents trying to stack the box against it.

Read More: 49ers force Panthers to fire head coach Matt Rhule

49ers get Jimmy Garoppolo to throw outside the numbers

Teams the 49ers play this season are going to try doing two separate things. First, as noted above, they’ll stack the box like the Broncos did in an attempt to take away what Shanahan wants to do on the ground, thus forcing Garoppolo to throw.

And those opponents, knowing Garoppolo likes to toss over the middle of the field, are going to crowd that area with defenders while daring him to test the sidelines.

Well, Garoppolo actually tested the sidelines quite a lot during the game, as the below Next Gen Stats chart from Week 5 reveals:

The results were a proverbial “mixed bag,” and Garoppolo did miss some opportunities here.

However, the fact he was able to test the sidelines (well, at least the left one) should open up more to come, provided he’s still able to protect the ball as he did against the Panthers.

Overall, even including those misses, Garoppolo went 18-of-30 passing for a workmanlike 253 yards with two touchdowns against zero interceptions with a passer rating of 109.4.

More importantly, Garoppolo has now put together back-to-back quality performances where he didn’t commit many mistakes, didn’t turn the ball over at all and was efficient when he needed to be.

If Shanahan can get Garoppolo to maintain that level, all the while blending in the other facets of the offense, the Niners should be poised for plenty of success over the rest of the season.

Next. Grades from 49ers' injury-plagued win over Panthers. dark