Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Week 8 Game Preview: San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Bret Rumbeck
Oct 28, 2017 at 8:53 AM


On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers left the comforts of Silicon Valley to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the unfriendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field. This matchup is shaping up as David vs. Goliath, though David enters the arena without a staff, sling, or rocks.

The Eagles are riding atop an unstoppable wave of talent that's ready to crash through the winless 49ers. Despite being a 13-point underdog, there's always a chance the 49ers leave Philadelphia with more than a stomach full of cheesesteak sandwiches.

Here are the win/loss factors for Sunday's game.

The 49ers Win If…

Rashard Robinson plays a clean game. Part of playing football is learning how to cheat and get away with it. Coaches often teach subtle techniques that help an offensive lineman fend off a better opponent or a wide receiver find seven more inches of crucial separation.

The last 49er who needs cheating pointers is second-year cornerback Rashard Robinson. I'm hopeful that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spent time with Robinson this past week teaching the fundamentals of playing defensive back.

Robinson strikes me as a player who's coasted on pure athletic ability for years. Talent gets one so far; he probably relied on it in high school and college to cover up the flaws in his game. Now, Robinson is playing against world-class athletes and has no idea how to cover a receiver. As a professional, Robinson's been exposed week after week, forcing him to commit ill-timed fouls to prohibit a completion.

Robinson needs a flagless game on Sunday, not only to help the 49ers win but to learn how to play clean football.

Shanahan brings greater balance to the offense. A Kyle Shanahan offense averages 433 rushing attempts per year. Coming into this week, he's called 158 runs, putting the 49ers on pace for 316 attempts this year. Further math reveals the 49ers run the ball 5.6 times per quarter.

On the flipside, the 49ers have attempted 279 passes, second-most in the league. I'm unclear why the offense is throwing 64-percent of the time with a below average veteran and now a rookie behind center.

Running back Carlos Hyde is no slouch, and rookie Matt Breida has broken a few long runs when the offense needed, so why is Shanahan not utilizing this combination? He doesn't need a grinding running game to win games, but he does need to stop relying on his quarterback to complete 25 or more throws a game to edge out a victory.

Even a casual football fan knows a strong run game sets up the play-action passing attack. With the cavernous disparity between rush and pass plays, the 49ers are not fooling a youth football team when they call a play-action. Increasing the run game will help Beathard more than calling more pass plays.

Someone other than DeForest Buckner plays well. I cannot imagine where the 49ers' defense would be without defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. For a few minutes during Week 1, it looked like rookie linebacker Reuben Foster was going to be the all-world player on defense. However, a high-ankle sprain sidelined him until last week.

Buckner took it upon himself to be the hero the 49ers needed. He's been the consistent force disrupting the backfield, pressuring the quarterback, and creating opportunities for the team.

Now that it's Week 8, the whole NFL knows if it limits Buckner, it shuts down the 49ers' defense. Last week, rookie Solomon Thomas played one of his worst games as a professional, only recording one tackle. But, rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones, a sixth-round selection by the 49ers in 2017, is quietly building a solid first season and tallied four tackles against Dallas.

The defense needs more than just Buckner to succeed. It needs another multi-tackle performance from Jones, along with substantial contributions from veterans Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil, and Ray-Ray Armstrong.

The 49ers Lose If…

The secondary continues its lost, confusing play. Carson Wentz walked into the meeting room this week with one question: How often are we going to throw on the hapless 49ers' cornerbacks? So far, the secondary has yet to prove that it can shut down passing lanes, talented receivers or nearly any route drawn on the passing tree.

From the start of the season, most experts and fans guessed the 49ers' secondary would be the team's soft underbelly. Since then, our hypothesis was proven correct. Expect Wentz and his receivers to victimize the defensive backs early and often this Sunday.

The offense doesn't score in the first 20 minutes of the game. For the last few years, the 49ers' offense has shown it's incapable of exploding onto the football field like a slug from a .45. No, it uses the first quarter to get properly warmed up. In the second quarter, the offense gathers in a prayer circle to ask a higher power for a field goal. Once the second half rolls around, it is ready to claw back into the game with a vain hope of victory.

Something has to give with the offense. Beathard showed he could bring the team back from a deficit, but, like previous quarterbacks, hasn't shown an aptitude to score early.

It's far beyond time for Shanahan to craft a new opening game plan. The team cannot suffer another slow start against the Eagles, and if it finds itself without at least 14 points on the board after the first 20 minutes of the game, it can forget about leaving the Keystone State with a victory.

Emotions boil over onto the sideline. I don't blame a single 49er for any emotional outburst last Sunday. Frankly, it's commendable they lasted this long without blowing up at one another. This Sunday will test the team's tolerance for mistakes and possibly another lopsided loss.

Indeed, Wentz will find the soft spots in coverage; so how will the defense react to three touchdown passes? The Eagles allow the second fewest rush yards in the league. Will Hyde lose his temper if he only has eight yards on 12 carries? How can Shanahan keep the team from in-fighting if it's 28-0 at halftime? Better yet, how does the team respond?

Arguments among teammates happen for great teams and horrible teams. But at 0-7, the 49ers are in a combustible headspace, and nearly any adverse reaction could result in a total explosion.

I'll be covering this Sunday's game for 49ers Webzone. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for game insights and Facebook for a live recap at halftime.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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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