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49ers vs. Seahawks: Studs and Duds from San Francisco’s Week 8 loss

Chris Wilson
Nov 4, 2020 at 11:58 PM0


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Searching for studs after the San Francisco 49ers fell apart in Seattle


Just a week ago, I struggled to identify duds from a San Francisco 49ers matchup. Unfortunately, the Niners' 2020 rollercoaster continues.

Seven days after dismantling the end-of-dynasty New England Patriots on their home turf, San Francisco was quickly brought back to reality after a pathetic performance against its top rival, the Seattle Seahawks. Adding injury to insult, the 49ers also lost star tight end George Kittle and one-time franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to injury. Both will miss extensive time, if not the remainder of the 2020 season.

While there are far too many duds to list from Week 8, the studs are few and far between. Although this list could easily be titled, "Duds and Non-Duds," we'll stick with the traditional format -- but it's not going to be easy.

STUDS


Brandon Aiyuk


Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is perhaps the only Week 8 stud who truly deserves the title. With fellow "YAC Bro" Deebo Samuel sidelined, Aiyuk was easily the best San Francisco receiver on the field, as the rookie finished the day with eight catches on 11 targets for 91 receiving yards and a score.

Aiyuk also briefly saved the day by scooping up a Jerick McKinnon fumble and turning it into a five-yard gain. Despite his limited usage to begin the year, the youngster is quietly on pace for a 750-yard season, while looking every bit like a future No. 1 target. He also earned my vote for NFL Rookie of the Week honors:


Kendrick Bourne


Fellow wide receiver Kendrick Bourne's eventual autobiography should be titled, "The Best Ability is Availability." The former undrafted free agent's ability to stay healthy has kept him active on game days, and over time, has helped him develop into a respectable No. 3 wide receiver.

On Sunday, Bourne hauled in eight of his 10 targets for 81 receiving yards, which put him on pace for a career-best 50-reception, 700-yard season. Unfortunately, Bourne subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, so a 49ers team desperate for healthy and capable receivers will be forced to play without its third wideout for the foreseeable future:


Nick Mullens


Quarterback Nick Mullens finds himself on this list because he happened to be the next man up, and he didn't mess up. Mullens stepped in for Garoppolo and performed admirably against a mostly-prevent defense. The backup quarterback finished the afternoon with 239 passing yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts, which was good for a 128.4 passer rating.

Mullens will be the 49ers' starting quarterback in Week 9, but he is well aware his leash is short, given head coach Kyle Shanahan's favorite quarterback -- C.J. Beathard -- is looking over Mullens' shoulder. Despite Beathard's repeated failures, Shanahan will be quick to pull the capable Mullens from action at the first sign of weakness, so the former undrafted free agent will need to bring his "A-game" on Thursday and each week moving forward. Mullens sneaks his way into our Week 8 "Studs" by taking advantage of soft coverage and getting the ball out quickly against the blitz:


DUDS


We squeaked out three "Non-Duds," but now comes the true challenge: limiting the "Duds" to a manageable number.

Emmanuel Moseley


Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley was not up to the task of defending Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, who had the best game of his career against the young corner. Making matters worse, after briefly slipping, Moseley appeared to give up on a key first-quarter play. This lack of effort allowed the speedy Metcalf to cruise down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown at a 19.86 mph clip, per our friends at Zebra Technologies, the Official Player Tracking Provider for NFL's Next Gen Stats.

Metcalf tallied 12 receptions for 161 receiving yards and two touchdowns during Sunday's contest. Seven catches, 120 yards, and both scores came with Moseley in coverage, and on Thursday, Green Bay Packers Pro-Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams -- known for consistently torching San Francisco secondaries -- is coming to town.

Offensive Linemen not named "Trent Williams"


If not for left tackle Trent Williams, the San Francisco 49ers' offensive line would be in the conversation for the worst pass-blocking group in the NFL. And while their run-blocking prowess varies from week to week, the first eight games of the season have shown the 49ers need a certain type of running back to be successful -- runners like Raheem Mostert and the recently-departed Matt Breida, and not third-down backs who primarily excel in space like McKinnon.

Third-string center Hroniss Grasu looked worse than a third-stringer during his blocking attempts, and communication along the line was non-existent. Neither offensive guard meshed with Grasu, and the Seahawks took advantage by continuously confusing the offensive line with A-Gap blitzes and fakes, paired with blitzes from the secondary. Seattle's final sack of the day resulted in another high ankle sprain for Garoppolo, which may end his season, in what could shockingly be his final game in a Niners' uniform.

Left tackle Trent Williams had another productive outing, while right tackle Mike McGlinchey continued to struggle during a troublesome third year for the former first-round pick. And if you're confused about the disparity between McGlinchey's poor play on the field and his respectable Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades and stats -- or the team's bottom-half but not bottom-of-the-NFL PFF pass protection grades -- you're not alone. Throughout the 2020 NFL season, PFF's grading system has fallen flat in numerous areas, including pass protection, where it has failed to grade entire drives and numerous significant plays. If PFF expects to retain its status as the go-to player grading service for journalists -- many of whom are beginning to turn to other sources -- a 33-percent success rate simply isn't going to cut it:


Dante Pettis


After teasing us with a strong second-half during his rookie season, something happened to wide receiver Dante Pettis; something so bad that two years later, the 49ers couldn't find a trade partner willing to part with anything in exchange for the seemingly-talented youngster. Pettis never looked, acted, or spoke like an NFL wideout off the football field, and it wasn't long before his peculiar nature translated into a lack of performance and passion on the field of play.

After moving up in the second round of the 2018 draft to select Pettis, the 49ers' front office simply released him on Tuesday, days after he fumbled away a second-half kickoff which killed any hope of a late Niners comeback. Pettis finished the year with an embarrassing stat line which included no receptions despite 66 offensive snaps over four games, two punt returns for 14 yards, and one fumbled kickoff return.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch


Although this section deserves to be extensive, I'll keep it brief. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's alter-ego, "Evil Shanny," forgot everything he learned over the past two weeks. The 49ers' de facto boss struggled to do anything right in Seattle -- at least until he brought in his backup quarterback. With Mullens under center, "Good Shanny" and his creative play calls returned, as did his understanding that a quick passing game can overcome an otherwise effective pass rush. Shanahan's only consistency is his weekly inconsistency, which is a problem he will need to rectify before he can enter the top tier of NFL head coaches.

As for general manager John Lynch, it was no coincidence defensive back D.J. Reed played the best game of his career against the team who mismanaged him right into Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll's hands. At the time, waiving Reed appeared to be a confusing decision with a high likelihood of backfiring -- and on Sunday, backfire it did.
  • Chris Wilson
  • Written by:
    You may have seen Chris Wilson's work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis, and film breakdowns at Minute Media, FanSided, Niner Noise, Insidethe49, LockedonSports, ClutchPoints, and others. Follow Chris on Twitter @cgawilson.
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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