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Film From the Field House: Week 13 Highs and Lows

Bret Rumbeck
Dec 6, 2019 at 6:00 AM

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Generally, I'm unpleasant to be around following a San Francisco 49ers' loss. While the Week 13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was equally heartbreaking and frustrating, I was not upset to see the 49ers take one of the NFL's best teams down to the wire.

I'm harboring one naïve irritation from the 49ers' loss. The whole football universe was aware of how well Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson runs his offense. He can attack a defense with his arm and, like a sharp pendulum, cut it into ribbons with his legs.

Yet, the 49ers' defense often reacted as if Jackson's skill was brand new. Throughout the game, the defense made the same mistakes, often leaving the edge exposed for Jackson to gain yardage.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh did make a few adjustments, but Jackson still averaged 7.5 yards per rush in the second half, compared to 8.12 yards per rush during the first 30 minutes.

Below are a handful of plays from Week 13 I found interesting.

1st Quarter – 3rd and 7 at the SF 29 (13:40)

In typical 49er fashion, the offense opened the game needing to convert a third down to keep the drive going.

And, in typical Kyle Shanahan fashion, he called in a play from his days in Atlanta, with a few new twists.

Previously, Shanahan called 'Scuba' with three receivers to one side, leaving the X or Z receiver alone on the other side of the formation.

The key with 'Scuba' is the route combination at the top of the screenshot. The outside receiver runs a 'Basic,' while the inside receiver runs a 'Spread' route. 'Spread' tells the receiver to run a hard slant inside and cut back to the sideline at four-to-six yards.

Tight end George Kittle's motion to a 'Gold' formation and 'Rail', along with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' crossing route appear to be new additions to 'Scuba.'

Slant routes have become a staple for the 49ers this year, so I was not surprised to see the Baltimore defense sell out on Bourne's slant. As you can see, the entire right side of the field was free of defenders, allowing Bourne to gain a nice chunk of yardage after the catch.

1st Quarter – 1st and 10 at the BAL 16 (4:13)

There's a scene in the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve when Lex Luthor pulls out a chunk of kryptonite hanging from a chain. Superman's face immediately changed from a confident Boy Scout to a terrified five-year-old about to eat a plate of peas.

I don't doubt the confidence of the 49ers' defense, but a running quarterback is quickly becoming its weakness.

There's probably a screenshot somewhere on the internet of former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick running the same play while Greg Roman was his offensive coordinator.

It's a great design, from the 'duo' blocks from Baltimore's offensive line to Jackson's deceptiveness at the mesh point with the running back.

Tartt was in place for the scrape-exchange with defensive lineman Arik Armstead, but I don't blame him for dropping to cover the Y-receiver. He had to make an immediate choice, and I have a feeling Jackson would have thrown a soft pass to his tight end had Tartt played the run.

Unfortunately, Tartt had no help from linebacker Dre Greenlaw. You can see Greenlaw reading the back, rather than keep his head on a swivel to help contain Jackson.

2nd Quarter – 2nd and 10 at the SF 34 (14:12)

Like Superman finding the strength to remove the kryptonite chain, the 49ers' defense found a way to defend the zone-read.

A few plays later, Baltimore called another zone-read, with a slightly similar look. The motion from the receiver drew both linebackers to their right, but it didn't altogether remove them from the play.

Defensive end Nick Bosa pursued the running back, but let go and gave chase to Jackson. Cornerback K'Waun Williams saw Jackson keep the ball and darted in to make a play. Williams' only fault was not breaking down before trying to make a tackle. Jackson easily avoided Williams and gained seven yards on the play.

2nd Quarter – 1st and 10 at the SF 25 (1:58)

I love that Shanahan has a plethora of talented running backs at his disposal. It's genuinely the one position group on the 49ers that fulfills the next-man-up philosophy.

Running back Raheem Mostert had already racked up 54 yards on the ground before a 19-yard run to start the last drive of the half.

'Support' is a running play that attacks the perimeter of the strong side. The running back takes an outside zone course, reading the gaps one-at-a-time from the outside back to the inside.

Mostert must have caught the massive hole between left guard Laken Tomlinson and center Weston Richburg because he planted his left foot and turned upfield quickly.

Right guard Mike Person also should get a gold star on the play for his second-level block against free safety Earl Thomas. Mostert cut off the block and sparked the drive.

Mostert would finish the half with 89 yards rushing on six attempts, including a 40-yard touchdown run.

3rd Quarter – 1st and 10 at the BAL 44 (14:03)

On the previous play, safety Jaquiski Tartt left the game after taking a vicious knee to his ribs. Reserve safety Marcell Harris took his place on the field, and Baltimore decided to go right at Harris.

Harris, Greenlaw, and linebacker Fred Warner had to respect the motion from tight end Mark Andrews, and all moved to their right. It put Harris in a vulnerable position to make the wrong read.

Armstead bolted down the line of scrimmage to tackle the back, which was the correct read for him. Harris, on the other hand, was watching the back and Armstead making a tackle. He ignored his scrape-exchange responsibility, and instead moved to the right and toward the line of scrimmage.

Once Jackson got around the edge, he had nothing but soaked turf in his vision. Harris had no business being anywhere near the opposite A-gap. Greenlaw did his best to make up for Harris' mistake, but he was too far out of position to make an impact.

3rd Quarter – 2nd and 6 at the SF 24 (11:26)

I'm sure some of you are looking at the run above and thinking you ran something similar in high school or junior college. There's nothing fancy about the run: a double team from the right tackle and guard, Kittle shoving the end from the line of scrimmage, and Mostert beating linebacker Josh Bynes in a footrace.

'Sift' is a blocking technique that goes as far back as Bill Walsh's 1982 playbook. Walsh described it as a block "… on the backside of a play where the T (tackle) or Y blocks the most dangerous of a DE/LB or LB/Saf (sic) stack."

Shanahan has modified Walsh's vision, and often sends his fullback or tight end on missions to destroy the backside edge defender.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk made quick work of the defender, cutting him quickly and sending the poor Raven feet-over-head.

3rd Quarter – 3rd and 4 at the SF 7 (:17)

The 49ers' offense started its seventh possession of the game on its one-yard line. After two plays, the 49ers had only moved the ball six yards and needed a significant gain to keep their defense on the sideline.

If you've read some of my prior breakdowns, then you know my love of a simple slant route. In my world view, an offensive coordinator could run slant and out routes down the field for six points on nearly every drive. If a receiver runs these routes with crispness, the defender is always out of position.

So, when the 49ers needed at least seven yards, Shanahan called a West Coast Offense staple: 200 Jet Lion. 'Lion' instructs all receivers to run slant routes.

Garoppolo threw a gutsy pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on the play. He fit the ball in a small window between two defenders. Despite the throw and the 12-yard gain, the drive ended with just over 12 minutes left on the clock in the 4th quarter.

The all-22 film provides an excellent view of 200 Jet protection, frequently used in Shanahan's offense. 200 Jet tells four offensive linemen to slide away from the call to the widest side of the field. That leaves the tackle and back to pick up the opposite side. The running back reads who to block inside-out, starting at the man head up over the center.

The 49ers did not play a poor game against Baltimore. Indeed, there were some ugly moments for the offense and defense, but the 49ers kept the game close and held the red-hot Baltimore offense to well under 40 points.

Expect the 49ers to come out angry in the dry, comfortable confines of Mercedes-Benz Superdome and take an early lead over the New Orleans Saints and never look back.

All photos courtesy of
All 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.
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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