Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports


Film from the Field House: Five Plays Kyle Shanahan Will Call for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1

Bret Rumbeck
Sep 10, 2020 at 9:00 AM


A long time ago, I thought the most unprecedented event in the sports world was Game 3 of the 1989 World Series getting pushed back ten days due to an earthquake.

Sports will find a way to endure - through earthquakes, war, a global pandemic and if professional football is played before a couch-bound audience.

The San Francisco 49ers will play sloppy football Sunday, but the other NFL franchises will join them. Remember it's been nine months - if not longer - since players were on the field in a live football contest.

Forty-Niner head coach Kyle Shanahan will have his men ready for Sunday afternoon, even if the game turns into a sludgy swamp of mental errors, blown coverages, and missed assignments. Indeed, the other 31 coaches in the league are ready for Week 1, but there is something about Shanahan's preparation that makes him shine a bit brighter.

Below are five plays from the 49ers' playbook I expect Shanahan will call on Sunday, though some have a higher probability of getting used.

The Opening Play: Any Outside Zone Run


Shanahan's playbook is grounded in the West Coast Offense, with modifications to fit today's high-octane attack. His running game includes old school powers and leads but is centered on zone runs.

Divisional Round - 3rd Quarter: 1st and 10 at the MIN 34 (8:27)


'Wanda' has been in Shanahan's playbook for years and is typically run from a single-back formation to attack the weak edge of the line of scrimmage.

With zone runs, the offensive line uses an outside zone push and rules to block. In the play above, the run went right, which told each offensive lineman to look right and determine if he was covered or uncovered.

An offensive lineman is covered when a defender is between his nose and the nose of the lineman to his right. The lineman is uncovered if that scenario is not occurring.

The covered lineman usually makes a 'reach' block on the defender to his right. The uncovered lineman runs to the second level to pick off a linebacker or lingering safety.

At the snap, fullback Kyle Juszczyk executed a 'sift' block, which instructed him to block the first defender outside the offensive tackle.

'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 called this play in a series of eight straight runs that took up 4:55 minutes of clock and resulted in seven points.

An Early Big Gain: The Screen Pass


Years ago, the chatter among fans was the 49ers did not run enough screen passes. Fortunately, that narrative has been lost to the dead elections floating through the internet.

Week 8 - 1st Quarter: 2nd and 11 at the SF 24 (3:52)


The play above was one of my favorite screen calls last season. 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.

To Start the Second Possession: Slant Routes


My football tastes are quite simple: high-quality pass protection, B- and C-gap stunts, and slant routes that gain 32 yards.

Week 9 - 2nd Quarter - 1st and 9 at the SF45 (11:17)


'Lion' is an old west coast offense term that indicates double slant routes, something you might remember Jerry Rice and John Taylor running across the Candlestick turf.

Shanahan's kept that term and the concept in his playbook, and I like that hat tip to previous generations.

Slant routes are ideal against any coverage but work best when the defense plays a safety 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. 'Lion' is an obvious play for wide receivers Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor, and I expect to see it sprinkled into the passing game.

An Easy Movement Play: Y Shallow Cross


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


Shanahan's run attack sets up the movement plays beautifully. With the offensive line blocking as if it's a zone run, the backs execute great fakes to halt the linebackers or sucker them too far into the line of scrimmage.

After the fake, the quarterback gains depth and keeps a feel for the end man on the line of scrimmage.


The mass movement right forced Tampa Bay's linebackers to follow, creating open space for Kittle in the left flat.

Crossing routes and slants are the West Coast Offense bedrock, and these continue to dominate Shanahan's call sheet.

Any play that gets tight end George Kittle involved in the game is the right call. But plays that allow Kittle to work in open space result in bigger gains.

Highly Unlikely: Any Pass over 20 yards


If this were any time other than our current foul year, I'd be begging Shanahan to open the season with an explosive play equal to the power of jellied nitroglycerine. There's always a small likelihood of a home run play like 'Heat' to announce the 49ers' presence with authority. But, with a lack of preseason, the probability of completing such a big play right out of the gate seems low.

Week 3: 1st Quarter - 2nd and 4 at the SF 30 (14:29)


'Heat' is the term Shanahan uses to run a Yankee concept, a route combination he's been calling for at least a decade. Former 49er wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was the recipient of a handful of long touchdowns using the Yankee concept.


After exhausting a defense with the zone run, a play-action from it is the ideal call when the linebackers start to cheat up, and the secondary is sitting on its collective heels. Duped linebackers and lazy cornerbacks always equal empty swaths of green turf for an open intermediate or deep receiver.

It's a strange way to start a football season, but it has the feel of something big on the horizon for the 49ers.

The 49ers will beat Arizona 24-14 but will struggle in the first quarter to contain Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray.

All images courtesy of NFL.com.
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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