Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Colts LB Darius Leonard was happy to see 49ers move away from early-game run success

Oct 25, 2021 at 4:58 AM--

Early in their 30-18 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, the San Francisco 49ers looked like they were poised for a big evening on offense when they gashed the Colts' defense with a strong running attack on the opening drive. But things changed dramatically after that, which came as a pleasant surprise to Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard.

The 49ers established the run early, with running back Elijah Mitchell gaining 57 yards on five carries on an eight-play, 78-yard drive that ended with the 49ers taking a 6-0 lead on a 14-yard Mitchell touchdown run. But not long after that, the 49ers all but disappeared on offense until scoring their second touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers added two more field goals before the end of the first quarter, then had six of their next seven possession end in either punts or turnovers (the seventh possession ended as time expired in the first half).

So what happened? The 49ers will be looking to figure that out, but Leonard expressed satisfaction after the game over what he saw as a change in approach from the 49ers after the opening drive.

"They did a great job, especially in the first quarter about misdirection runs and putting us in bad positions to make plays," Leonard said, via 49ers communications. "So, they did a great job there, and I was glad they kind of went away from that."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo addressed the offensive drought while speaking to reporters after the game, with Shanahan pointing at a dropoff in big plays and a lack of success on third downs.

"When you go three-and-out as many times as we did, there's going to be a lot of things you wish you did more," Shanahan said when asked if he had wished Mitchell was given more carries later in the game. "But I don't think we got those drives. I felt like we played in the first quarter and I felt like we played in the fourth quarter and everything in between seemed like we couldn't make a big play on first or second down, which does happen, but you have to move the chains on third downs so you get another set of calls, and we didn't do that."

Shanahan also said the Colts were loading up against the run until the 49ers put together a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that consisted of solely of three big pass completions.

"They were playing eight-man fronts all the way until we scored on that drive with those three passes in a row," Shanahan said. "They were doing eight-man fronts the whole game until those last two series. When you do that, you got to cut somebody out of a gap. I don't think we did a great job of doing that. We couldn't get through that front eight."

Garoppolo pointed at the sloppy weather conditions the teams played in at Levi's Stadium Sunday night, while also mentioning a number of errors in excution.

"I'm not too sure exactly. I've got to go back and look at the film," Garoppolo said. "I think the weather played a little bit of a role, started to pick up there a little bit. But we just didn't execute. I think it was too many mistakes stacked on top of each other. One guy would make a mistake here, one there. You can't do that and win football games consistently. I think we've just got to get back to the drawing board. We can't make this many mistakes back to back like that."

The inconsistencies on offense will be one of a number of things the 49ers will be looking to address after the Colts sent them to their fourth consecutive defeat. There will be a lot of holes they'll need to fix given everything that went wrong Sunday night.

"It's a lack of discipline when you get a couple penalties," Shanahan said. "We can do better at that. There's times I don't think we throw and catch very well. Then you got to make some big plays, which we had a chance at the run game early on, but we didn't get that going for three quarters after that. It's a combination of everything."

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