Niners’ Offense Has Evolved Into One of NFL’s Best

Kyle Shanahan's fingerprints are all over this explosive unit, which ranks fourth best in the league

Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers shake hands.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The 49ers offense is on a roll. As San Francisco heads into its matchup Sunday with the Atlanta Falcons, the Niners have scored 36 or more points in three of their past four games, including last weekend’s 48-46 shootout decision over the Saints.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Raheem Mostert, tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders have been key playmakers as the 49ers have surged to become the NFL’s No. 4 offense, averaging 388.6 yards per game, while also gaining 149.1 yards per game on the ground, which ranks second in the league.

As Ben Linsey of the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted this week, the 49ers were riding their defense early in the season, but now that Garoppolo is locked in and head coach Kyle Shanahan has a deep stable of playmakers at every skill position, the offense has been dominant.

Linsey wrote this week that Shanahan’s offensive philosophy – demonstrated at several previous stops as an offensive coordinator – is apparent in almost everything this 49ers offense is doing in 2019, with multiple pre-snap shifts, outside zone-blocking running plays, two-back sets and backfield speed.

The rushing attack, with those outside zone runs, consistently produces “home run” plays, with Matt Breida, Mostert and Tevin Coleman. According to Pro Football Focus, Breida ranks No. 1 in the league with 44 percent of his yardage coming on runs of 15 or more yards. Mostert is second at 43 percent and Coleman ranks eighth at 35 percent.

Linsey said a big spark for offensive improvement came at the trade deadline, when the 49ers added Sanders. That opened up the passing game, which forces defenses to play more honestly against a better-diversified pass-run attack. As Linsey wrote, “Shanahan has a full deck of playmakers now, and that’s a dangerous thing for the rest of the league.”

As the 11-2 49ers work their way to the playoffs, Linsey says San Francisco is evolving into a dangerous offensive team that makes it a Super Bowl contender.

“Garoppolo is not in the elite tier of quarterbacks who can carry a team single-handedly, but he doesn’t have to be,” wrote Linsey. “The 49ers have arguably the best receiver in football, regardless of position, in Kittle, two difficult covers on the perimeter in Sanders and (Deebo) Samuel, a stable of some of the fastest running backs in the NFL and one of the brightest offensive minds in football scheming plays to get those playmakers in space.”

Now, the 49ers need wins Sunday against the Falcons and in the final two weeks against the Rams and Seahawks to clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage. Kickoff for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium is set for 1:25 p.m. Oddsmakers have the 49ers as 10½-point favorites.

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