Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


A Look Back and a Look Forward: How the 49ers Can Build Upon a Week 1 Victory

Bret Rumbeck
Sep 14, 2019 at 7:00 AM


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The world does not need another negative review of the San Francisco 49ers' Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All week I watched the vultures swooping down from a dead, crooked branch to rip every last scrap from the carcass to feed click-bait articles and artificial television commentary.

Indeed, everyone wants to see a team play a perfect football game and blow out the hated opponent. But success like that can be a false leader. Failure, flaw, and struggle can build character and wisdom in younger teams.

The 49ers had moments last week they can take into tomorrow's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

I've pulled three instances that head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can continue and build upon in Week 2.

1st Quarter: 2nd and 9 at the TB 32 (13:08)



The play above was the second play of the 49ers' first offensive possession. It seemed fitting to see tight end George Kittle catch the first pass of the season.

Shanahan's play-action is a deadly weapon in his playbook, especially those plays that use high and shallow crossing routes. With a proper fake to freeze the linebackers, it creates an easy read for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and plenty of open turf for a receiver to gain yards after the catch.

'Y Shallow Cross' is a play Shanahan can use again to help Garoppolo to gain instant confidence to start the game.

It was a little shocking to see how open Kittle was on the play, but this was one of many head-scratching plays from Tampa Bay's defense.

No matter. I'd love to see Shanahan come right back to this play or something similar that can gain 19-yards and set Cincinnati's defense on its heels.

1st Quarter: 1st and 10 at the SF 9 (7:32)


I'll admit there were moments of frustration watching the 49ers' offensive line perform. Though, after watching the film with different eyes and looking at a few statistics, the ranting and craggy finger pointing at the offensive line isn't entirely fair.

Not a single 49er offensive lineman allowed a quarterback sack or hit.

The handful of hurries, pressures, and penalties came from center Weston Richburg and tackle Mike McGlinchey. Richburg allowed two hurries and two pressures, while McGlinchey had two costly penalties, one that nullified a touchdown.

The rushing attack was slightly unimpressive, with the 49ers gaining 98 yards on 32 rush plays.

There are times the running backs need to make something out of poor blocking. But no running back corps can be expected to do that on each play.

But, if there's hope, it's with the tackles, Kittle, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

I'm wholly unclear how Tampa Bay couldn't figure out where the ball was going on this play. Garoppolo motioned Kittle from the left into the 'off' formation. At that moment, the 49ers had three of their best run blockers on one side: Kittle, McGlinchey, and Juszczyk.

I don't always like Shanahan's toss plays, but behind these three men, Coleman gained 12 yards.

The 49ers benefited from Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David overshooting the gap and then failing to bring down Coleman by the ankles.

1st Quarter: 1st and 10 at the TB 27 (3:12)


Defensive linemen Dee Ford and rookie Nick Bosa were everything fans wanted. Last season, many wondered what the 49ers' defense needed to succeed, though most felt it was an effective pass rush.

Pro Football Focus noted the 49ers tallied four quarterback sacks; Bosa had two, Ford had one and defensive lineman Arik Armstead had one. Bosa had six total pressures of the quarterback, which led all 49er edge defenders.

Ford and Bosa proved that two capable edge defenders, whether playing from a wide-9 or a wide-6-technique, force the opposition into protection dilemmas.

A defensive coordinator calls a wide-9 to force the opposing tackle or tight end into a one-on-one situation against a very athletic defensive end.

Saleh is no stranger to placing his edge defenders in a wide look. Though during the last two seasons, his LEO aligned wide more than the strongside edge.

In the play above, Tampa Bay called a play-action and executed 'duo' blocks on defensive tackles DeForest Buckner, Armstead, and defensive end Dee Ford.

Bosa showed what happens when an offensive line decides to leave him in a one-on-one situation.

Bosa was able to get the inside lane on Smith, using his hands to keep Smith of his shoulders, and sped around.

Smith had only one option: stick out his right leg and try and trip Bosa. It didn't work, and Bosa chased quarterback Jameis Winston through a muddy pocket.

Building from Week 1 and Winning in Week 2


One unmentioned storyline from last week was the 49ers defense and special teams making up for the team's sluggish offense. Sometimes, that's how good teams end up grinding out a victory.

Chiefly, the 49ers offense needs to improve the ground attack. Despite Coleman being out for the game, I am looking forward to seeing the one-two punch from running backs Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert.

Bosa's playing time might be up in the air, but Saleh needs to keep both Bosa and Ford at the edge positions for as much as possible. The Solomon Thomas Edge Defender Experiment needs to be put to bed.

Thomas played 12 snaps last week, with three at LEO, six at REO, and the remaining two at defensive tackle. Thomas recorded no tackles or statistics.

Let's all help Saleh admit that Thomas does not work as the edge player in the scheme. If Saleh wants to play Thomas on edge for a handful of plays to give Ford or Bosa a breather, then that's fine. But it's time to move Thomas permanently inside, as the 49ers need to plug up the porous gap in between the guards.

As of writing this, Cincinnati is a one-point favorite on Sunday, which is a ridiculous line from the Vegas oddsmakers. Expect another defensive showcase from the 49ers, an all-around improved performance from the offense, and a 27-13 49er victory.

All statistics and photos courtesy of NFL.com unless noted.
  • 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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