Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Titans grades: Jimmy G flops again

Rohan Chakravarthi
Dec 24, 2021 at 2:15 PM--

For the entire first half of Thursday's game, it seemed like the 49ers were in control against a clearly-outmatched Titans team. On the first drive of the game, and most of the second, Jimmy Garoppolo was rolling, going 8/8 for 103 yards, leading to an early Jeff Wilson Jr. touchdown. More importantly, DeMeco Ryans had his defense prepared, generating pressure to hold the Titans to 33 first-half yards and zero points.

But, with a number of opportunities to close this game out early, the 49ers, and more specifically Jimmy Garoppolo, committed numerous self-inflicted mistakes to keep the Titans in the game. And still, Tennessee scored just 20 points, with the last three coming on a last-second field goal.

Let's get into the grades for Thursday's performance.

Quarterback: D

After an extremely efficient, highly accurate showing from Jimmy Garoppolo against Atlanta, the veteran quarterback flopped Thursday, despite beautifully-schemed plays from Kyle Shanahan.

In reality, I could be grading him too easily here.

Given the abilities of Tennessee's run defense, it was clear that San Francisco was going to need an effective passing game to win on Thursday, and that just didn't come.

Garoppolo's first miscue came while he was red-hot on San Francisco's second drive of the game. Facing a clean pocket, Garoppolo locked onto George Kittle in the end zone, which Jackrabbit Jenkins easily eyed, and the pass resulted in an interception. Could Kittle have come back to the ball and had a better opportunity to catch it? Sure. But, without any pressure, Garoppolo seemed predetermined on where he wanted to throw, which doesn't always bode well for the 49ers.

This mistake cost the 49ers at least 3 points, but likely 7, given San Francisco's elite touchdown conversion rate in the redzone.

Garoppolo's second miscue came on a "Drift Stalk" design from Kyle Shanahan, which freed up the slot receiver, Kyle Juszczyk, 40 yards downfield for a touchdown. Garoppolo flat-out overthrew him, despite facing a clean pocket and a wide-open look to the fullback.

The most frustrating aspect is Garoppolo's inability to learn from mistakes, as he missed this exact throw earlier in the season on the left side of the field, costing San Francisco a touchdown in a 30-23 loss to Seattle.

Here, Garoppolo's mistake cost San Francisco four points, as San Francisco got a field goal on the drive instead of a touchdown.

Then, to start the second half, San Francisco's starter threw a boneheaded interception on his first pass attempt, into a tight window, despite having an easy check-down to throw to.

Match the mistakes with all of Garoppolo's off-target throws and you get a "D" level performance. His comeback attempt came far too late in this game, especially when the Titans were clearly outmatched from the opening drive.

Running Backs: B-

Coming into the game, it was known how stout Tennessee's rush defense was, sporting the likes of Jeffery Simmons Jr., Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and more, which made running the ball harder for the 49ers.

Overall, the 49ers ran for just under four yards per carry on 21 rushes, propelled by Deebo Samuel's 6.4 yards per carry on his five rushing attempts.

I would've liked to see Shanahan try and run the ball more, especially with Garoppolo's struggles, but that didn't happen as much, even after Jimmy's second interception.

Jeff Wilson Jr. scored the opening touchdown, but didn't get many more redzone opportunities, as San Francisco elected to pass 35 times, as opposed to 21 runs, of which one wasn't a designed-run.

However, the running backs did get a good amount of action in the receiving game, as Juice had three catches for 45 yards, JaMycal Hasty had three catches for 26 yards, and Wilson Jr. had 3 catches for 12 yards.

But, given Wilson's inefficiency against a premier defense (3.2 YPC), the running backs get a B- from me overall.

Wide Receivers: B+

Deebo Samuel had a monster day, catching nine passes for 159 yards, most of which came after the catch. He almost single-handedly brought the 49ers back on their final drive with a 56-yard completion that eventually resulted in a 2-yard Brandon Aiyuk touchdown.

On a day where George Kittle felt erased from the game by Tennessee's safety tandem of Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker, the receivers played a big role in a predominantly-pass heavy offensive game plan, with Brandon Aiyuk catching four passes for 40 yards and the touchdown.

The grade would be higher if not for a Jauan Jennings drop, which was the fourth one over the past two weeks, and a critical issue should San Francisco's continue to rely on their big-bodied receiver in certain situations.

Jennings was targeted five times on Thursday, which was the second-highest on the team, but only corralled two catches, partially due to the inaccuracy of Jimmy Garoppolo.

The receivers were one of the best position groups for the 49ers Thursday, and they get a B+ from me.

Tight Ends: C+

After a nice start for Kittle, in which he caught a pass on consecutive drives, he was essentially shut down for the last three quarters by Tennessee's safety duo.

Was it in part because of Jimmy Garoppolo's reluctance to hit checkdowns? Sure. But, after he failed to gain position on Jimmy Garoppolo's first interception, Kittle was a non-factor for the rest of the game.

In addition, Kittle was, for some reason, used as a pass-blocker to help double team on certain third downs, which is not what he's paid to do and an ineffective use of his talents.

Kittle also committed a false start penalty on a 3rd & 2, but the 49ers ended up converting, minimizing the damage of the penalty.

He run-blocked fairly well and was used as a decoy on certain plays, but given his lack of impact in the passing game, the tight ends get a C+ from me.

Offensive Line: B

Despite a daunting pass-rush from Tennessee, the offensive line played pretty well on Thursday, although they committed some uncharacteristic penalties.

Tom Compton, who was arguably San Francisco's best offensive lineman against the Titans, earned a top-3 offensive PFF grade on the team for the fifth consecutive week.

Trent Williams seemed a little off his game, committing a costly 4th & 1 false start, but had a fairly strong performance apart from his miscue.

Alex Mack had a holding penalty as well, derailing a promising drive as San Francisco had good field position at the TEN 44.

Regardless, the offensive line was strong in pass-protection, allowing just two sacks, which definitely could be attributed to Jimmy Garoppolo for holding onto the football, and gave him a clean pocket to operate within throughout the game.

If only penalties weren't a thing...

Defensive Line: A

The 49ers had 18 total pressures against the Titans last night, despite Mike Vrabel and Co. switching to seven-man protections along the offensive line to protect Ryan Tannehill.

Throughout the entire first half, San Francisco suffocated the Tennessee offense with their aggressive presence, forcing four straight punts in the first half.

Samson Ebukam was a major force, accumulating five pressures and 1.5 sacks, while both Jordan Willis and Kentavious Street, who filled in for an injured D.J. Jones, got a sack as well.

While Nick Bosa didn't have a sack, he was held by RT David Quessenberry on what would have been a Ryan Tanehill sack. He was all over the field Thursday and helped keep Ryan Tannehill in the pocket for the most part.

In reality, the only negative this defensive line had was the terrible offsides penalty by Arden Key, allowing Tennessee to snap the ball and get a free play, which ended up being a major completion to A.J. Brown.

Other than that, their presence was felt all night, and they got the stop to force a punt in order to give Garoppolo and the offense the chance to tie this game.

Linebackers: B:

The 49ers got their linebacker corps of Fred Warner and Azeez Al-Shaair back healthy against the Titans, and both made their presence known with numerous well-timed tackles.

Both players ended with six total tackles. Warner had a tackle for loss, while Al-Shaair had a 0.5 sack to round out their performances.

Warner's best play came near the end of the first quarter, where he successfully tackled big-bodied A.J. Brown for a three-yard loss on third down, making a clean open-field tackle.

Al-Shaair's split sack came at an extremely opportune time, as he tag-teamed with Samson Ebukam for a 3rd down sack to get the offense one last chance to score and tie the game up.

However, Warner missed three tackles, while Al-Shaair missed one, and the inability to wrap up hurt the 49ers this game, especially on third downs. The group gets a "B" from me.

Defensive Backs: B-

I said it earlier this week, and I'll reiterate it now: Ambry Thomas is improving, and I think he starts for this team in 2022.

Thomas had a tough matchup against A.J. Brown this week, and apart from a Brown push-off for a deep catch, stemming from a lackluster offsides play from Arden Key, Thomas had an impressive game playing the receiver and there was notable improvement in man-coverage this week.

Josh Norman, on the other hand, wasn't amazing, but serviceable as a corner. His main flaws came in zone-coverage, where he played a soft zone multiple times, allowing A.J. Brown to catch passes with space.

Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward were phenomenal again, with Ward showing his prowess in the passing game against both receivers and tight end's, with two passes defended, and Tartt being a solid tackler, leading to a tackle for loss.

In the second half, Tennessee dissected the zone more with extra pass protection, as Ryan Tannehill found small windows to fit the football in over the middle, but still, the coverage was solid from the defensive backs.

The biggest takeaway: Thomas's improvement was huge Thursday, and he'll look to work on this performance against the lowly Texans next weekend. The DBs get a B-from me.

The 49ers had this game in their hands, dominating for the entire first half, but let it slip after costly errors from Jimmy Garoppolo spearheaded a momentum shift. It's been a narrative told one too many times this season.
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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