San Francisco

Shanahan's Plan Helps 49ers Cope With Missing Tackles

Skule and Brunskill play well in ground-oriented offense in victory over Rams that keeps Niners undefeated

First, Joe Staley went down. Then, Mike McGlinchey.

So, as the 49ers prepared to play the defending NFC-champion Rams Sunday, San Francisco had a pair of backup offensive tackles in Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule in starting roles.

It looked like a weak link against a defensive front that features Aaron Donald, perhaps the NFL’s best defensive lineman.

But Brunskill, who was getting his first NFL start in place of McGlinchey on the right side, said before the game he was confident he’d be able to do the job.

Especially, he said, because head coach Kyle Shanahan knows what he’s doing.

"Kyle’s not going to put us in situations to look bad," Brunskill told reporters. "He’s putting us out there to win. He’s going to put us in good situations to play well. I think it’ll be all right."

Indeed it was.

In Sunday’s 20-7 victory over the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Brunskill and Skule helped the offense produce two touchdowns on the ground while giving up just two sacks.

Skule gave up one of those sacks on the first offensive series, to Donald, but after that the duo was solid as Shanahan decided to run the ball often – 41 times – to slow down the game’s tempo and not put his inexperienced tackles in position to have to pass-block all day.

Though San Francisco managed just 99 yards on all those carries – a 2.4-yard average – its trio of Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert made yards when they needed and kept the clock ticking.

"It took pressure off guys," Shanahan told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. "When you get 41 runs called and you’re getting two-something (yards) a carry, that means you’re converting some third downs and your defense is getting the ball back, the whole team is playing together.

"It allowed us to play situational football, take our shots when we had them."

And, not expose Skule and Brunskill.

Both Staley and McGlinchey are expected to return, with McGlinchy due back in three to five weeks. Until then, Skule and Brunskill will try to keep getting better.

The 5-0 49ers return to action this coming Sunday at Washington. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.

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