Monday Midwest Blues 


The San Francisco 49ers sat atop the football world a mere fortnight ago. I proclaimed them “the best team in football” and I did not think that it was particularly close. I still think that they are one of the best but the 49ers were rolling through the opening segment of the season. Their offense was efficient and effective, their defense was decisive and dominant. Then the road trip to Cleveland happened. The rolling and rumbling has subsequently stopped and the season has suddenly gotten real. A missed field goal after a game winning drive. No worries, it’s the NFL it happens, and Cleveland’s defense is definitely built like that. Then came the Monday Night game against the Minnesota Vikings and suddenly the problems that plagued them in Cleveland were popping up again in Minneapolis and last week’s blip no longer felt like a benign blemish. The 49ers are singing the Midwest Blues.

If wins and losses are a quarterback stat then Brock Purdy suddenly went from being undefeated in the regular season to having back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. Purdy has some responsibility to carry for that. There is no doubt that injuries to Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey played a role; but 17 points per game in the 49ers’ last two outings is a bit of a concern when it comes to offensive outputs irrespective of the injury concerns. The 49ers won their first five games by a margin of almost 20 points per game. Only scoring 17 points total in the two subsequent losses have my spidey senses tingling. The other concerning aspect of this is the fact that the San Fran offense created opportunities to score but squandered those opportunities with uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers. The late game execution has not been clean, but then again the 49ers usually blow teams out. Late game execution has usually not been a focus. The last two weeks in close contests, the lack of execution leading to losses has put this aspect of the game under a microscope.

Brian Flores showed his defensive prowess with dialing up exotic blitzes that stuffed the run and contained the San Francisco passing attack. No one on the offense tallied over 100 scrimmage years and McCaffrey was limited to just 45 yards on 15 carries. Instead of running like UPS ground, McCaffrey was running more like the Postal Service. But Christian was returning from an injury to be fair. Shanahan tried to get creative, even dialing up a rushing attempt for George Kittle, but the Vikings defense was ready for it and stuffed that too. It’s been a while since the 49ers were only allowed 65 yards rushing as a team, but it happened Monday night. The Vikings’ offense was not doing much to extend the lead in the 2nd half, so all of the responsibility to protect the lead fell on their defense and they came up huge with two crunch time interceptions that Brock Purdy would love to have back.

We have to take a step back and talk about that all out blitz right before halftime dialed up by Wilks. The 49ers rarely blitz. They have one of the best front four groups in all of football that are capable of creating pressure on the passer and stopping the run without blitzing. Suddenly, at the end of the first half a tendency breaker all out blitz was called in an effort to confuse Kirk Cousins. Cousins has practiced against a blitz heavy unit all season and was more than ready for the cover zero look. Cousins audibled the play to a deep go route against the 7 man pressure and quickly sprayed the ball out to former Pitt Panther turned USC Trojan Jordan Addison. It looked like a terrible decision and a worse throw as Ward got in position for his second interception of the game and the rookie receiver just took it from him! It was unbelievable. Addison absolutely muscled the ball away from Charvarius Ward and with no safeties deep, Addison was all by himself running in for a 60 yard score. That was the pivotal moment of the game that let 49ers fans all over the world know what kind of game they were in for. Coach Shanahan said he will discuss that decision with Steve Wilks and I agree because I am curious what he saw that made him dial up an all out blitz when only a big play over the top could hurt San Francisco with the halftime intermission coming up only a mere half a minute away. That play felt like a gut punch to the solar plexus and it was completely avoidable. It was by far the worst and most consequential call of the game.

The hits don’t stop coming as now on a short week the 49ers have to prepare to host Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals got off to their customary slow start but seem to be heating up and won both games before their bye break. The 49ers defensive line has to get after Burrow and test the calf muscle. The defense cannot allow Burrow to not be sacked and only face pressure on a quarter of his dropbacks, which is a luxury that Kirk Cousins was afforded and allowed him to throw for 378 yards against the best defense in football on Monday Night. With the Eagles winning on Sunday night, the 49ers can not drop their third straight. Some home cooking might be just what is needed to get back to their winning ways.

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