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San Francisco 49ers

49ers Dominate Jaguars, Win 4th Straight

Jesse Oehler

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Dec 24, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) jumps into the stands after a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

 

The 49ers (5-10) and Jaguars(10-5) reversed roles on Sunday during the Niners’ early Christmas gift to the 49ers’ Faithful, when they delivered a 44-33 victory over the playoff bound Jaguars. San Francisco produced a methodical, dominating victory over the Jags, owning the line of scrimmage on offense, bottling up the Jaguars’ running game on defense (Leonard Fournette was held to 48 yards, and his longest carry was 7 yards), and pounding out the victory on the ground. The Niners failed to achieve some of the football perfection I thought they needed in this game; they were still penalized 8 times for nearly 70 yards, and they failed to win the time of possession battle. However, time of possession is a misleading stat in this case, as the defense produced several short fields for the Niners’ offense to work with, and also scored a touchdown.

Jimmy Garoppolo became the first 49ers’ quarterback to lead the team to victory in his first 4 starts. The 49ers have won 4 out of 5, and suddenly boast what is looking like a top half NFL defense, and an offense that has scored 25+ points in 3 straight games. It was clear during this game that Jacksonville’s defense, not used to being on the field so long and for so many extended drives, started to wear down and lose confidence as the game wore on, and the 49ers ground them into submission.

This game was a tale of two quarters in the first half. The 49ers jumped out to a quick 10 point lead during the first quarter, playing a clean, mistake free brand of football. With the Jags on their heels to start the 2nd quarter, discombobulated and thoroughly outplayed, Eric Reid caused Jaguars’ receiver Keenan Cole to hear footsteps as he sensed an impending hit (Eric Reid still got the satisfaction of lighting Cole up in the end), the ball careened off Cole’s hands, and Dontae Johnson hauled the ball in off the deflection and returned the interception for a touchdown. A blocked extra point, returned for a 2 point score by the Jags’ special teams, put the score at 16-2.

The Jaguars were not going down without a fight, and recovered mightily from the initial shock with a 2nd quarter, clock chewing drive that culminated in a Leonard Fournette 1 yard touchdown run. And though the Jags would make this one interesting before it was all said and done, one still got the feeling throughout this game (even when the Niners trailed by 3) that the 49ers were simply not to be denied this victory.

As the first half wound down, San Francisco had racked up 225+ yards – the most yards Jacksonville had allowed in a half of football this season. They were rebounding well from the recent Jaguars’ score, and had put together a nice drive with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half. It was then that Garoppolo made one of the most crucial mistakes of his young career – an interception in the end zone on 3rd down – with 1:40 to go in the half. Up until that point, Garoppolo had been 5 of 6 on third down passing in the game. On the ensuing game-tying drive, Bortles went 7/7 for 86 yards, after having been held mostly in check the entire first half. After the Jags scored  3 more on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter, taking the lead 19-16, the 49ers proceeded to rattle of 21 straight points and dominated much of the rest of the game

Defense Comes up Huge

Though you might not know it by the score, the 49ers’ defense dominated this game. The Jags put up a flurry of scoring in the second quarter and into the third, and produced a late score/onside kick recovery in garbage time, but overall the Jags’ offense was thoroughly outmatched by San Francisco’s defense.

After a terrible interception drought, the 49ers’ cornerbacks had an interception fest, including this delightful reaction and run back by Ahkello Witherspoon. The  Blake Bortles melt down that so many were waiting for finally came, and it made the Niners’ cornerbacks look like all stars. K’waun Williams also added a beautiful pick, and Christmas Eve showed that miracles can occur when Dontae Johnson recorded his first interception since 2014. What a great way to answer the bell for a secondary that knew they would need a big game, but had come into this game with only 7 interceptions under their proverbial belt.

San Francisco’s defensive line harassed Bortles constantly, bottled up the running game, and generally made life tough for the Jags’ offense. Solomon Thomas showed up in this game, making first contact on Leonard Fournette several times, and sacking Blake Bortles in the second quarter.  Eric Reid roamed all over the field, helping to cause the Dontae Johnson interception, filling hard on run plays, and forcing what appeared to be a dagger-in-the-heart, thoroughly demoralizing fumble (the play was questioningly ruled an incomplete pass) in the 4th quarter. He is the 49ers’ best DB and  one of their most important emotional leaders.

Props to the Offensive Line

The O-line rose beautifully to meet this seemingly insurmountable challenge, stymieing the Jaguars’ defensive line for most of the day. It was an effort that yielded only one sack on Jimmy Garoppolo, and helped to produce 128 rushing yards on 32 carries. This included Matt Breida going for 74 yards on a whopping 6.7 yards/carry.

 

Riding Carlos Hyde to victory

The 49ers rode their workhorse, Carlos Hyde, during the third quarter and into the 4th. At the onset of this contest, Hyde was the only player besides LeSean McCoy to lead his team in both receptions and carries. Though his final rushing stats are un-inspiring (21 rushes for 54 yards), the gameplan was cleary to stick with him, as he also added 20 receiving yards, and seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He also helped to effectively put this game out of reach following Witherspoon’s interception, rushing for his 6th touchdown of the year after doing the bulk of the work on the preceding drive.

 Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

 

Coaching Kudos

I loved the play to close out this game, a brilliant  3rd and 8 fake fly sweep hand-off/outside toss to Matt Breida, which produced 30 of his 74 rush yards and a touchdown. This was a well-coached team, prepared with a good mix of play calling. Though the team still had too many penalties, only one – the Cassius Marsh crown-to-the-helmet call – came at a very inopportune time. And as the Jags emotionally melted down near the end as this game slipped from their grasp, the 49ers never lost composure.

The team also vastly improved their redzone efficiency, successfully converting to touchdowns on 4/6 red zone visits, and were able to finally keep Robbie Gould primarily where he should be: on the bench. Shanahan has done a great job this year. First, he rode out that terrible losing streak while managing not to lose his team. Then he perfectly handled the starting quarterback decision, enabling C.J Beathard to get his first win, and inserting Garoppolo when the time was right. He has continued to push the right buttons as this team has started to win. What a grand finale it would be to out-coach his new coaching rival, Sean McVay, and go out on a dominating winning streak to end the season.

This win showed a resilient football team. After giving up 19 straight points, the 49ers did not blink, and stormed back more dominant than they had been in the first quarter. Then, when the Jags improbably came to within 4 points, despite having been down 37-19, San Francisco remained calm and closed out the game. It should be an exciting game to watch next weekend in L.A. versus the division winning Rams. Let’s hope the 49ers put these new look Rams on notice for the 2018 season and beyond, with another dominating win.

P.S. – Posting this here because….well, why not? Enjoy!

Writer for Locked On 49ers, father and lifetime 49ers fan. Former football player, house builder and server of coffee. A globetrotting wannabe musician, Jesse has tuned in to 49ers games from Mexico, Germany, Belize and many places in-between.

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