49ers overreactions: Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling holding the team back?

Injuries are piling up.

Losses to seemingly inferior teams are piling up, too.

The 49ers stand at 3-3. They are an average team in a conference filled with average-looking teams.

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are struggling to answer questions of their own about why the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scuffling along with 3-3 records, too.

The 49ers have plenty of company with their misery.

But let’s dive into this team’s various issues with some help from our friends.

Here is this week’s edition of 49ers Overreactions. . .

Overreaction? yes.

Coach Kyle Shanahan knows his personnel better than anyone. So however he calls a game against a particular opponent is based on how he believes he is putting his players in the best position to succeed.

Coming off the 49ers’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons, I don’t think conservative play-calling was the issue in the team’s offensive failures.

After all, there were four shots down the field that should have resulted in big plays totaling more than 100 air yards.

Drops from Ray-Ray McCloud and Charlie Woerner, and a 39-yard pass to Brandon Aiyuk that was wiped out because of center Jake Brendel’s holding penalty.

And quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, while rolling to his right, overshot an open George Kittle for what would have been a touchdown with more than three minutes remaining.

For everyone who thinks the 49ers’ offense was too conservative, others believe they should have run the ball more than 16 times in the game. And, as we recall, the criticism of the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss is that they should have run the ball more in the fourth quarter.

The yards simply were not there in the running game on Sunday against the Falcons. But the big plays in the passing game were dialed up.

And if those plays connected, the 49ers’ running stats probably would have ended up looking a lot better, too.

As it was, the 49ers still out-gained the Falcons by 57 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per play.

Overreaction? no.

It only stands to reason that defenses around the NFL have a better grasp on how to defend the 49ers.

Why? That’s because a growing number of teams around the league run some variation of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

NFL defensive coordinators are smart people, and they know what to try to take away in order for offense to play out of their comfort zones. Defenses make adjustments, and it’s up to the offenses to show new wrinkles.

The 49ers showed something different last season with the usage of Deebo Samuel in the backfield.

The plan this season, of course, was to incorporate a dual-threat option at quarterback, such as what the Buffalo Bills have done with Josh Allen.
The 49ers built everything around this offseason Trey Lance to expand the team’s playbook and give defenses more to think about. But that blew up in Week 2 when Lance sustained a fractured ankle and underwent season-ending surgery.

Overreaction: Yes and no.

We here at 49ers Overreactions Central believe it’s a long shot the 49ers can (or should) pull off a trade for Christian McCaffrey, considering what kind of cost it might require to obtain him from the Carolina Panthers.

But the 49ers certainly can use a spark on offense, and we think that can be accomplished when running back Elijah Mitchell returns to action.
One area where the 49ers can create more issues for opposing defenses is with designed passes going to targets out of the backfield to take advantage of favorable matchups. Mitchell is the best option to make catches in space and get big yards in the open field.

So while it might not make sense for the 49ers to trade for McCaffrey, it would make sense for the team to use Mitchell in more of a McCaffrey-like role.

Overreaction? no.

We held off on declaring the 49ers as a great defense through the first few weeks of the season for this very reason.

Defensive end Nick Bosa takes this defense to a whole new level. He makes everyone around him better. He beats double teams. And because he’s double-teamed so frequently, the other pass-rushers benefit, too.

The 49ers can still be a good defense when Bosa is not on the field, but it does not help that Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is out for the season, and cornerback Charvarius Ward and safety Jimmie Ward are currently out of action, too.

RELATED: How PFF graded 49ers in disappointing Week 6 loss to Falcons

The 49ers need all their pieces on defense to be truly great. Bosa tops the list of their most important players.

Overreaction? yes.

Moseley and Lance are the players who have been lost for the season. There are also questions on whether Javon Kinlaw can make much of a contribution this season due to his knee issue.

Everyone else on the 49ers should be back.

But, yes, if the injuries continue at the current rate, things will be trending in a direction that will ruin the season.

As average as the 49ers have looked through six games, let’s also recognize there are few teams in the NFC that look all that hot right now.
Like a lot of other teams, the 49ers figure to hang around. And any team that gets into the playoffs and gets hot can end up winning it all.

Overreaction? no.

We agree the 49ers need to evaluate what’s going on.

Are they the only team in the NFL with injury concerns? Of course, note.

Maybe their research will find that nothing can be done to avoid these injuries.

The season-ending injuries by Lance and Moseley appeared to be freak plays.

The muscle strains and tears seem to be avoidable. But the 49ers are certainly not the only team in the league that has those issues, either.

The organization revamped the way it handles injury prevention and physical therapy a few years back. But it never hurts to revisit the situation and figure out what’s been working and how to improve upon areas that remain problematic.

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