Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports


Maybe the 49ers Just Aren’t That Good

Gilbert Brink
Oct 5, 2020 at 8:04 AM


Don't blame the injuries. The 49ers fell to an Eagles team yesterday that was just as, if not more, banged up than they were. Now sitting at 2-2, the 49ers look up at the Seattle Seahawks (4-0) and the LA Rams (3-1) in the NFC West.

If you want to, you could find a bundle of reasons (excuses) why the 49ers are 2-2. Injuries to cornerstone players like QB Jimmy Garoppolo and DE Nick Bosa are the most prominent ones, but throw a stone and you'll find a fan who'll blame the referees or some other mystical force that is working against the 49ers. No matter which way you slice it, the 49ers are a .500 football club. Looking at their schedule can help us understand the story a little bit better. While the 49ers have 2 dominating wins against the Giants and Jets, they have 2 close losses against the Cardinals and Eagles. For the games they won, their opponents' record on the season is 0-8. For the games they lost, their opponents are 3-4-1.

On Sunday, it wasn't injuries that defeated the 49ers, in fact, the healthiest unit on the team was the main reason they lost. The Philadelphia Eagles defensive front dominated the 49ers offensive line for the majority of the game. RT Mike McGlinchey was thoroughly outclassed, the interior line regularly struggled, and LT Trent Williams made the highlight reel for all the wrong reasons. Last season, the 49ers offensive line carried them to the Super Bowl by paving the way for an unstoppable ground game that paired with an elite defense that allowed them to control games down the stretch. The same can't be said for 2020. Through 4 games, the 49ers rank 11th in rushing, a steep drop off from 2019 when they were the 2nd best rushing team in the NFL. Not only are the 49ers struggling to run the ball, they're struggling to protect the QB as well. The 49ers are tied for 4th in the league in sacks allowed, giving up 14 sacks in just 4 games. Once again, this is the 49ers' healthiest unit, and it's the worst unit on the team.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers defense has been surprisingly good. Nowhere near its 2019 performance, the team has still managed to limit the opposition to 294 yards per game, 3rd best in the league. While it has played sound football, there haven't been many impact plays in 2020. The absence of DEs Dee Ford and Nick Bosa have taken its toll, as a team that thrived off of sacks in 2020 has only 8 through 4 games. This lack of pressure may have affected the 49ers' ability to force turnovers, as they only have 5 forced turnovers through 4 games. Newcomers like Javon Kinlaw and Kerry Hyder Jr. have impressed, but returning veterans like Kwon Alexander and Arik Armstead have disappointed.

The worst part of this is the 49ers have yet to play a tough opponent. In the final 11 games of the season, only 2 of those opponents currently have a losing record (Washington and Dallas). Quite simply, this team hasn't played anyone and it has still managed to win as many games as it has lost. The expectations have to change as the 49ers look to be fighting for the 7th seed not the Super Bowl. Getting QB Jimmy Garoppolo back on the field will be crucial to any success this team will have going forward.

What Went Wrong




Miserable Mullens - QB Nick Mullens is a lovable guy. It's hard not to root for a guy who wasn't drafted but still worked his way onto an NFL roster and into the starting lineup. As well as Mullens played against the Giants in Week 3, he played just as poorly against the Eagles in Week 4. Mullens was responsible for 3 terrible turnovers and undeniably cost the 49ers this game. He is a very good backup, but backup QBs are backups for a reason. Not only did he turn it over, Mullens missed big plays throughout the game. If Garoppolo can't go next Sunday, it would be hard to blame head coach Kyle Shanahan for turning to C.J. Beathard if Mullens begins to struggle again.

The Offensive O-Line - Terrible. Horrible. Very bad. Pick your description, but keep it simple. This unit played awfully on Sunday Night Football. RT Mike McGlinchey is making a case for Daniel Brunskill. The usually solid LT Trent Williams had an error-filled evening that I can't recall Joe Staley ever matching. The interior line was as bad as we have come to expect. The 49ers may have to shuffle the deck here and come up with a better solution, because this grouping is killing the offense.

Lack of Pass Rush - The 49ers can't sack the QB. The most impressive linemen have been Kerry Hyder Jr. and DJ Jones, but aside from those 2 no one seems to be getting after the quarterback. Injuries have forced defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to send more blitz packages, and while they have been somewhat effective, the 49ers only recorded 2 legitimate sacks last night (one was a missed snap to QB Jalen Hurts). Too often Wentz would escape pressure and find WRs down the field. The 49ers need DE Ronald Blair to return a.s.a.p.

What Went Right



The Best Tight End in Football - George Kittle was George Kittle and that was refreshing. The returning tight end played like the superstar he is, catching 15 passes for 183 yards and a TD. Kittle's YAC ability was on full display and his injured knee looked to be no problem at all. There is no player in the NFL I'd rather not tackle.

Air Aiyuk - That play, wow. We all know the play. On what was registered as a 38-yard run, rookie Brandon Aiyuk looked incredible hurdling an Eagles defender to get into the end zone early in Sunday night's contest. For the second week in a row, Aiyuk scored a rushing TD. I can't wait to see this guy on the field with Garopplo throwing him the ball.

Jet Setter - RB Jerick McKinnon may not have had a stellar night running the ball (14 carries, 54 yards 1 TD) but he brought a stability to the offense that is much needed. Often McKinnon functioned as a safety valve for a struggling QB, catching 7 passes for 43 yards. Jet has scored a touchdown in every game this season and has been an integral part of this football team so far.

What's Next?


Miami Dolphins @ San Francisco 49ers, Sunday October 11th 1:05 PDT at Levi's Stadium

This game signifies the 49ers' last game of an early "soft" schedule. The Dolphins are 1-3 and led by journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. After this game the 49ers are looking at a rough road that will truly put this team to the test. If Jimmy Garoppolo is in at QB, the 49ers will have a much better chance at winning this game. The Dolphins are ranked 27th in total defense while allowing a 109.3 QB rating to opposing offenses. The opportunities should be there for San Francisco to win this one, but if it continues to struggle on the offensive line, it could fall to 2-3. Let us all just take a moment and say a little prayer for Jimmy's ankle.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


3 Comments

  • Kellrazor
    I know this won’t get printed... y’all never print my comments... but his is a severe over reaction. It’s game 4. We have been ravaged by injury... If this team makes the playoffs, and I still think it will, they will be a much different team than they resemble now. Guys are coming back from injury all over the place but you can’t win in this league if you have injuries to starters at DE, LB, QB, First and Second RB, Both starting corners, nickle, receiver, center, backup center, TE - it’s a long season and too early to give up. Also- give credit to Eagles Run D and pass rush man... this is the NFL not powder puff
    Oct 5, 2020 at 3:41 PM
    0
  • Great Article
    Yo Webzone, I can be a sportswriter for ya once you get rid of this clown
    Oct 5, 2020 at 10:09 AM
    0
  • Bill
    I'm afraid I'll have to agree to disagree with you on The Jet. He looked as pedestrian as pedestrian can be last night. Part of that can be traced back to the offensive line play, which I do agree, was pretty horrible. But McKinnon doesn't have that burst that we are accustomed to seeing out of 49er RB's. I don't know if he ever had it. Perhaps the knee injuries have robbed him of it. But he didn't have it last night and he certainly doesn't have the power to run through tackles. He went down at the first hit every time last night.
    Oct 5, 2020 at 9:19 AM
    0

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