49ers Studs and Duds: Shanahan, Garoppolo, and Ryans bear the blame in Niners’ loss to Seattle


The 49ers are back to square one.

After an impressive three-game winning streak, the Niners dropped their first game in nearly a month Sunday, falling 30-23 to a Seattle Seahawks team that needed a win to save their season and perhaps their franchise as they know it.

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In a game that was pure chaos, the Seahawks — who are used to such games — came out on top, but the Niners only have themselves to blame for falling into the final playoff spot and failing to maintain the prodigious momentum the team had created over the last few weeks.

There were some good performances in the game — top players had top games — but many were bad, including from the most important participants in the game: the coaches and quarterback.

Here are the studs and duds from a dud of a game:

STUDS

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) 

George Kittle — The 49ers’ best offensive player needed to have a big game and he came through, catching two touchdowns and galloping for 181 yards in the win.

His toe-taps along the sideline for this second touchdown — a 48-yard run-and-score — told us that he’s fully back from his early-season calf/Achilles injury. His ability to stay inbounds — going as far as to stay on his toes mid-stride — was befitting of a player of his pedigree.

Frankly, given how dominant Kittle was, it seems silly that he was not targeted near the end zone on the game’s final drive.

Azeez Al-Shaair — An elite performance from the player who has been arguably the second-best Niner defender this season, behind Nick Bosa.

Playing middle linebacker for the first time in his 49ers career, Al-Shaair had 16 tackles, a forced fumble, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, and half a sack. He almost had a game-changing interception, too, but he couldn’t fully bring in the ball.

Al-Shaair has unquestionably been the Niners’ best surprise this season — even those bullish on him didn’t see this ascent coming — but he’s playing well enough to earn Pro Bowl consideration.

DJ Jones — That was some really powerful play from the big fella in the middle. He was the best player on the field in the first half of the game.

Jimmy Garoppolo in the shotgun with less than 3 minutes to play — We can be honest, he was pretty awesome on the final drive, going 90-plus, before coming up short.

DUDS

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) 

Jimmy Garoppolo under center — Kyle Shanahan had put Garoppolo in the shotgun for the vast majority of his snaps over the last few weeks and the Niners quarterback became a solid distributor of the football.

Sunday, Shanahan went back to his preferred under-center, play-action offense, and Garoppolo was woeful.

Yes, there were a few decent throws — nothing special, but nice — but the interceptions and airmailed balls defined this game. Garoppolo left big plays all over the field and allowed Seattle to build momentum in the game with his two interceptions.

Seattle was selling out to stop the run and they did. Garoppolo found a way to still come up short (or long) on far too many passes.

The 49ers didn’t cross the 50-yard line on offense in the second half until the final drive of the game.

Shanahan needs to take a lot of this blame. He put Garoppolo in positions where he has failed more often than not and his desire to run the ball into a nine-man box was laughable.

Still, this level of offensive execution from the quarterback is unacceptable for a playoff team. Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) comes down with a catch near the end zone next to San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, left, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) 

Deommodore Lenoir — After Emmanuel Moseley exited the game in the first half with an ankle injury, Lenoir entered the game and was subsequently beaten deep and picked up a defensive pass interference in the end zone.

He was replaced at halftime by Dontae Johnson, who was better, but only because you cannot divide by zero.

Josh Norman — Johnson might have been the better cornerback in the contest when he entered, because Norman was woeful all game. If he doesn’t force a fumble in a given game, he’s a negative for the Niners.

The right side of the 49ers’ offensive line — Dan Brunskill and Tom Compton were overwhelmed on Sunday by a Seattle defensive line that is unimpressive on a good day.

Brunskill was missing blocks in both the run and pass games Sunday, including a couple of game-breaking opportunities.

Compton was simply overwhelmed. Remember Mike McGlinchey and his inability to anchor last season?

That was Compton on Sunday.

He allowed a safety that guaranteed Seattle had momentum for the rest of the game and while I won’t blame the veteran for the final play of the game, when Carlos Dunlap was able to deflect Garoppolo’s fourth-down pass deep in Seattle territory, suffice it to say that it was indicative of his overall play.

DeMeco Ryans — The 49ers’ cornerbacks were beleaguered. The Niners were down to their final guys off the bench in the secondary as a whole.

So why was Ryans constantly blitzing, leaving those cornerbacks and safeties in one-on-one positions for Russell Wilson to exploit?

It’s easy to call something bad coordination, but that was bad coordination. I understand the talent level Ryans is working with this season. He needs to do the same.

Richard Hightower — The 49ers turned in one of the most woeful special teams performances of the last few seasons on Sunday. And special teams coordinator Richard Hightower wasn’t responsible for Travis Benjamin’s fumble, or Robbie Gould’s missed extra point, or questionable decisions on punt returns, but he can be blamed for not having any protection going when Seattle not only faked a first-quarter punt, but ran that fake punt 70-plus yards into the end zone.

A desperate team, seeing double coverage out wide on the gunners? Of course they faked it.

Hightower is a good guy and Shanahan trusts him, but the Niners’ special teams have been bad this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a change at coordinator in the offseason.

Source

“https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2021/12/05/49ers-studs-and-duds-shanahan-garoppolo-and-ryans-bear-the-blame-in-the-niners-loss-to-seattle/”

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