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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan: “It’s hard to be on the field with us if you don’t block”

Marc Adams
Dec 9, 2023 at 8:57 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers passing game isn't only full of weapons, it's full of unselfish weapons. Greg Papa sat down with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on the latest edition of NBC Sports Bay Area's "49ers Game Plan" on Friday and discussed some of his offensive stars, and the unselfishness of these players who are willing to block for each other.

Papa noted that blocking is part of tight end George Kittle's game, but he also pointed out that Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey all block well. Shanahan confirmed that his players take a lot of pride in blocking for one another and don't want to let each other down. Shanahan said, "And also if they do, they know we're all going to watch it together on Friday, which is when we do it and people don't like that. But also, everyone believes everyone has a chance to score."

The 49ers offense has a saying, "No block, no rock." They've made it abundantly clear that you're not going to get the ball if you don't block. The coach added, "Yeah, that's pretty understood. It's hard to be on the field with us if you don't block. You better be extremely special. And the special guys we have had, we haven't had to worry about it because they block."

Asked if on Friday in front of the whole team, the coaches call guys out for not blocking, Shanahan answered, "Oh, yeah. We always do a run meeting on Fridays and so all the run plays you're going to see why ones didn't score and you won't know at first, but we'll rewind it and we'll go to where that person came from and everyone gets to watch and they just put their head down. Usually, it's not a lack of effort, but if it is, it's usually a good coaching point because you get that effort from there on out."

Papa asked Shanahan about his comment that McCaffrey is the best player he's ever been around without the ball in his hands. Shanahan responded, "I feel I exaggerate a lot, but there's zero exaggeration. He is. He's amazing. We tell everybody to do stuff, but he goes to extremes on it. You can watch Deebo's screen at the end of the game, and there's one linebacker who's got a chance on the other side to get him, who's coming from the other side of the field. But Deebo just outran him and he was too far behind to get to him.

"And you watch Christian, what he does on that play. He's just supposed to sell a fake the other way. But he's putting his hands up in the air, waving him, getting that guy to attack him aggressively. So when he sees it's for Deebo, he's got no chance. And Christian gained us three yards on it, which is why Deebo got past the 30 and we didn't have to call five more plays."

One of the most overlooked aspects of the 49ers offense is how balanced they are in ball distribution among the star players. McCaffrey leads the team in receptions with 51. Aiyuk and Kittle both have 50 and Samuel, who missed two games and part of another, has 38. So is this just luck, or does Shanahan strive for this kind of balance? "Yeah, we do want balance," Shanahan said. "If one guy gets it all, that's all right, too, because they're not adjusting. But I do feel the way defenses play, it's hard to get someone the ball all the time, and if you force it to them, maybe you can do it a little bit. But it's usually not the best thing to win games.

"And we have so many guys that can win a game to be able to kind deploy those out and have a quarterback who could just attack the weakness in a D and having a line that allows them to do that. It's been real fun, and it should end up that way because defenses are too good. If they just let a guy do it, it won't be like that. But we got a lot of guys and we got a quarterback who can spread it around and all the guys want the ball. So thank [goodness] that the other guys are good, too, so they can't get too upset about it because they know we have some options."

Whatever the 49ers are doing on offense, they should just keep doing it. Because right now, everything is clicking, and the San Francisco offense is playing as well as any in team history. And much of that is due to the unselfish approach from the star players who are more than willing to block for one another.

The 49ers and their unselfish offensive players look to extend their lead in the NFC West and keep pace with the conference-leading Philadelphia Eagles by beating the Seahawks on Sunday. The 49ers, of course, beat the Seahawks 31-13 on Thanksgiving night.

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