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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Unnecessary Risk from 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan

Chris Beno
Dec 20, 2021 at 8:45 AM--

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There really isn't much to complain about regarding the 49ers 31-13 dismantling of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The offense fired on all cylinders in both the run and the pass game. Most importantly, they protected the ball on offense.

The same can't be said for the 49ers special teams unit when running back JaMycal Hasty fumbled the opening kickoff. That unit has been a liability for the team for much of the season, in all aspects of special teams.

Aside from the special teams' blunder, the only thing left to question was the decision to keep the starters on the field late in the fourth quarter while up 18 points. Not only did the 49ers leave their starters out there, but they opted to keep handing the ball off to star wide receiver Deebo Samuel for short runs up the middle.

There are several reasons why teams pull starters during "garbage time." The most obvious is to prevent your starters from getting unnecessarily injured. Injuries are something this 49ers team knows all too well. Another reason is to get the back-ups playing time. Sure, the offense will more than likely hand it off to drain the clock, but a rookie quarterback like Trey Lance could still benefit from seeing different defensive looks in live games.

The main reason the 49ers needed to pull their starters in the fourth quarter was because the team has to travel to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans on a short week for Thursday Night Football. Any added rest and prevention from injuries would only benefit them on such a short week against a very talented Titans team.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has never been one to pull starters out during garbage time, so it didn't come as much of a shock when he opted to keep them in the game. But, given the circumstances of the upcoming schedule, it might have benefitted a few of the players he leans on to carry the team, such as George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Jeff Wilson, and Trent Williams.

The last time the 49ers faced the Atlanta Falcons was in 2019. The Falcons rallied late in the fourth quarter to beat the Super Bowl-bound 49ers at home 29-22. While I'm sure that game played a part in Shanahan's decision to keep the starters on the field on Sunday, this was not that same Falcons team from 2019. There is no wide receiver Julio Jones on the Falcons roster, dicing up the 49ers secondary.

Following the Falcons game, Shanahan was asked in the post-game presser if he considered pulling the starters out, or if he was even looking ahead to the Thursday night matchup against the Titans.

"No, not at all," Shanahan said. "All I was thinking about is last time we were up by 14 versus these guys in the fourth quarter we lost, so fourth quarter didn't really start to relax until I think we got our second first down there, and we took about five minutes off the clock on that last drive and then felt alright."

While Shanahan appears to be stubbornly set in his ways, the 49ers look to upset the Titans on the road this week in what appears to be a scheduling loss for the 49ers due to the difficulty of traveling to the East coast on a short week. Hopefully, the team can find a way to get enough rest and prepare to come away with one of the biggest morale-boosting wins of the season. A win that could prime them to really make a statement going into the playoffs.
  • 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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