The bye week did the 49ers well.
Sunday was a thorough rejection of one of the league’s hottest teams. A Jacksonville Jaguars group which had won five-straight games looked lost.
Chase Young debuted and the defense came alive to make life hell for Trevor Lawrence. Brock Purdy and the offense had a firework-filled day.
It was a 34-3 beatdown that re-established the 49ers’ place near the top of the NFL’s hierarchy.
Williams, Samuel return to impress
As it turns out, Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel are fairly important to the 49ers’ offense.
Plenty of what was accomplished by Kyle Shanahan’s offense was not available with Samuel on the sidelines. His orbit motions and reverse handoffs — of which there were a handful, including a touchdown — were an ever-present threat in the offense. His presence requires an abundance of attention from defenses.
That touchdown from Samuel came on a reverse with Williams as a lead blocker. It is a play that epitomizes the 49ers’ identity of the last half decade.
There is ingenuity in the play design, perfectly executed blocking assignments, and both speed and physicality to finish the ball in the end zone.
It’s not that the 49ers just ran end arounds to Samuel with Williams as a lead blocker, but they had their offensive tone-setters back.
Samuel and Williams lead the team out of the tunnel each game, dancing behind the team’s Bumpboxx speaker. They are the offense’s identity.
Shanahan tries to get McCaffrey the record
Everyone got their piece… except Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey rushed 16 times for 95 yards and six receptions for 47 yards, but his league-record streak of 17-straight games with a touchdown came to an end Sunday. It’s tied with former Baltimore Colts receiver/running back Lenny Moore for the most consecutive games with a touchdown.
It was not without trying. The most psychotic part of the game was late in the fourth quarter, with the 49ers leading 34-3.
McCaffrey had been out of the game in favor of Elijah Mitchell. But with the 49ers driving, Shanahan force-fed McCaffrey to try and get him sole possession of that record. It was transparent, chaotic, and ill-advised. But it was incredibly entertaining to watch a coach try and get a record for his player, hearkening back to Mike Shanahan feeding Terrell Davis so he could cross the 2,000-yard threshold in 1998.
But Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk and Samuel all found their way into the end zone, usually in pretty astounding fashion.
Brock Purdy was in gunslinging mode from the jump. He threw a dangerous ball to Aiyuk in the back of the end zone for the opening touchdown. He also threw a 66-yard touchdown to Kittle that required astounding poise.
Aside from the dangerous throw and a Three Stooges-esque intentional grounding, Purdy thrived.
He finished 19-of-26 with 296 yards and 3 touchdowns. He and the offense looked decidedly confident.
Wilks to sideline, Chase Young’s debut, as defense thrives
After spending the first half of the season in the booth, Steve Wilks made his sideline debut on Sunday. He said earlier in the week that more is being made out of the change than should be the case.
Maybe that’s true. At the very least, the impact is probably overrated. But you cannot argue with the results.
This is a defense used to younger, energetic coordinators joining them on the sidelines, which ensured open channels of communication with players during the game. This brought that back. For a coordinator who came in as an outsider, it’s hard to shrug that off.
He also made changes, returning to a five-man defensive front to open the game. He shuffled out nickel corner Isaiah Oliver and pushed Deommodore Lenoir inside on nickel packages. Ambry Thomas came in as the outside corner on those downs. Lenoir continued to look like the weakest part of the defense.
Thomas, by the way, nearly had one of the greatest returns in recent memory after forcing, then recovering a fumble. It looked like a nearly full-field recovery touchdown.
His score was pulled off the board, but the 49ers offense took the field near the initial recovery. Because the FOX broadcast — which looked like a college student production — never showed the full play live, and there wasn’t a clear explanation, most were confused why the touchdown came off the board. After about five minutes, the broadcast showed that Kyle Shanahan and multiple members of the bench were on the field during the return.
But the most notable part of the defense’s performance was how consistently they pressured Trevor Lawrence. He was hit a whopping 10 times and sacked five times.
It’s clear that Chase Young is a fit. All the talk of him and Nick Bosa reuniting met in poetic fashion, when they simultaneously sacked Lawrence, and Bosa stole the ball for himself.
The complaints about Bosa not showing up on the stat sheet will be quieted after this game.
He had 1.5 sacks including the strip sack/fumble recovery, a pass swatted at the line of scrimmage and a backside pressure on Trevor Lawrence that became a Talanoa Hufanga interception.
The defense forced four turnovers on Lawrence, and played with the sort of creativity and dominance that is expected.