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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

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Film room week 2: Assigning blame for Jimmy Garoppolo’s six sacks vs. Lions

Sep 21, 2018 at 4:05 AM

Though it didn't feel like it, the 49ers improved to 1-1 on the season with a win over the Lions 30-27 last Sunday. After leading 30-13 in the fourth quarter, the defense gave up 14 unanswered points in two drives to the Lions. The 49ers still managed to hold on and win thanks to a ground attack that produced 190 yards rushing and one touchdown and a passing performance by Jimmy Garoppolo that produced two touchdowns through the air.

But Garoppolo and the offense didn't play so well despite the line score, which is equal parts encouraging and disappointing at the same time. It's encouraging because we caught a glimpse of what the offense could look like when it's firing on all cylinders. Yet it was also disappointing because Garoppolo was sacked six times and we need to analyze them to see what we can learn so far.

First sack: 1st quarter, 1st and 10 at the DET 10, 8:30

After opening the game with a 28-yard run by running back Matt Breida, and completing a 35-yard pass to receiver Dante Pettis, the 49ers were in the red zone poised for an opening drive score. It couldn't be scripted any better than this. This sack is on Garoppolo.

At the 10 yard line, the 49ers come out in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two receivers) and line up in a heavy formation with the tight ends in-line to the right. Against a cover one shell, the 49ers are only running two passing routes and keep eight in to block. Pettis (no. 18) is running a quick out while receiver Pierre Garçon (no. 15) is running a post-corner route.

The Lions send a seven-man rush against the eight in pass protection and don't really do anything exotic other than put pressure on the offensive line. Garçon is bracketed while the quick out by Pettis starts to come open.

However, Garoppolo comes off his initial read (Pettis) and looks deep to Garçon who by this time is trying to find open space in the end zone. Meanwhile, Pettis is getting separation from his defender.

Garoppolo should've stayed on Pettis. He had time to sit in the pocket and wait for Pettis to come open. It would've taken some anticipation from the young quarterback, which we have seen in the past. He has the ability to throw into windows with his quick release and a pass in this situation would have needed to be on Pettis' outside shoulder between him and the sideline.

Instead, Garoppolo holds onto the ball too long and is sacked by middle linebacker Jarrad Davis (no. 40) who loops around the right side of the offensive line and runs him down for the sack.

Second sack: 1st quarter, 2nd and 18 at the DET 18, 7:45

On the very next play, Garoppolo takes another sack. This one is on him as well because he had a small window of time to complete a pass even though the defense did a pretty good job of covering the 49ers' receivers.

From an empty set, the play called is a slant-flat to the right with a seam route and a short curl and quick in route to the left. Every route in the progression is designed to be thrown off a three-step timing drop with the seam designed as the alert route to be thrown if it opens up.

The Lions are playing a cover one man-free defense and only rush four this time. As Garoppolo hits the top of his drop, his routes to the left are well-covered. However, he has an option breaking open to his right with Garçon on the quick slant. Shanahan even mentioned earlier this week that he "thought [WR] Pierre [Garçon] did the best beating the man coverage."

However, Garoppolo never resets his feet or looks Garçon's way and instead pumps to throw to the left again. By this point Garçon has hit the hole in the defense vacated by the man coverage defenders. He pulls it down as outside linebacker Devon Kennard (no. 42) beats rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey (no. 69) around the edge for the sack.

McGlinchey gets his weight over his feet and lunges at Kennard who swats away McGlinchey's hands and gets around the tackle for the sack. It's not an ideal rep for the rookie but Garoppolo has to do a better job of seeing his safety valves, resetting, and throwing.

Third sack: 2nd quarter, 3rd and 8 at the DET 14, 5:43

A couple of drives after going up 10-7 in the second quarter, the 49ers again found themselves inside the red zone after a Matt Stafford strip sack by linebacker Elijah Lee and fumble recovery by Cassius Marsh.

The high-low concept on third and eight has Trent Taylor (no. 81) running a deep curl over the middle and Pettis running the underneath crossing route. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk (no. 44) comes out of the backfield and into the flat as the backside dump-off.

The post-snap reveals the Lions are in a cover two man defense (two deep safeties with man coverage underneath). As Garoppolo drops back, Taylor's route takes him into triple coverage, immediately taking away the throw for the first down at the sticks. As Garoppolo sets to throw, Pettis is coming open underneath on the crossing route as he has about three yards of separation.

Garoppolo resets to throw again behind the Lions four-man rush and looks at Pettis but never pulls the trigger. Pettis is running free at this point and is open.

By this time, former 49ers linebacker Eli Harold (no. 57) splits the double team of left guard Laken Tomlinson (no. 75) and left tackle Joe Staley (no. 74) on his way to recording the sack.

The line blocking gives up the sack against the four-man rush but Garoppolo should've pulled the trigger to Pettis as there was ample time to do it.

Fourth sack: 2nd quarter, 2nd and 10 at the SF 13, 1:49

The fourth sack happened before the half with the 49ers pinned down in their own territory late in the second.

With a levels concept to the right and a curl-flat concept to the left, the 49ers lined up in a 3x1 trips formation. The Lions were showing a cover
two man defense again with five possible rushers. The Lions were also bringing a four-man rush (more on that in a minute).

By the time Garoppolo drops back to the top of his drop, each receiver is blanketed by a defender with the middle robber defender racing to close off the middle of the field levels concept.

As Garoppolo resets to his next progression, everyone is fully blanketed and the protection starts to break down.

The Lions throw in a neat little wrinkle into their rushing assignments as linebacker Christian Jones (no. 52) initially rushed the outside shoulder (B-gap) of right guard Mike Person (no. 68). He then drops back and Person slides over to help McGlinchey. As Person slides over to help, Jones blitzes the wide open A-gap and has a free run at Garoppolo.

Garoppolo may have had a chance before Jones' delayed rush/blitz but the routes were never fully developed and the receivers couldn't get any meaningful separation. Whatever chance he had was negated as soon as Person slid off to help McGlinchey, giving Jones a free run. This sack is not on Garoppolo.

Fifth sack: 4th quarter, 2nd and 10 at the SF 25, 8:02

While the defense can be blamed for Detroit's two late touchdown drives to bring the game within three points, the offense could've done its part and kept the long clock-consuming drives going in the fourth quarter. However, the fifth sack would all but ensure that wouldn't happen. It's another sack Garoppolo could've avoided.

The 49ers dial up another high-low read. Pettis is the lone receiver to the right side of the formation and his tight splits suggest to the safety that he's running a deep route. He has the ability to go deep in the absence of Marquise Goodwin so the safety has to respect that threat and stay back. The nickel defender is in man coverage against Garçon in the slot on the two-receiver side.

The play-action gets the inside linebacker to step up, opening up a void across the middle as Garoppolo drop backs. The nickel defender stays on Garçon on the crossing route over the middle so Garoppolo holds onto the ball and hesitates in his read. He could attempt a throw from the hash to the opposite sideline on the out route but the throw is high risk and difficult.

Garoppolo looks back to his middle routes across the field but is forced off his platform at the same time Breida comes open on the checkdown. He has an opportunity to throw here since safety Tavon Wilson (no. 32) dropped underneath Garçon down the seam instead of playing the flat.

Garoppolo shuffles out of the pocket but does not attempt to throw and instead escapes to his left to try to gain whatever yards he can on second down.

Sixth sack: 4th quarter, 3rd and 8 at the 50, 2:00

The sixth and final sack came on third down just after the two-minute warning as the 49ers were trying to close out the game.

The play call had Taylor running the "F juke" (option route) that gives him the ability to cut out or in depending on the leverage of the defender.

Taylor's route never came open so Garoppolo ate the sack. Shanahan reiterated after the game that on the last sack of the game was something that he coached Garoppolo on to take the sack if the route wasn't open. He stated "That's something you say in the headset. 'Hey, a sack here is better than an incompletion because you want the clock to run.'" Therefore that sack is not on Garoppolo.

The final count from this game then stands at four sacks as being avoidable for Garoppolo with one sack unavoidable and one sack a throwaway due to a coaching point. The offense seems to have found its identity in the running game, gashing the Lions up and down the field but the passing must improve and it starts first with the quarterback making the right decisions, which should, and will, come with more time.

This week the 49ers should also be getting their deep threat Goodwin back, which can potentially open the passing game for Garoppolo as well, which is one element the team was lacking for a game and a half now. The game was well-coached and well-scripted by Shanahan. But the offense must improve in the more technical aspects like route separation and diagnosing the right reads going forward.

All gifs and images courtesy of the NFL.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • Thechosenone
    Shanny calls a 2 route passing play and keeps 8 in to proctect, no one gets open against a 3 man coverage and its JG's fault he gets sacked? Wow! You're brutal. How about Shanny design some plays with an outlet receiver? You know, have a running back leak out of the backfield.
    Sep 21, 2018 at 10:02 AM
    Response: Hey thanks for reading! And yes! It's Jimmy's fault he got sacked in that first play I diagrammed. He's an inconsistent anticipation thrower and even Shanahan said later in the week that he can't hold the ball for so long. So yes, he could've easily hit Pettis on the outside shoulder away from the defender. He had time.

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