© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The bye week is as welcome as it has ever been for the 49ers. In a season defined by attrition and injuries, finally, there is a reprieve. San Francisco is hopeful to return at least four players in Richard Sherman, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Tevin Coleman, and potentially more off their physically unable to perform list.
There is however, one name who will end up on injured reserve for the remainder of the season: JaMycal Hasty. The undrafted rookie running back hasn’t often been given an extended look outside of the end of the Los Angeles Rams game, with Kyle Shanahan opting to use Jerick McKinnon as the preferred back.
Hasty suffered a broken collarbone in the 27-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints, meaning his season is over.
Also injured in the game was McKinnon, who suffered a stinger, as well as both special teams safeties in Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) and Jared Mayden (quad). None of those three players returned, while Nick Mullens, who got the wind knocked out of him prior to the play C.J. Beathard replaced him, did return and is not an injury concern.
Javon Kinlaw’s usual, less-than-impressed self-evaluation
Humility is Javon Kinlaw’s strong suit. He’s rarely full of self-praise and that remained the case after what could be argued was his best game as a pro.
Kinlaw picked up his first career sack while being held, got another half sack, had a third-down run stop after splitting a double team, and effectively broke up a screen pass on third down, too.
He wasn’t overly excited, saying, “It’s just one.”
Javon Kinlaw had the best game of his young career on Sunday, which included his first career sack.
After the game, he was all business.
"I mean, it's just one. It's just one." pic.twitter.com/ivbQmIBSVm
— KNBR (@KNBR) November 16, 2020
Why Tarvarius Moore finally got a shot
It’s been a weird few weeks at the strong safety position. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh called the safety positions “interchangeable” while Shanahan said that Tarvarius Moore has been repping at the strong safety position for two years, but wasn’t playing there because Marcell Harris, listed as 15 pounds heavier than Moore, has the bigger body.
That changed Sunday, as the coverage liability in Harris was eschewed for Moore. Instead, Harris played as a quasi-SAM linebacker where Azeez Al-Shaair normally plays. Effectively, it’s what you’d call big nickel, with two linebackers, three safeties and two corners instead of traditional nickel with two linebackers, two safeties and three corners.
When Jamar Taylor did come in, it became more of a traditional dime package (six defensive backs), but with Harris effectively still operating as a weakside linebacker.
Shanahan said it can be viewed either way, as a linebacker or as a quasi-safety, and that the decision was unrelated to Azeez Al-Shaair’s play. He all but explicitly stated the obvious, which is that Harris is a sparkplug in tight splits, but is a liability out in space.
“I think Azeez has been doing a real good job for us and I think Marcell’s been doing a real good job for us,” Shanahan said. “He got caught in the post a couple times here over the last few weeks. Getting Tarvaris Moore out on the field I thought helped. Seemed like it did today, and we keep Marcel focused on what he does best.”
Why the nickel blitz was such an issue
C.J. Gardner-Johnson, the Saints’ slot corner, wreaked havoc on Sunday. He had eight tackles, three quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss and one sack, blitzing near-constantly from the slot. Despite it being obvious that he’d keep coming, the 49ers couldn’t seem to find an answer for him.
Nick Mullens said much of the time it was on him to get the ball out and that he knew the blitz was coming.
“He’s a good player, man,” Mullens said. “He does a good job, he’s aggressive, and he’s obviously a good blitzer. And that is something that we had to adjust to in the game. A lot of times it was on me to get the ball out before he got to me and those are tough situations. But I got to find a way to make those plays. They did a good job. I mean you got to give him credit.”
Trent Williams said those blitzes weren’t shown on film and that it took San Francisco too long to adjust.
“They started to blitz the field to try to keep our outside run game to try to not let that get out the gate,” Williams said. “They had a good game plan. They haven’t showed that on film much and that was something that we had to make some adjustments to. By the time we kind of made our adjustments it was kind of a passing game at that point, coming from behind.”