Maiocco Overreactions

49ers overreactions: Can Shanahan's play-calling be a liability?

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Let’s face it, folks, the 49ers were the least impressive team that advanced through the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

There was not one phase of the team that played well enough — from start to finish — to meet the 49ers’ lofty expectations as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

But, at the same time, every single aspect of the 49ers made at least one play that contributed greatly to their 24-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

Brock Purdy had one of his most uneven performances of the season, as the quarterback appeared to lack decisiveness in handling a wet football in the steady rain at Levi’s Stadium.

Every aspect of the 49ers was just off, and that includes those on the sideline calling the shots.

And that’s where we start with this edition of 49ers overreactions:

Shanahan's play calling CAN be as much of a liability as it is a strength. (Tony Noble)

Overreaction? No.

There is a chicken-and-egg element to the 49ers’ offense.

When coach Kyle Shanahan is dialing up the plays and things are working, it appears as if the 49ers simply cannot be stopped.

But is it really that the play calls are so good, or are the players on the field executing so well that it does not matter what Shanahan is calling?

It is probably a little of both.

The most bizarre call of the game was when the 49ers opened the second half with a running play to receiver Jauan Jennings.

That one caught everyone by surprise (except for the Packers' defense), including the 49ers' head coach.

The problem occurred when the 49ers checked into a play on the wrong wristband — the one in which Deebo Samuel would be featured. But Samuel was out of the game due to a shoulder injury, and Jennings took his spot and, thus, got the handoff.

A lot of this game did not go smoothly.

So much of the early part of the game is pre-scripted, as Shanahan wants to see how the defense will react to certain formations, shifts and motions.

The first series was a bust because after a first down, the 49ers got into a first-and-15 situation, so it changed how Shanahan called the next set of downs.

The next two possessions were good with 12- and 10-play offensive possessions. But two of the three drives in the third quarter were three-and-outs.

There are no easy answers, and it’s a lot easier to criticize after the fact. For everyone who thinks Christian McCaffrey is not featured enough, there are others who believe the 49ers need to get Elijah Mitchell on the field more often.

Then, of course, they need to get the ball to Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, while also looking to Jennings as an option on third downs.

It is not an easy balancing action.

When the 49ers’ offense is rolling, it’s a thing of beauty. But when things are not going smoothly, it opens the door for a lot of reasonable questions directed at the man calling the shots.

Niners still can’t stop the run even with Armstead back. (David Caldwell)

Overreaction? No.

Let’s rephrase this: They probably can stop the run, but they did not do a very good job of it against the Packers.

The 49ers held the opposition to 89.7 yards per game to rank third best in the NFL. But, obviously, that does not tell the whole story.

At the time Armstead was sidelined with foot and knee issues, the 49ers were allowing 3.9 yards per rushing attempt.

Over the next four games (we’re not going to count that Week 18 backups-only game against the Los Angeles Rams), the 49ers’ run defense allowed 5.2 yards per attempt.

The 49ers should have benefited Saturday night from the return of Armstead. But, undoubtedly, he had some rust issues. And, also, the 49ers did not have base defensive end Clelin Ferrell on the field. Ferrell is out for the remainder of the postseason.

Green Bay running back Aaron Jones had a big day, rushing for 108 yards on 18 carries for a 6.0 average.

The 49ers must do better in the NFC Championship Game against Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, the Detroit Lions' two-heading rushing attack.

Gibbs is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. He has 99 yards on 17 carries in two playoff games, including a 31-yard touchdown run Sunday that broke a 17-17 tie in the fourth quarter. Montgomery, who can pound it between the tackles, has 90 yards on 24 attempts.

If the 49ers do not slow down the Lions’ run game, it will make it even more difficult on the team to defend the pass.

Ambry Thomas needs to be benched (Shawn Gonnella)

Overreaction? Yes, but . . . 

Ambry Thomas is the player on the 49ers’ defense that the Packers targeted, and they went after the cornerback with a lot of success.

Thomas was flagged for two pass-interference penalties for 54 yards. He also gave up five receptions on five targets for 74 yards.

Only the 49ers know for sure if a benching is something to be considered. Thomas has generally played well. The defense got a lot better when Deommodore Lenoir moved into the slot in nickel situations to replace Isaiah Oliver.

Maybe in practices and the meeting room, it’s obvious that Thomas is their better option to play on the outside over backups Samuel Womack or Darrell Luter.

But if Thomas is not in a good head space or his body language and actions show that he has lost confidence — yes, absolutely — the 49ers need to consider a change.

Either way, whomever is in that spot is bound to see a lot of action, as there will be no surprises where Jared Goff is going with the football.

Greenlaw single-handedly saved the game in just 3 separate plays (Duane Lourasa)

Overreaction? No.

Those plays that linebacker Dre Greenlaw made Saturday night completely changed the complexion of the game.

He had a fourth-down stop and two interceptions. But he did get some help along the way.

Greenlaw could not have stopped Jordan Love on the fourth-and-1 play if the interior of the defensive line did not do its part to clog things up.

And he got assistance on his first interception from an off-target throw from Love that tight end Tucker Kraft deflected toward Greenlaw.

On the game-clinching interception, Nick Bosa was closing in on Love and forced him into a poor decision and bad throw across the field.

The “single-handedly” part is a little hyperbole, of course. But we know what you’re saying. Greenlaw was the best player on the field Saturday night.

They won’t beat the Lions playing like they did this weekend (Michael Fargo)

Overreaction? No.

If your only knowledge of the teams advancing to the AFC and NFC championships were their games over the weekend, you’d probably place the 49ers as the weakest of the four squads.


The 49ers looked choppy. They looked rusty. They did not look crisp.

And that goes for all parts of the team.

However, they made just enough plays to stay close and, eventually, get past the Packers.

But, yes, it seems obvious. The 49ers cannot survive another performance that is far below their standard.

The 49ers will have to play a lot better across the board in their upcoming game to advance to Super Bowl LVIII.

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