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Three Takeaways From Week Five

The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Carolina Panthers in a 37-15 victory on the road. The win puts the Niners in sole possession of first place in the NFC West with a 3-2 record. However, the 49ers suffered multiple injuries during the game. Here are three takeaways from the victory.

49ers Running Back Production

The 49ers have been without starting running back Elijah Mitchell since Week One and the team also lost Tyrion Davis-Price in Week Two. With a depleted running back room, the Niners went out and signed Marlon Mack and former 49er who is very familiar with the Shanahan offense, Tevin Coleman. The backfield on Sunday consisted of Jeff Wilson Jr. and Tevin Coleman who were both very productive.

Jeff Wilson Jr. surpassed 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. To be exact, Wilson had 120-rushing yards and one touchdown on 17 carries, averaging 7.1 yards per carry on the day. One of the bigger points of emphasis was to get the running game going so that the offense didn’t have to put too much on Garoppolo’s shoulders. They were able to execute that very well.

Tevin Coleman was the shocker. Coleman’s production was almost immediate as he opened the first drive of the game with a touchdown as if he was picking up right where he left off the last time he faced the Panthers as a 49er in 2019. Coleman totaled just 23-rushing yards with a touchdown on only eight carries, but his presence was heavily felt in the passing game. The veteran running back finished the game with three catches on three targets for 44-receiving yards and a touchdown. He showed great burst in his season debut and looks like he may become a season-long impactful player once again.

In total, the 49ers had 153 yards on the ground without their starting running back. A recipe for success going forward, but we have to see if it can continue for an offense that has struggled in the early part of the season.

Jimmy Garoppolo Has Responded Well

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo faced heavy criticism following his blunder in Week Three when he walked into the back of the end zone, eventually costing the Niners the game against Denver. Since Week Three, he has been able to put together back-to-back games in which he didn’t turn the ball over. Even though there have been a handful of throws that were close calls. Nonetheless, he has looked decent in the last couple of games.

Garoppolo completed 18 of his 30 pass attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns in Carolina. Nothing spectacular, but the 49ers don’t need him to be. Jimmy G did exactly what the Niners ask of him the last couple of weeks and this game may be one of his best of the season. To his credit, there was also a bad drop from Deebo, a drop from Aiyuk on a nice back-shoulder throw and also a lost fumble by Kittle early in the game while the offense had momentum. Garoppolo was simply “good enough” and if he can continue to be that, the Niners are poised for a deep playoff run once again.

In 2021, Garoppolo finished the season with 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Currently this season, Garoppolo has five touchdown passes and only one interception. Granted, some have been dropped or called back, but five to one is a much better ratio. While we understand Garoppolo is not going to improve as a player at this point in his career, it is encouraging to see back-to-back games where he has played well and not given the ball away.


49ers Special Teams Might Be A Concern Again This Season

If there is one area of the game where you can dig into the 49ers a bit, it is special teams. Robbie Gould had one of his field goal attempts blocked. That is the second blocked field goal allowed this season for the Niners, the first coming in Week Two at home against Seattle which was also returned for a touchdown. To go along with the blocks, kick return situations on both ends of the ball haven’t been good.

Between one kick return and two punt returns, Ray-Ray McCloud who was signed by San Francisco to be a special teams star only managed to gain a total of 13 yards from all three returns. In comparison, Raheem Blackshear totaled 200 yards on seven kick returns, averaging 28.6 yards per return.

There were specifically two kick returns where the coverage was bad. Robbie Gould had to make two tackles on kickoffs in this game and on the second one he suffered a knee injury. This left the 49ers with no kicker for the remainder of the game and Mitch Wishnowski took placekicking duties, going one for two on PAT attempts.

The 49ers were one of the worst special teams units in 2021 and made multiple signings with the sole purpose to improve that part of the team, but they’ve still looked atrocious at times. It may not seem like much after a 22-point victory, but last year the 49ers and Packers who faced off in the NFC Divisional Round had the two worst special teams units in 2021. In that game, the Packers who were ranked last, lost the game heavily due to a blocked punt the 49ers returned for a touchdown to tie the game. They also allowed the Niners to block a field goal attempt to end the first half.

Special teams matters and this must get cleaned up.

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