After faltering late in the season-opening loss, the San Francisco 49ers are looking to rebound as they travel east to face the New York Jets. The 49ers enter Sunday for the first of back-to-back road games against the New York football teams. Today we preview the matchup against the Jets and what needs to happen for a San Francisco victory.
In the opener against the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers offense started off well. They put up 10 points in the first quarter, highlighted by a 76-yard scoring catch and run by Raheem Mostert. However, the highlight was one of the few afforded to San Francisco on the day. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo struggled with his accuracy. After a solid first half, Garoppolo was unable to get the second-half offense going. The 49ers will be without tight end George Kittle on Sunday. The announcement came on Friday afternoon. Announcing Kittle’s absence this early allows for the offensive game plan to adjust for the loss.
Expect Kyle Shanahan and the offense to lean heavily on players like Mostert and Jerick McKinnon. The duo combined for the only two touchdowns scored by the 49ers in week one. Both players have top-end speed and are dangerous in the open field. It will be interesting to see how much work the wide receiver group will have on Sunday. Against Arizona, the offense seemed focused on avoiding the position group. However, there is a chance that rookie Brandon Aiyuk could be active and there was the mid-week signing of veteran receiver, Mohamed Sanu.
Get to the Quarterback
The key for the 49ers defense the last two years has been their ability to get to the quarterback. Against Arizona, the 49ers struggled to bring down Kyler Murray. The Cardinals utilized a quick passing game to negate the San Francisco pass rush. However, the difference between the New York offense and the Arizona offense is the effectiveness of the wide receiver group. The Jets will be sending out a group highlighted by Jamison Crowder and Chris Hogan. Without a legitimate deep threat, it would behoove the 49ers defense to play tight on the outside, taking away the quick passing game.
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If the secondary can prevent the short passes, the New York offensive line is not equipped to handle the 49ers pass rush. The left tackle role is filled by rookie Mekhi Becton. New York drafted Becton in the first round of this year’s draft. However, Becton is battling a knee injury that caused him to be limited in practice earlier in the week. Both New York tackles are nursing injuries and a matchup against Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford, could be more than they can handle. The San Francisco defensive line showed flashes of dominance against the Cardinals but ultimately struggled against the mobility of Kyler Murray. New York’s offensive line is not as talented and Sam Darnold does not have the same level of elsuvieness. If the 49ers defense can rebound, it could be difficult for the Jets to do much on offense.
The loss to Arizona was made possible by numerous unforced errors. A blocked punt resulted in an easy score for the Cardinals. The San Francisco offense converted two out of eleven third downs and was unable to convert on both fourth down attempts. The first of which was a goal line stand by the Arizona defense. A large part of the problem on offense was the lack of consistency in the second half by Garoppolo. The San Francisco quarterback struggled to find a receiver after moving off his first or second read. Reviewing the film, there were multiple chances late in the game, that were missed entirely by Garoppolo. Perhaps the biggest was an underthrow to Kendrick Bourne which would have given the 49ers a lead with less than a minute remaining in the game.
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However, the offense wasn’t the only group to make mistakes. Defensively, the 49ers committed multiple unnecessary roughness penalties. Those penalties kept Arizona drives alive and ultimately resulted in points for the Cardinals. Combine that with an inability to make tackles in the open field and it isn’t a surprise that the defense surrendered more than 400 yards of offense to Arizona. The Jets offense is nowhere near as potent but the 49ers can ill-afford to lose focus and give New York any momentum on offense.
The 49ers are in need of a big rebound performance from all aspects of the roster. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will need to tighten up his game and push an offense that is short-handed. The defense made mistakes that ultimately cost the 49ers a victory against the Cardinals. The unit is also looking to bounce back from poor performance. The Jets could be the best opponent for San Francisco to face in such a trying moment so early in the season. Play their game and it’s an even record for the 49ers.
Prediction: 49ers scrape by, 31-14
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covered the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada