Are the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl bound in 2018? Let’s slow down a bit, but the 49ers are real contenders for next season. Thrashing arguably the NFL’s best defense for 44 points, the 49ers offense looked dominant, downing the number 3 seeded Jacksonville Jaguars 44-33, giving 49ers fans an early Christmas present.
Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered, seemingly unstoppable offense has arrived in the Bay Area. The Jaguars entered Sunday as the NFL’s number 1 passing defense, allowing a league best 14.9 points per game, and left dumbfounded after a dazzling performance by Jimmy G and the 49ers offense.
Garoppolo posted a 70 percent completion percentage for 241 yards and two passing TDs, adding another one on the ground and breaking HOF QB Kurt Warner’s record for most yards thrown for in his first four starts in NFL history.
In the face of a daunting task, Garoppolo never wavered, instead putting on one of the best offensive displays against Jacksonville this season. Quick and smart decision making was his calling card all game, and if not for a hit from Calais Campbell, Garoppolo would have had another passing touchdown rather than an interception. His favorite target all game was Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk, going for 76 yards on 5 catches.
The ground game also had a great day against the stingy Jaguars defense. Matt Breida and Carlos Hyde combined for 128 yards and two TDs, with Breida setting a career high with 74 rushing yards. Praise should be given to the 49ers offensive line for their performance against the NFL’s leader in sacks, allowing Jimmy G to only be hit 5 times (1 sack and 4 QB hits). It’s hard to emphasize just how well the offense played on Sunday against a truly elite, Super Bowl-caliber defense.
The game gets wild when we start talking about the 49ers defensive performance. Starting with a pick-six to extend the 49ers lead to 16-2, the defense allowed Blake Bortles to have his way on two touchdown drives to tie the game before halftime. The defense opened the 2nd half by holding the Jaguars offense to a field goal, before intercepting Blake Bortles in two of the next three drives. The 49ers capitalized on these turnovers by scoring TDs on both drives, giving them a 37-19 lead. The Jaguars, led by another impressive drive put together by Bortles, marched down the field to make the game 37-27, putting them within striking distance if they could recover the ensuing onside kick, which they did. Three plays later, the Jaguars were within 4 points, after a missed extra point, but that would be the Jaguars final meaningful drive.
A mixed bag defensively, the 49ers forced 3 turnovers, returning one for a touchdown, but they also allowed 33 points. They held Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars NFL-best run game to 92 yards on 3.3 yards per carry, but they allowed Blake Bortles to throw for 382 yards and look spectacular on the drives which they didn’t force a turnover.
The 49ers core defensive rookies: Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, and Ahkello Witherspoon all showed out against Jacksonville. Thomas lived in the Jacksonville backfield, compiling a sack, a QB hit, and 1.5 TFLs. Foster flew around the field making plays, finishing with 5 tackles (1 TFL) and a pass defended. Witherspoon had an interception and two passes defended, but he also had some lapses that are typical of rookie defensive backs. The future foundation of the 49ers defense largely rests on those three players reaching their full potential.
All hail Jimmy G. Pay that man whatever he wants because he has been phenomenal, and this game just might have been his best. In his biggest test, against the NFL’s best defense, Garoppolo proved his status as the franchise’s future. Amounting 244 total yards and 3 TDs, Jimmy G never doubted himself, the game plan, or his teammates for a second. He went in and did his job, and more, allowing the 49ers to pull off an upset en route to their 4th straight victory. With no hyperbole, the young man from the Chicago suburbs has almost single handedly transformed a team, and a fanbase, overnight. This team has fight, they are playing for more than pride, and the fans are responding with an increase in attendance and attentiveness.
It’s hard to really pick out a least valuable player from this game because no single person really played badly. I would argue the 49ers special teams almost cost the team the game. Robbie Gould’s extra point attempt that would have put the 49ers up by three scores (17-0) was blocked and returned for two points. This gave the Jaguars life for the first time in the game, and gave them momentum that they turned into two touchdown drives. Then, not recovering the onside kick allowed the Jaguars the opportunity to make it a one possession game, thankfully the missed extra point by Josh Lambo prevented that.
Play of the Game
Matt Breida iced the game with a 30-yard touchdown run, and it was a thing of beauty. Shanahan brought Goodwin in motion, putting the focus on him before pitching the ball to Breida to the opposite side. Perfectly executed blocks by the pulling offensive lineman and Kendrick Bourne allowed Breida to turn on the jets and go untouched for the score. Perfect play calling and perfect execution was a beautiful way to end an amazing performance by the 49ers offense.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 25, 2017
The 49ers season wraps up next weekend with a game against the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams at the Coliseum in LA. If you remember from week 3 (the first game I covered, man time flies), the 49ers lost a heartbreaker on Thursday Night Football 41-39. I wouldn’t be surprised if this final game is another shootout between two of the best young offensive minds in the NFL, Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Will the 49ers finish 2017 on a 5-game winning streak? Will the Rams flip their record from 2016 (4-12 to 12-4)? Is the 49ers red and gold against the Rams throwback blue and yellow the best uniform matchup in NFL history? That’s a yes, but the other unanswered questions will make for a fun game. Buckle up.