Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Film room week 6: The ups and downs of a competitive loss

Oct 18, 2018 at 9:09 AM

Videos are auto-populated by an affiliate. This site has no control over the videos that appear above.
The 49ers dropped a heartbreaker at Lambeau Field to the Green Bay Packers 33-30 on Monday Night Football, their first loss in a Monday night game since week two of 2010 at home against the New Orleans Saints. Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things and does what he does best and that is lead 4th quarter comebacks to win games. There are no moral victories in the NFL, though this was one will go down near the top of the all-time great 49ers-Packers rivalry games as one of the best.

Unfortunately the ball again did not bounce the Niners' way, both figuratively and literally. Two costly fumbles led to scoring drives for the Packers, albeit field goals. A late interception by quarterback C.J. Beathard led to a final scoring drive in which the Packers had to go 90 yards in just over a minute to have any chance at winning. When you have a quarterback like Rodgers, it's 99% guaranteed that it's going to happen.

And it did.

With just over minute remaining, Rodgers led the offense downfield, picking apart a depleted 49ers secondary, 10-15 yard chunks at a time, including his own scramble of 21 yards up the middle. Eventually, Rodgers would get it inside the 10 yard line where Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal.

In trying to assess what happened, there are many factors to consider, so let's first run through some of the positives.

Marquise Goodwin's impact on the offense

Receiver Marquise Goodwin made his return to the line-up in Monday's game, his first game back since the loss at Kansas City. His evolution as a receiver the last season and a half has been remarkable, going from a guy who was primarily known as a speedy, take-the-top-off-the-defense kind of receiver to one in Shanahan's offense who can run any route and find space to get open anywhere.

His value in the offense, and to a young quarterback's confidence, cannot be overstated. The offense looks and feels much different. And with the threat of Goodwin on the field, the defense was forced into more two deep safety looks than they probably wanted to show, opening up the running game underneath.

After going down 17-7 late in the first quarter, the 49ers stayed committed to their 21 personnel passing game (two running backs, one tight end, two receivers). Out of an "I-Left" formation with the strong side of the formation set to the left, the 49ers slide into a max protect pass protection scheme with seven in pass protection (Kittle would make eight but he chips the end before leaking out into the flat).

The Packers defense shows a cover two "man" look with two deep safeties. Cornerback Kevin King (No. 20) is at the top of the screen covering Goodwin. As Beathard drops back, King comes on a double corner blitz with cornerback Tramon Williams (No. 38) but fullback Kyle Juszczyk (No. 44) working an "inside-out" pass blocking technique sees no A or B-gap threat and slides to pick up the corner blitz from King while left tackle Joe Staley (No. 74) shows off his athleticism and slides out in his pass set to pick up the opposite side corner blitz.

Meanwhile, the defense gets no jam on Goodwin to disrupt the timing and linebacker Clay Matthews (No. 52) widens to the flat and doesn't run with Goodwin. Goodwin gets behind the deep middle linebacker Blake Martinez (No. 50) and runs right by safety Kentrell Brice (No. 29) on the post route. Beathard throws a perfect pass that leads Goodwin up field away from the coverage and he runs under and catches the ball for the 67-yard touchdown.

Goodwin would finish with four receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. On his second touchdown, Beathard found Goodwin wide open down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown.

Out of 21 personnel again, the 49ers line up in a "west right slot" formation with Juszczyk in the wing position on tight end George Kittle's (No. 85) outside hip. Receiver Pierre Garçon is in the slot to the left running the deep crossing route over the middle with Goodwin as the "X" or outermost receiver running the "blaze out."

In a piece over the summer, Ted Nguyen of The Athletic describes the "blaze out":

To run a blaze out, receivers explode off the ball and run a straight 7-yard stem before breaking into the post for a few steps before hitting a dead stop and breaking horizontally toward the sideline.

The Packers line up in cover three shell with the corner Williams playing off coverage on Goodwin. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (No. 21) is out over the two receiver side but cheated inside the hash toward the center of the field watching for any crossing pattern. As Beathard executes a hard play fake to running back Raheem Mostert (No. 31), Goodwin drives off the snap and gets Williams to turn his hips to run with him up field. Just as the snap goes, Williams, who already had slight inside leverage, hopped even more inside to take away deep post as he bails.

Goodwin breaks inside toward the post and gets Williams to spin around from the outside inward toward the middle of the field. As soon as Williams partially recovers, Goodwin cuts out and puts him on skates as he chases Goodwin down. Meanwhile, Garçon has drawn the coverage of free safety Dix, his own man, King, and strong safety Brice who sinks underneath his deep crossing route. This leaves Williams one-on-one with Goodwin and results in a touchdown, giving the 49ers their first lead since the first drive of the first quarter.

The running game is still efficient

The 49ers come out of Week Six with a rank of 15 in rushing offense per Football Outsiders DVOA. The 49ers offensive line was graded as number six through six weeks after gashing the Packers for 148 yards per Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner.

Breida and Mostert combined for 148 yards on 26 carries (5.7 ypc) on the ground against the Packers 17th ranked defense per DVOA. Thus far rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey is the ninth best graded tackle and first in the running game per Pro Football Focus. On the right side of the line, he's been the lynchpin anchoring the running game, and it shows on film.

On the game's first drive, the 49ers line up, again, you guessed it, in 21 personnel. Beathard motions Garçon over to an "I Left Slot" formation, (tight end, the "Y" on the left side of the formation inline, slot receiver over to the right). Juszczyk is the fullback and Mostert is in as the running back.

Beathard tosses the ball to Mostert as the play goes off to the right. McGlinchey (No. 69) pulls out on the edge behind Garçon's block, while Garçon pins linebacker Reggie Gilbert (No. 93) to the inside, opening a crease for Mostert behind McGlinchey. Gilbert has contain responsibility and was the primary edge setter but his rush catches him inside and Garçon just uses that leverage to pin him there.

McGlinchey gets out on the edge and prepares to take on safety Jermaine Whitehead (No. 35). He stays square to his target through the hole as Whitehead goes low to try and clog the running lane. McGlinchey and him meet in the hole and Whitehead does not win that battle. Center Weston Richburg is also able to get to the 2nd level and scoops up to the linebacker Martinez and seals him off outside the running lane, allowing Mostert to get a few more yards up the sideline for a gain of eight.

The blockers are hitting key blocks and Shanahan is also scheming up the running game to take advantage of the numbers of the defense by using motion to get them to shift into the defense most desirable for the play call.

Again out of 21 personnel, Beathard motions Juszczyk into in an "I Right" formation. Pre-motion, the Packers defense is showing a cover three shell with a deep safety. After Juszczyk motions into the backfield into the I formation spot, the Packers defense shifts into a cover two defense. Martinez, who had previously lined up outside the hash over the weak side A-gap pre motion, has now shifted to the strong side B-gap toward the middle of the field.

Beathard readies under center and hands the ball off to Mostert on the weak side wide zone to the left. The motion took the safety out of the box and shifted the linebackers toward the strong side so the number advantage immediately shifted to four-on-three to the play side. Mostert follows Juszczyk through the hole as Staley kicks out linebacker Kyler Fackrell (no. 51).

The primary edge setter, Fackrell, tries to gain inside leverage and force the runner to spill outside, but Mostert follows his blockers through the hole. Juszczyk meets Martinez who was trying to scrape over the top but Mostert is able to pick up 17 yards and a first down before Martinez brings him down.

No lines of communication

Early in the game on the Packers first drive, the defensive miscues that have shown up here and there all season were on full display in front of a national audience.

On the very first play from scrimmage for the Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers lines up his offense in an "ace trips left" formation. The 49ers open the game in their nickel package with K'Waun Williams (No. 24) in as the nickel defender instead of Malcolm Smith in the SAM linebacker spot. The Packers are running a "post/wheel" concept or "switch verticals" variant.

Down towards the bottom of the formation you can see safety Jaquiski Tartt communicating with the defense, possibly about the lack of coverage over the trips side of the formation. The 49ers are in a cover three shell with Colbert over the top shaded out toward the trips side.

Rodgers rolls out naked to the left after a hard play fake to the right. Davante Adams (No. 17) jogs out like he's going to run block while Marquez Valdes-Scantling (No. 83) releases into the flat before sprinting up the sideline. Cornerback Jimmie Ward (No. 20) bails down the numbers with Equanimeous St. Brown (No. 19) with his eyes in the backfield.

Ward likely sees Valdes-Scantling run into the flat and decides to keep going with St. Brown. Valdes-Scantling gets open with no one around and Rodgers drops in a pass to him on the sideline before Ward and Colbert push him out of bounds.

Earlier in the week, Fred Warner, who is the primary signal caller for the defense on the field relaying in Robert Saleh's play call, told The Athletic's David Lombardi that "That's all on me, in the first quarter especially. I let the hype and being too amped up get to me the first few plays." Safety Adrian Colbert (No. 27) called it "just a miscommunication" issue.

One of two things seem possible on this sequence based on the wording of Warner's and Colbert's statements to Lombardi. One, either Ward should've dropped off on Valdes-Scantling running the wheel route up the side line, and his eye location would seem to confirm that he was watching where MVS was sprinting, or two, Warner should've bounced out over the inside slot receiver (Adams) and K'Waun Williams should take Valdes-Scantling down the sideline.

Former NFL cornerback Eric Crocker stated to me that he thinks that "with how tight Colbert was to the trips side, it looks like Ward was supposed to pass off the post and run with the wheel." We cannot be certain though because we do not know the play call and we do not definitively know what coverage rules are specifically being taught to the secondary.

The miscommunication continued on that first drive and led to another embarrassingly bad moment. With the Packers now at the two yard line after the 60-yard pass play to Valdes-Scantling and run play that went for 16 yards by running back Aaron Jones, the Packers came out in an empty backfield with a diamond of four wide receivers to the left of Rodgers.

The play call was a quick hitch screen to running back/receiver Ty Montgomery (No. 88) out in the flat with three blockers in front. The 49ers' miscues continued when they sent just two defenders to cover the four receivers. Prior to the snap, you can see the defense reacting to the diamond and straining to get coverage over to the defensive right.

Rodgers sees this and takes advantage of the situation by snapping the ball quickly and not allowing the defense to fully get set. With the snap of the wrist, he gets the pass out to Montgomery while the defense is still racing to cover. Reuben Foster (No. 56) breaks through the line but is unable to catch Montgomery, who turns up field outside the blockers, as there is no scrapping defender over the top, and sprints into the end zone for six.

There were other miscues late in the game as Rodgers took advantage of a depleted secondary and picked on second year corner Greg Mabin specifically as he marched the offense down the field on the game's final drive to set up the winning field goal. On that drive, the 49ers were without Foster and Ward as well due to injuries.

As the team prepares for the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, the offense continues to improve week after week with hiccups here and there but are generally running as well as an offensive unit can with a back-up quarterback. The return of Goodwin full time helps as well. However, the defense needs to find greater consistency from week to week and cut down on the miscues that occur that allow big plays, in some cases to be the deciding plays of the game.

All pics and images courtesy of the NFL.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
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.


  • No Comments

More San Francisco 49ers News

49ers practice and media schedule for Weeks 1 and 2 of training camp

By Site Staff
10 hrs

The San Francisco 49ers will hold six full practices during their first two weeks of training camp. Head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch, defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen, special teams coordinator Brian Schneider, and offensive line/run game coordinator...

Who will start at safety for the 49ers if Talanoa Hufanga isn't ready to go in week one?

By Marc Adams
Jul 14

The San Francisco 49ers have two starters on defense returning from injury. Dre Greenlaw, a starting linebacker, tore his Achilles during the Super Bowl. And starting safety, Talanoa Hufanga, tore his ACL last November. Greenlaw likely won't be back on the field until later in...

Colin Cowherd says 49ers are old, expensive, and won't win the NFC West

By Marc Adams
Jul 20

Will the San Francisco 49ers finally win that elusive sixth Super Bowl championship this season? Time will tell. But while fans of the team are dreaming and hoping for it, there's one host for Fox Sports who believes the 49ers won't even win the NFC West. As far as he's...

Schefter shuts down Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel 49ers trade rumors

By David Bonilla
8 hrs

As the San Francisco 49ers kick off training camp this week, all eyes are on whether disgruntled wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk will show up. Aiyuk, set to earn $14.124 million in 2024, reportedly seeks a long-term extension that would pay him more than twice that amount...


More by Richard Madrid

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone