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Film From the Field House: The Top Five 49er Offensive Plays From 2019

Bret Rumbeck
Jan 24, 2020 at 7:00 AM

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.
  • 'My Favorite Things.' Williamson Music. 1959. Rodgers, Richard & Hammerstein, Oscar.

The San Francisco 49ers' offense was a joy to watch in 2019.

Gone were the days of a collective stomach drop each time quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dropped back and lofted a ball through the afternoon air.

This year, the 49ers' offense had nerves of iron and souls of lightening. Garoppolo and the ten men in his huddle proved they could win games decisively or when the 49ers' defense was playing sluggish football.

The 49ers' offense ran 1,012 plays over 16 games, with hundreds of possibilities as the team's top offensive plays. So, just as we may differ on our favorite brand of whiskey, we are allowed to disagree on the following five best plays from 2019.

5. Week 1: 2nd Quarter – 3rd and 12 at the SF 6 (10:29)

In the 1980s and 90s glory days of the 49ers, fans could always rely on a slant from wide receivers Jerry Rice or John Taylor to keep a stale drive moving downfield.

This year, Shanahan jolted new life into the slant route with tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

For some reason, it feels right that Samuel's first catch as a professional came from an old West Coast Offense play, 2 Scat Lion Y Thunder. He gained 14 yards on his first catch, but it would not be the last time Shanahan would send Samuel on a slant route in crucial moments during a game.

4. Week 14: 2nd Quarter – 1st and Goal at the NO 10 (:45)

Veteran running back Raheem Mostert was the jack-of-all-trades for the 49ers this season. He played 211 special teams snaps and notched 12 tackles. Mostert dropped Green Bay punt returner Tremon Smith twice for loss on two punts during the Week 12 drubbing of the Packers.

Mostert was a critical part of the 49ers running back rotation, and ultimately lead the team in rushing with 722 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns.

Oh, and he nearly broke a playoff rushing record last week in the NFC Championship.

The above play was not his longest run, but it encapsulates everything that Mostert did this season for the 49ers. When the 49ers needed yards or touchdowns, like they did in a Week 14 shoot-out against the New Orleans Saints, the ball went to Mostert.

With the first half clock nearly drained, Shanahan called a power run ten yards from the end zone.

Mostert, with help from left guard Laken Tomlinson, found a clear gap on the right side of the line of scrimmage. He squared his shoulders and bolted to the end zone for six points. The touchdown capped off a 21-point second quarter from the 49ers and gave the team a one-point lead going into the locker room.

3. Week 5: 1st Quarter – 1st and 10 at the SF 17 (13:28)

The Cleveland Browns entered the 2019 season as the NFL's most over-hyped franchise in professional sports. One day, the NFL marketing department will have to come clean as to why it thought the Browns would do something other than have a Brown-like season.

Regardless, the Browns flew to Santa Clara after embarrassing the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. Some NFL 'experts' thought the Browns would give the 49ers a run for their money.

Third-year running back Matt Breida quickly silenced the doubters.

On the 49ers' first play from scrimmage, Shanahan called '15 Suzy,' and Breida shot through the Browns porous defense for an 83-yard touchdown.

Breida's run set the tone for the remainder of the game; the 49ers would stomp on the accelerator, embarrass the hapless Browns on both sides of the football, and earn their 49th Monday Night Football victory.

The Browns eventually benched Quarterback Baker Mayfield, and the 49ers rocketed into the middle half of the season undefeated for the first time since 1990.

2. Week 8: 1st Quarter – 2nd and Goal at the CAR 4 (9:18)

A few days before the Week 8 contest against the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers traded their 2020 third- and fourth-round draft picks to the Denver Broncos for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and Denver's 2020 fifth-round selection.

Shanahan noted on October 23, 2019, that Sanders was a receiver who could play anywhere on the field.

"Regardless of wherever we lock him in what position, he's a guy who can play outside, can play inside, can play to the tight end, can play on the open edge," said Shanahan. "He can do it all."

Shanahan failed to mention that Sanders can also catch touchdown passes on his first drive as a 49er.

The play wasn't anything exotic or tricky. It should have been a simple double stick route on the left side of the formation, with a fade to the right. However, it looked as if Kittle flubbed his route, as he and Sanders were too close together.

In years past, a minor mental error would have resulted in a dropped pass or turnover. But this was 2019, and the chilled tide of misfortune was finally receding into the black horizon.

1. Week 6: 2nd Quarter – 2nd and 10 at the SF 49 (14:52)

Tight end George Kittle caught 85 passes this year for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. Any of those catches could have been a top play this year, but for some reason, this one is the most memorable.

Buried deep in Shanahan's playbook is a play-action he borrowed from his dad called 'Scissors.' Indeed, the younger Shanahan adjusted it to fit his scheme.

Typically, Shanahan calls 'Scissors' from a trips formation. The far outside receiver runs a post that breaks in at 18 yards. The inside receiver runs a 'rub spread,' which is a route that breaks inside at 4-6 yards, and then immediately toward the sideline. The Y receiver runs a corner route that breaks outside at 12 yards.

But Shanahan had to make an additional change as fullback Kyle Juszczyk was inactive for the Week 6 game against the LA Rams due to a sprained MCL.

Early in the 2nd quarter, Shanahan asked Kittle to take one snap at fullback, and rewarded him by calling 'P15 Wanda F Scissors.'

Kittle took full advantage of the surprise formation, play, and soft spot in the Rams' coverage. He gained 45 yards on the play, taking the ball to the Rams' six-yard line.

These plays are a testament to the success the 49ers have had this season. Some may not have been on your list, but each played a small role in getting the 49ers back to the Super Bowl.

All images courtesy of
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference 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.


  • Paul
    On a side note. Kittle is going to get sponsored by IHOP after this game with all the pancakes he will make with Tyrann Mathieu as the main ingredient.
    Jan 30, 2020 at 10:03 AM
  • Chris
    I would have put Wilson's catch against AZ in the top 5. 4th string RB comes in and catches a TD with 30s left to put the team ahead. Its very nice to be able to have more than 4 plays to debate. An embarrassment of riches for the faithful!
    Jan 26, 2020 at 10:40 AM

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