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49ers vs. Saints: Studs and Duds from San Francisco’s loss to New Orleans

Chris Wilson
Nov 17, 2020 at 5:27 PM0


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After jumping out to a 10-point lead and knocking QB Drew Brees out of the game, the 49ers went "No Gas, All Brakes" in their 27-13 loss to the Saints.


The San Francisco 49ers had an opportunity to stun the New Orleans Saints after jumping out to a quick lead, but a combination of turnovers, a lackluster offensive performance, and abysmal special teams play allowed the Saints to cruise to an easy victory over a mostly disinterested Niners team and coaching staff.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan reached his Promised Land -- the team's annual bye week -- but even with reinforcements, the 4-6 49ers have little chance of reaching the postseason after stumbling their way through their third-straight blowout loss.

STUDS


Brandon Aiyuk


Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk continues to look the part of a developing No. 1 NFL wideout. Even with a suspect offensive line and shaky quarterback play, the 2020 first-rounder pulled in seven catches for 75 yards and the 49ers' lone touchdown.

While he still has room to grow as a receiver -- particularly in the deep-passing game -- Aiyuk has impressed this season, totaling over 500 yards and five scores over eight games.


Javon Kinlaw


The Niners' other 2020 first-round draft pick has been a work-in-progress for much of his rookie season, but defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw's showing on Sunday was impressive. The rookie has yet to put up gaudy stat lines like his predecessor DeForest Buckner, but the youngster's motor and ability to disrupt opposing offensive lines have been apparent on film.

However, Kinlaw found his way into the stat book on Sunday, as the rookie recorded the first sack of his career, albeit against special-teamer Taysom Smith, while being held on the play. The University of South Carolina product then added another half-sack against backup quarterback Jameis Winston on the following drive. Look for Kinlaw to continue converting pressures into sacks moving forward.


Jordan Reed


Despite battling through injury, 49ers tight end Jordan Reed has shown flashes of his former Pro Bowl self throughout the 2020 NFL regular season -- and he certainly flashed on Sunday. In his second game back from a Week 3 MCL sprain, Reed recorded a season-high 31 snaps, and hauled in five of six targets for 62 yards, including this highlight-reel reception:


DUDS


Special Teams


The San Francisco 49ers' special teams unit did not live up to its name on Sunday, as the group was directly responsible for 17 of New Orleans' 27 points. Saints kick returner Deonte Harris' 75-yard return led to a quick field goal, and two muffed punt returns -- one by wide receiver Richie James, who was an afterthought in the passing game, and another caused by Trent Taylor's inability to either catch the punt or get his teammates away from the ball -- resulted in a pair of touchdowns for the home team.

Overall, the Niners' special teams unit has been far from special in 2020.

Offensive Line


Remove left tackle from the equation and the San Francisco 49ers would be in competition for the worst offensive line in the NFL. It's no wonder the Niners lead the league in quarterback hits allowed, and lost their lone hope for a successful season -- quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo -- to likely season-ending injury.


This portion of the 49ers roster is the healthiest group on the team. The problem isn't just the botched signing of oft-injured center Weston Richburg. The problem is the players on the offensive line. Left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Laken Tomlinson should have significant roles in the future, but the Niners would be wise to look the upgrade the remainder of the offensive line, including first-round bust tackle Mike McGlinchey.

Kyle Shanahan


Hopefully, Shanahan's head-coaching career hit rock bottom on Sunday. Fans have grown weary of his ultra-vanilla play-calling, his inability to win without Garoppolo under center, his lack of killer instinct, and his general disinterest in winning certain football games -- as demonstrated over the past three weeks.

Shanahan is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, but he's proven to be extremely overwhelmed as a head coach. Shanny needs to return to his roots -- intelligent play design -- and delegate the areas in which he continues to fail to the rest of his staff.

Kyle Shanahan's offense shouldn't be the most boring and predictable offense in football.

Right now, it is.
  • 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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