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San Francisco 49ers’ Strength In Trenches Laying Platform For Success

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 24, 2021

The San Francisco 49ers are among seven teams to have started the season unbeaten and, while their victories have not been entirely convincing, the areas in which they have excelled suggest this is a team built to last in 2021.

San Francisco followed up a 41-33 success over the Detroit Lions in Week 1 by prevailing 17-11 in a defensive struggle with the Philadelphia Eagles.

With their offense misfiring early on and starting with three straight three-and-outs for the first time in the Kyle Shanahan era, DeMeco Ryans’ defense stepped in a significant way.

Returning defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw blocked a field goal to force a turnover on downs in an impactful display and the defense was somehow able to survive four plays from inside their five-yard line to hold the Eagles out of the endzone after Jalen Hurts’ 91-yard connection with Quez Watkins in the second quarter.

That prevented the Eagles from taking a 10-0 lead and San Francisco subsequently went 12 plays and 97 yards on a scoring drive that gave the Niners a 7-3 lead at the half. From there, it was a game the 49ers controlled on both sides of the trenches, with San Francisco’s offensive and defensive lines producing impressive displays against an Eagles team strong on both fronts.

Garoppolo did not suffer a sack against an Eagles defensive line that registered three in their opening win over the Atlanta Falcons, a game in which Philadelphia registered a 41 percent pressure rate, according to Pro Football Focus.

That is not to say the Niners kept Garoppolo clean for the entire game but, on the instances where he was pressured, the San Francisco quarterback demonstrated intelligent movement in the pocket to evade the rush and avoid negative plays.

On the other side of the trenches, the 49ers were able to get to Jalen Hurts despite his ability to make plays with his legs and escape the pocket. Nick Bosa continued his fine start after missing most of 2020 through injury, registering two sacks to take his tally to three, while Arik Armstead again proved his proficiency as an interior pass rusher with six pressures, per PFF.

Aided by an outstanding performance from an undermanned secondary, San Francisco’s defensive line helped ensure the Eagles were held to just 138 net yards in the second half, Philadelphia having put up 218 across the first two quarters.

For the offense, the strength of the protection, combined with a gameplan that saw Garoppolo get the ball out quickly on short throws—his time to throw of 2.44 seconds was tied for the second fastest in the NFL in Week 2 per the NFL’s NextGen Stats—and his success in moving around the pocket, meant the Niners were able to avoid disastrous plays in an intimidating road environment where they almost seemed inevitable.

Questions will continue to abound about how long San Francisco will stick with Garoppolo ahead of rookie third overall pick Trey Lance after a performance that saw him finish with a league-low 3.6 intended air yards per attempt, according to NextGen Stats.

The Niners will inevitably need to be more aggressive as a passing attack if they are to truly contend for a Super Bowl this season. Lance boasts significantly greater upside as a downfield passer than Garoppolo while his running threat should provide an extra dimension to San Francisco’s offense that the NFL has yet to see.

But the reality is that, through two weeks, both sides of the trenches are performing at a standard to keep San Francisco in contention regardless of who is under center. To what extent the Niners take advantage of the platform their men in the trenches are laying hinges on if and when Shanahan loses patience with Garoppolo and turns the keys over to his dynamic but inexperienced quarterback of the future.


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