It would not matter if the San Francisco 49ers were winless, the Week 10 match-up against the detestable Seattle Seahawks would be a big game.

Luckily for the Faithful and all of football America, the 49ers enter Monday evening undefeated and standing atop the NFC West.

The 49ers were nearly a tale of two teams during Weeks 8 and 9. After playing almost flawless football against the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers had to put up a bit more of a fight to top the Arizona Cardinals.

Fortunately, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo guided the team to a three-point victory in Arizona, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdown passes.

I've pulled a few of my favorite plays from both games, along with one area of concern.

Week 8: San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers


1st Quarter: 2nd and 10 at the CAR 41 (11:49)
The 49ers' ground attack is a joy to watch. Through eight games, the team is ranked third in total rush yards, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt and 68 first downs.



Midway through the 49ers' first offensive possession, head coach Kyle Shanahan called 19 Support. 18/19 Support is a single-back concept designed to attack the perimeter of the strong side of the formation.



The men up front blocked the run to the letter, allowing running back Tevin Coleman to gain 22-yards. Garoppolo threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders four plays later.

1st Quarter: 2nd and 11 at the SF 24 (3:52)
There was a time not too long ago where 49er fans begged for more screen plays sprinkled throughout an offensive strategy.

Well, Gentle Reader, fans must be enjoying the screen scheme in Shanahan's system.



The play above was one of my favorites while reviewing the game film. Every element of the play was perfect: the play-action deception, tackle Justin Skule getting to the second level, and tight end George Kittle gaining enough yardage for a first down.



When the 49ers run a filter screen, the offensive line makes a full turn away from the call and uses gap blocking principles.

Skule was the free offensive lineman on the play, and his job was to climb vertically to the second level, keeping an eye out for defenders from the inside-out.

Once again, the 49ers scored on the drive on a Coleman 19-yard run.

3rd Quarter: 1st and10 at the SF 40 (11:24)
The 2019 49ers' defense is definitely born-again hardcore. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has eleven men working in tandem, rarely making mental errors.



Pro football experts and fans alike know how the 49ers struggled with consistency on the edge in previous seasons. The struggle is gone this season with the additions of rookie Nick Bosa and veteran Dee Ford.

I get a little nervous when fourth-year veteran Robert Blair III is rotating in the game. He's a capable player, but his talent level is nowhere near Bosa or Ford.



One fundamental mistake an edge defender can make is immediately knifing down the line of scrimmage. He must set the edge and force the ball carrier back inside. If needed, he needs to take on pulling linemen or lead blocks from a tight end.

Unfortunately, Blair shot down the line and forgot his responsibilities as the edge lineman. He allowed running back Christian McCaffrey to score on a 40-yard run.

3rd Quarter: 2nd and 4 at the SF 43 (9:26)
The 49ers' offense responded to McCaffrey's touchdown run on its next possession.



During the timeout, Shanahan called the above play, which was ideal against Carolina's coverage.

Shanahan's twist on the play was lining up Kittle as the F-receiver and tight end Levine Toilolo as the Y-receiver. I don't think that's the chief reason for the play's success, but I am willing to bet it was a small thing that threw off Carolina's defense.



What helped Kittle gain 23-yards was safety Eric Reid's blown coverage. After Kittle covered the first five yards of his route, Reid turned to his right and let Kittle run free up the seam. Kittle had 12-yards of open turf in front of him.



The best part of the play was Garoppolo coming back to Kittle, who was his second read.

3rd Quarter: 1st and 10 at the CAR 25 (0:29)
Near the close of the 3rd quarter, Carolina decided to attack the edge again with a run. And, once again, the Panthers went after Blair.



Carolina was set up for success on the play, starting with the motion which pulled linebackers Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner far enough away to make them irrelevant.



Down blocks are difficult for defenders to overcome, but Blair had no shot to fight off the block and ended up being engulfed.

Week 9: San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals


2nd Quarter: 1st and 9 at the SF45 (11:17)
I'm a guy of pure taste. I enjoy jet protection, B-gap blitzes, and slant routes that gain 32-yards.



Fortunately, Sanders fulfilled one of my wishes during the 49ers' fourth offense.

'Lion' is an old west coast offense term that indicates double slant routes. Shanahan's kept that term in his playbook, and I like that hat tip to previous generations.



Slant routes also work best when the defense plays a safety 15-yards off the line of scrimmage. I am not an offensive coordinator, but I'd have Garoppolo audible to Z-Stick Lion every time he sees Seattle in similar coverage.

3rd Quarter: 1st and 10 at the ARI 37 (11:22)
Arizona came alive in the 2nd half, using a no-huddle offense and attacking on the ground. Quarterback Kyler Murray ran the ball five times against the 49ers in the second half and gained 34 yards. Like against Carolina, the 49ers' edge defenders had the bad habit of knifing down the line without setting the edge.



I trust Bosa's athletic ability more than I trust a deadbeat family member repaying a $50 loan. It serves Bosa well nearly every time he's on the field. But he was overly aggressive on the play, and like Blair, got caught bolting down the line of scrimmage.



Like Carolina, Arizona added a small twist on the running play by pulling the center and right guard; that moved Alexander and Warner enough to the left to open up the running lane for Murray.

Later in the quarter, Murray gained 21-yards on a similar play. This time, Blair was on the edge and again was caught moving too far down the line of scrimmage.

The 49ers are well aware of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson's running ability. It's slightly concerning to see both Bosa and Blair allow significant gains from Murray on zone-read plays that are not new ideas to the NFL.

McCaffery's long runs and Murray's zone-read successes are some of the first blatant errors I've seen from the 49ers' defense this season.

This year's 49ers are a well-rounded team that has shown the NFL it can overcome small errors and win football games. The edge issues are concerning because they look like a slight regression to last season's errors.

However, Saleh's had enough time to correct these edge mistakes. The 49ers will walk off the chunky Levi's turf Monday night, still unbeaten and asking for more.

Images courtesy of NFL.com.
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
  • 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.