Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Are Fourth Quarters a Concern for the 49ers?

Chris Beno
Dec 23, 2021 at 4:10 PM--

The 49ers have become one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won five of their last six games. Many of the woes that hurt the team early on in the season have seemed to vanish—all except the special teams unit. It seems determined to give the opposing team as many opportunities as possible to stay in the game.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has been nothing short of incredible in the second half of the season. The sheer creativity of his offense is fun to watch as the team dominates in both the run and pass game. Shanahan has always been known as a master at game planning, which has been on full display as of late.

One thing that I have begun to notice, however, is the offense taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. The 49ers have only scored three points in the last five games in the fourth quarter. In addition, the team hasn't scored at all in the fourth quarter in the previous four games, which could be a problem as the team pushes towards the playoffs.

Shanahan likes to go into a "prevent" style of offense late in games with the lead. Which, in theory, makes sense. Run the ball, protect the ball, drain the clock. However, the conservative mentality against good teams has come back to bite them many times; hence, the Chiefs come back victory in the Super Bowl in 2019.

Prior to signing on as the 49ers head coach in 2017, Shanahan famously blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator by letting off the gas and trying to play it safe down the stretch.

Fans saw it happen again this season in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions when the team went into the fourth quarter up 38-17, only to narrowly escape with a 41-33 victory.

As the playoffs approach and the competition is tougher, playing it safe hasn't exactly worked out well for Shanahan in big games. Something 49ers fans know all too well, having dealt with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson stealing games late in the fourth quarter for the last decade.

According to the 49ers are currently tied for 25th place in the NFL for points scored in the fourth quarter, averaging 5.4 points, while ranking 14th in points allowed at 6.5.

The 49ers aren't exactly a come-from-behind type of team either. There have been numerous games this season where the 49ers were down going into the fourth quarter but could not execute the plays necessary to keep up with the opposing team.

The only time fans saw the 49ers offense come from behind and make it a game was Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers when the team got up 28-27 late in the fourth quarter, only to lose by a field goal during the final seconds of the game.

Last week against the Falcons, the 49ers opened the fourth quarter going three and out on their first two possessions before having a nine-play, 43-yard drive. All three possessions resulted in a punt. The 49ers would face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if the playoffs were to start now. Giving Tom Brady three opportunities late in a playoff game probably isn't the best plan.

If the team is squandering those opportunities against teams like the Atlanta Falcons, it could be a huge problem come January.

As the season is starting to wrap up and teams are firing on all cylinders to push for the playoffs, keep an eye on how Shanahan manages these last few games late in the fourth quarter. Not just with his play-calling but with the personnel he rotates in.

Shanahan's approach to leads late in the game has been sustainable during the regular season. So far, he's lost two Super Bowls playing it safe. Time will only tell if he's learned from that.
  • 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 focused on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I didn't realize it was something I wanted to pursue as a career, but am now focused on doing just that. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles people put out there.
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