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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan’s Play-calling Hitting Its Stride for the 49ers

Chris Beno
Nov 5, 2021 at 10:10 AM--

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For much of the season, the San Francisco 49ers offense has struggled. To narrow it down even further, it has struggled since the fourth quarter of Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. Since then, there have been numerous games where the offense has come out, moved the ball, and put up points with their opening drives but stalled out for the rest of the first half.

Much of the blame has been placed on eight-year veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And rightfully so. Garoppolo's completion percentage on the season is 62%, as opposed to his career percentage at 67%. Many of his throws are at or behind the line of scrimmage or between the hashes, which, in theory, should lead to a higher completion percentage.

However, the 49ers' biggest struggle has been their conversions on third down. This was once considered one of Garoppolo's greatest strengths as a starter. The 49ers currently rank 30th in third-down conversions this season at 32.5%. Compare that to the 2019 season, when the 49ers ranked 5th in the NFL at 44.35%, while on the road to a Super Bowl appearance.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has been widely regarded throughout the NFL as one of the brightest offensive minds in the business. His ability to layer plays on top of one another and disguise routes has truly set him apart. Unlike other teams that attack the individual, weak players on defense, Shanahan attacks the weaknesses of the entire defensive scheme. How many times have you seen a defensive back go down on defense and Shanahan attack that player's back-up? He simply doesn't do it.

It's a complementary system that relies on the success of one play, opening up an opportunity three to four plays later by providing different looks on offense and disguising multiple plays to appear like the same play. Shanahan has unfairly gotten a lot of heat for his game plans for much of the season when, in reality, it was poor execution from the players.

In Trey Lance's first start against the Cardinals in Week 5, the very first play had a missed block by right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Luckily, Lance is more mobile than Garoppolo and escaped the pocket with a 14-yard gain. But those small mistakes have plagued this offense for much of the year. It has not allowed Shanahan to find a rhythm in his play calling, and caused the offense at times to look not good at all.

After the win against the Chicago Bears in Week 8, Kyle Shanahan addressed the media on the success of the offense.

"I felt the whole offense was in a rhythm, which makes me in a rhythm when I'm calling plays," Shanahan said. "But it was just -- the guys made a ton of plays out there. They were able to make some key ones on third down. Thought it was a little frustrating at the beginning. We felt like we were moving, and we kept getting in between that 30 and 40 and couldn't keep it going, and finally, we did that more in the second half, which was great."

Much of the 49ers' success on both offense and defense relies on the success of the guys in the trenches. When they're playing well, look out. This team can be explosive. The 49ers' offensive line has quietly put together a top 5 performance in both run and pass blocking this season. If the 49ers continue to control the game in the trenches, look for the offense to open up, as Shanahan reminds the NFL why he is considered an offensive mastermind.
  • Chris Beno
  • Written by:
    Coming from Elk Grove, California I grew up a Bay Area sports fan. I've been cheering for the 49ers for as long as I can remember. In 2005 I joined the Army when I was 18 and got stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I just kind of hung around here. I've always enjoyed writing and have typically focus on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles that myself and other contributors put out there. The 49ers have without a doubt the best fanbase, and best content creators around.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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