Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


What’s Wrong With the 49ers?

Oct 5, 2020 at 1:05 PM


It doesn't get much worse than losing at home to a winless team on national television. The 49ers, coming in as touchdown favorites, were outclassed in just about every facet of the game on Sunday night by a depleted Eagles squad. The offensive line couldn't block, the defense couldn't contain Carson Wentz, and the magic of backup quarterback Nick Mullens seems to have quickly run its course.

The 49ers looked like a team that was lost, a stark comparison to the juggernaut that just reeled off two wins in a row while outscoring its opponents 66-22 in that span, all while missing several key starters on both sides of the ball. Now the 49ers find themselves in last place in the NFC West, and we are left to wonder, where did it go wrong?

The identity of the 49ers' offense during their Super Bowl run was rooted in their ability to run the ball at will. It has been a struggle replicating that success thus far in 2020, highlighted by the last two weeks, with the running backs averaging 2.7 yards per carry over that span. When opposing defenses don't fear the run, it limits the effectiveness of the play-action pass, and as a result, restricts the 49er offense from playing to its full potential. Through Week 4, it is especially concerning when you consider the team was second in the NFL in rushing attempts as well as yards last season, a shocking contrast to where it currently finds itself — 10th in attempts and 12th in yards in 2020. Finding a way to spark the run game going forward has to be near the top of the priorities for the 49ers as they head into Week 5.

Compounding the issues was the play of the offensive line, which was absolutely horrendous in the run game and when it was tasked with pass protecting. The holes for the running game were few and far between, consequently stalling the 49ers' rushing attack, particularly on early downs. The inability to rush for positive gains on first down repeatedly put the 49ers in 3rd-and-longs, where quarterback Nick Mullens was abused all night.

Particularly concerning was the play of starting tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey. After looking like he regained his Pro Bowl form in the first three games, Williams struggled mightily against the Eagles. His performance was one of the worst of his storied career, as he surrendered two sacks and was uncharacteristically called for two costly penalties. Given his track record, the poor performance is likely just an anomaly. However, McGlinchey's performance points to a troubling pattern of struggling immensely in pass protection against opposing defensive lineman. All season, McGlinchey has looked overmatched in one-on-one matchups, and as a result, he is becoming the weakest link on an already compromised offensive line.

Eagles defenders hit 49ers quarterbacks 15 times on Sunday, the most hits surrendered by the team since 2017. With the run game struggling, the offensive line must find a way to give the quarterback time to drop back and make plays through the air.

Injuries have ravaged the team thus far, and the absence of key starters surely factors into the 49ers' decline in play as of late. It is hard to win games in the NFL without your starting quarterback and your two best defensive players. The good news is, outside of Nick Bosa, there isn't a starter who is expected to miss the entire season, and the reinforcements are on the way. The bad news is that the 49ers had every chance to win on Sunday night and squandered an opportunity that could prove costly in the playoff picture down the stretch. They outgained the Eagles 417 yards to 267 yards, won the time of possession battle, and were the better team on 3rd downs. None of that mattered ultimately, as the game was lost by mental mistakes that were mostly self-inflicted.

Three costly turnovers stand out, but extending opposing teams' drives with penalties on 3rd down is just as brutal, and equally frustrating considering this is becoming a pattern this season. With so many key players out, the 49ers are in no position to be gifting opposing teams extra chances with the football. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened in losses to the Eagles and Cardinals. Moving forward, the team must realize it doesn't have the same margin for error it was allotted last season, and it must play near-perfect football moving forward if it is to have a chance at making a legitimate postseason run.
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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