Niners Score 30 Again

Three weeks into the season and the 49ers are 3 and 0.  The 49ers have scored 30 points every week to start this season.  They are on a roll!  Now, they have nine days before their next game.    The scary part for the rest of the league is they left points on the field all three weeks.

The 49ers started the game uncharacteristically slow.  On their first offensive possession, they drove the field, but they failed to punch it in for a touchdown.  Still, we can’t expect perfect excellence from a team, even as good as the 49ers, who is playing on three days’ rest.  Brock Purdy was a bit off target as well.  This was due in part because of his lack of reps, and also in part because the Giants sent at least one extra defender at him about 70% of the snaps.  Coach Shanahan recognized that he needed to get the ball out of his quarterback’s hands quickly so he started dialing up screens, swing passes and quick slants to get Purdy in rhythm.  Those pass plays coupled with the running attack really allowed Purdy to begin to take advantage of some hard play action fakes later in the game.

Don Martindale is one of the better defensive coordinators in the league.  He coached at the Ravens from 2012 thru 2021.  He started off as a linebacker’s coach and eventually became their defensive coordinator in 2018.  He runs a multiple front, zone blitz scheme designed to pressure and confuse quarterbacks into making mistakes.  His linebackers are always well coached.  He always brings the pressure and Thursday night was no different.  Kyle Shanahan and Brock Purdy worked together to solve the Martindale problem.  310 yards thru the air and two touchdowns was the result.  Christian McCaffrey, and Elijah Mitchel’s combined 127 yards rushing added to the solution.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ronnie Bell, top, catches a touchdown pass against New York Giants cornerback Deonte Banks (25) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Brock Purdy wasn’t perfect.  He put the ball in jeopardy during the first drive when he failed to see Adoree Jackson in the zone, and he was on hand to top the ball away from George Kittle.  He had one tip and a couple of throwaways.  Several of his throws were dropped by George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Juan Jennings and Deebo Samuel.  None of this rattled Purdy.

Purdy had several on-target long balls last night.  Two were for touchdowns.  Ronnie Bell’s first NFL reception was a touchdown.  Bell’s ball was a nine-yard dart to the front left corner of the endzone placed at a point only he could catch it.  Deebo’s reception was 27 yard back shoulder laser.  Martindale dialed up another blitz and Purdy had to step up and out of the pocket.  He launched the ball to Deebo’s outside shoulder to a point only Deebo could catch it, and he walked it in two yards later for a touchdown.  What is key here is Purdy was rushed, sacked multiple times and he never wavered.  The other key is the genius of the offense.  In simplest terms, the running game, and short passing game set up these long throws.

Nick Bosa finally tallied his first sack of the year while Javon Hargrave collected his second sack of the year.  Bosa and Armstead also connected at the quarterback together.  For the third week in a row, the secondary managed an interception.  Towards the end of the game, Fred Warner tipped a ball into the air and Talanoa Hufanga came down with it.  The game plan for the defense was simple.  Let the front four work with an occasional fifth defender coming on the blitz, while the secondary played pressman.  Coach Wilkes generally likes to feel out an offense in the first half and then he makes his adjustments for the second half.  What we have seen in the first half during the first three games is quite a bit of zone, mixed in with one defensive back in man with front four pressure.  In the second half Coach Wilkes puts his corners in press-man coverage and will occasionally disguise a blitz.  This puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  When the receiver is being pressed, quarterbacks are forced to hold the ball longer giving time for the defensive line to pressure and take down the quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) gestures after sacking New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Thursday night football in the past has been a parade of penalties and bad offensive football.  This game almost devolved to that point.  Trent Williams committed an uncharacteristic three penalties.  He was penalized on a RPO play as an ineligible man down field.  He was penalized for holding and then he got into a scuffle with a Giant defensive lineman and was penalized for unnecessary roughness.  Dre Greenlaw was penalized for a late hit.

However, the worst penalties were the special teams’ penalties.  The defense forced the Giants to punt during their first offensive possession of the second half.  Tre Swilling committed a holding penalty on the return causing the Niners to start on their own four-yard line.  The 49ers went an uncharacteristic three and out after Juan Jennings dropped a first down catch.  The Niners punted from their own six-yard line, and it landed around the Giants 48-yard line.  A 49er player interfered with the catch causing the ball to be spotted on the 49ers 37-yard line after penalty yardage was assessed.  This sequence of bad special teams play led to the Giants scoring their one and only touchdown of the game.

All and all this is a great start for the 49ers.  They are 3 and 0.  The Niners are relatively healthy.  They host the Cardinals next week after nine days of rest.

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