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The 49ers Have To Fix Their Identity Crisis

Most teams in the NFL take about five or six weeks to find out their strengths and weaknesses. The 49ers need to rely on their defense and running game to get back to form.

Same Old Song And Dance For The 49ers

San Francisco fell to the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night and heads into Week Four with a 1-2 record. The loss hurt more than most because the 49ers lost future Hall of Famer, Trent Williams, and outside linebacker, Azeez Al-Shaair. With the loss of Elijah Mitchell, who will miss at least two months, and losing Trey Lance for the year, Kyle Shanahan will have to get creative in his play calling going forward. 

The defense is not to blame at all for this game, but you can see the leadership of Warner taking accountability and assuming responsibility for the loss. 

What Worked For Kyle Shanahan in 2021?

Lack of offensive execution was the reason why San Francisco lost, plain and simple. Kyle Shanahan schemed wide-open receivers and the quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo missed them. Flashback to 2021, the 49ers opened the season at 3-5 with their playoff hopes low. Shanahan figured out how to get back into form, running the ball forty-four times against the Rams in a 31-10 blowout in Week Ten. Defensively, the 49ers allowed only fifty-two rushing yards.

The following week against Jacksonville, San Francisco ran forty-two times and held their opponent to fifty-four yards rushing. Guess what happened the next week, San Francisco ran the ball thirty-nine times and allowed seventy-seven yards on the ground.

Kyle Shanahan and his squad reeled off three straight victories running the football effectively and stopping the run. To Kyle Shanahan’s credit, he made a change in scheme utilizing Deebo Samuel in the backfield. But what can Kyle do this year to help lift the offense?

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Unfortunately, Trey Lance is done for the season and now there is film on Kyle scheming Deebo Samuel out of the backfield. In my opinion, I would embrace the run game. Kyle Shanahan has yet to unleash undrafted rookie Jordan Mason or free agent signing Ray-Ray McCloud. On Sunday night, Mason only received one carry that went for seven yards. Also, McCloud has not received a carry even though he plays wide receiver. He is primarily used in the return game, however, Shanahan could scheme up run plays for him as well.

Here is an interesting statistic: excluding 2017, when the 49ers run the ball more times than they pass with Jimmy Garoppolo, they are 23-1, including playoffs. When they pass more than they run their record plummets to 7-13, including playoffs.

Mike McDaniel, now coach of the Miami Dolphins, was the run game coordinator/offensive coordinator for Kyle Shanahan. If you watch the Dolphins play football this year, it is almost a replica (with a few wrinkles) of the 2019 49ers offense. McDaniel was under Shanahan for almost twenty years and was essential at scheming up the run game. Former All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley identifies McDaniels’ role perfectly.

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Now it is up to Shanahan and his assistant coaches to scheme up a run game to put Garoppolo in a great situation to execute on third downs and in the red zone. In 2021, the 49ers were ranked first across the league scoring inside 20 yards. They have not had the same success so far, however, I believe Kyle will turn this team around. Additionally, players like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jeff Wilson Jr. will have to carry the offense again. 

It’s safe to say that San Francisco still has Super Bowl aspirations, however, their offense must improve. As the defense gets key pieces back such as Jimmie Ward and Jason Verrett, we can expect them to improve. As the season forges ahead, most teams won’t settle in until Week Six or Seven, however, the 49ers do not have that luxury and must find their identity early in their 2022 campaign. 



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