So much for ending the teens on a high note. In what can only be seen as a huge success for the 49ers this season ended on a sour note. And, except for the NFC curse of missing the playoffs after losing the Super Bowl, the future looks bright for this team.
Jimmy Garoppolo MADE it to the Super Bowl his first full year as a starter. He started out shakey, fumble-prone, and INT-prone. And while he did throw a couple in the Super Bowl, they were not of the “I didn’t see the linebacker right in front of me” kind. Think Minnesota game. He WAS trying to get the ball out of bounds on the first pick, and the 2nd was a desperation heave.
4,000 yards, 27 TDs, 13 picks, and a 102 rating are solid numbers. 8th in QBR, 8th in yards, and 5th in TDs as a first-time full-time guy is great. He has room to improve his pocket presence, and minimize the interceptions, but from the start of the season to the finish, he improved those aspects as the season wore on.
The run game was spectacular. Mostert (772 – 5.6), Breida (623 – 5.1), and Coleman 544 – 4.0) all had breakout games, and all of them gained over 500 yards (why Coleman started over Mostert is an argument for another day. And why Wilson started over Breida was another head scratcher). All did well catching passes out of the backfield as well, and set the tone all year with tough runs and few fumbles.
The maligned receiving corps found its footing as rookie Deebo Samuels blossomed with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders in a trade with Denver. Kittle was his old self, going over 1,000 yards for the 2nd season in a row, and Kendrick Bourne established himself as a bona fide red zone threat with 5 TDs down the stretch.
The O line had a bit of a rough ride with injuries and inconsistent pass blocking, but in the end, backups like Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland, and Justin Skule subbed in for starters Mike McGlinchey, Joe Staley and Weston Richberg. Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme opened up holes all season, and the line play got better and better as the year went on.
The defense improved dramatically. Robert Saleh’s anemic 2018 defense was replaced by a faster, harder hitting, and sack-happy bunch, led by rookie of the year Nick Bosa. The additions of Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford complemented last year’s rookie phenom Fred Warner. Dre Greenlaw was another high-speed tackling machine.
The DBs? Well, a mixed bag. Ahkello Witherspoon had a strong early season, as did Richard Sherman. But Witherspoon got hurt, and never seemed to return to form. Tartt and Ward were injured for parts of the season, and struggled at times, but Emmanuel Moseley earned his way into the starting role in place of Ahkello.
That leaves Kyle Shanahan. He and John Lynch have done very well dragging this team out of the depths of suckitude in 3 short years. The season hat looked onerous and barely like we could hit 8-8 instead went 13-3 and blitzed the NFC teams in the playoffs.
Questions WILL dog Shanny though as he makes his next quest for glory in the 2020 season. His teams have been outscored 52-0 down the stretch in his two Super Bowl losses. Both games saw Shanny go pass happy as he appeared to try to do too much too fast, instead of just sticking with a run game that had been working in both games.