It was a bit odd to have a bye week so early in the 2019 season, but it was enough for me to repair my broken fence and look into the San Francisco 49ers' victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Below are four Week 3 plays that I found interesting, and how head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can similarly attack the vulnerable Cleveland Browns.

1st Quarter – 2nd and 5 at the SF 30 (14:29)




Last week, I noticed a bit of social media debate on the play above, focusing on why quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not wait a bit longer to hit wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on the deep route.

If you've been taking notes, you will notice the play is a Yankee Concept. It's nothing new in Shanahan's playbook.

The idea is simple: set the defense up for a zone run. Fake the handoff to the running back, drop back, and read the two-receiver route combination.

Goodwin had been the deep target on Yankee from time to time, even grabbing a few long touchdowns.

So why didn't Garoppolo hit the long ball against Pittsburgh?



This moment in the game summed up the afternoon for the Steelers' defense. Six men in black and yellow are entirely out of position; three took the run fake while three others keyed on the ghost motion.

That opened up the middle of the field for Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle and Goodwin.

We can probably debate over a case of beer as to who is the first read on the play above. Some would side on reading the deep route first and then coming back to Kittle's 12-yard crosser.

Others might agree to read Kittle first, but keep an alert on Goodwin should he be in the absolute clear.

I'm in the latter part of the discussion. Garoppolo made the right choice. The Steelers presented a gift of stupidity, and Garoppolo gladly accepted it, rather than force a low-percentage deep pass early in the game.



The tape almost proves that Garoppolo chose the wrong route.

Lost in last week's debate was one reason Garoppolo probably took the short crossing route. Rookie tackle Justin Skule had lost his man and was out of position. His hips had turned parallel to the sidelines, giving him zero leverage on the defender.

Garoppolo would have had to hitch up a step to throw deep to Goodwin; however, he would not have had the time or space in the pocket to do so. Moving forward would have risked a sack.

Shanahan has a handful of similar plays he can use on Monday night against Cleveland. Notably, I would not be surprised to see him call Fake 18 Sift Keep Left – a movement play that boots Garoppolo to his left after faking a handoff to the running back. The X-receiver runs a deep 'Runback' route, breaking toward the sidelines at 25 yards. The Y-receiver runs a low cross to the left, and Goodwin would run a far corner to the middle of the field.

The Y-receiver is the first read on the play, but I have to guess the Browns would double tight end George Kittle on the route. If so, that could open up a clear window to hit Goodwin deep downfield.

1st Quarter – 3rd and 14 at the SF 33 (9:25)




I am a firm believer that three passing routes, if run to perfection, cannot be stopped: the quick slant, a deep out, and a deep in.

The deep in, or 'Dover' as Shanahan calls it, pairs perfectly with a slot receiver running a 'Seam' route. Maybe you had a coach call this combination 'Dagger' or something similar.



On the tape, it looked like the Steelers had the play routes buttoned up. However, when stopped just as Garoppolo was about to throw, we see wide receiver Richie James had position on his defender.

Further, the defender covering wide receiver Kendrick Bourne stuck with him on the seam. Garoppolo knew he'd have the middle of the field open and threw a strike to James for a 16-yard gain.

Shanahan has a play that can set up in a similar formation called 2 Jet X Curl Pump Burst. This play sends the X-receiver on a wide route and the F-receiver on a curl-thru. Garoppolo takes a 5-step drop, pump fakes, and then reads his X-receiver, who does a stutter at 12-yards. He can alert on the F-receiver against a Cover 2 defense or hit the Y-receiver on a flat route if needed.

1st Quarter – 3rd and 5 at the PIT 25 (5:43)




While I am always looking forward to the 49ers' offense tallying big scoreboard numbers, I believe the 49ers' defense can control Monday evening.

The Browns' offensive line has the strength and reliability of a store-brand paper towel. So far, the five men up front have allowed 39 pressures and 30 hurries. Right guard Eric Kush is one of the NFL's worst this season and will succumb under the consistent pressure the 49ers' defensive line brings each down.

Monday night is Saleh's opportunity to stomp the gas pedal through the floorboard. Like the fire zone blitz above, Saleh needs to attack the right side of the Browns' offensive line with speed, force, and confusion.

3rd Quarter – 2nd and 15 at the PIT 32 (13:28)




Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa can play a crucial role in flushing quarterback Baker Mayfield from the pocket. Quarterbacks all have some streak of vanity running through their veins, but Mayfield is the epitome of hubris. Sometimes, I think Mayfield wants to leave the pocket early so he can attempt some ridiculous throw to wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. or Jarvis Landry.



If that's the case, then Saleh needs to make Mayfield's sin the 49ers' gain. Allow Bosa and defensive end Dee Ford to continue to collapse the pocket and allow Mayfield to throw into passing lanes that do not exist.



Pressures and muddy pockets lead to quarterbacks making mental errors and turnovers. Anyone who can't see how much the 49ers' defense has improved with Ford and Bosa is cutting off his nose off to spite his face.

I'm excited about Monday night's game, if only for the 49ers to destroy the Browns and crush Mayfield's ballooning ego on national television. The added benefit would be to hush Statler and Waldorf sitting up in the cheap seats and nitpicking every 49er win this season.

Author's note: A thank you to Rich Madrid for the knowledge.

Game statistics courtesy of the NFL Game Summary 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.