With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 2017 San Francisco 49ers led the NFL in scoring percentage, but were unable to convert enough red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Today, we break down the Niners’ scoring opportunities against the Houston Texans in Week 14.
After a series of lackluster performances during the beginning of the 2017 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers’ offense was potent with new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, leading the NFL in yards-per-drive, points-per-drive and scoring percentage — a drastic turnaround we have termed “The Jimmy Garoppolo Effect.” Still, the Niners’ offense could have been even better in 2017, and too often settled for field goals over touchdowns when they reached the red zone. Over the next few weeks, we will break down each of Garoppolo’s starts, and analyze each of the 49ers’ scoring opportunities.
Check out our analysis of Garoppolo’s scoring opportunities in Week 13 here.
Week 14 of the 2017 NFL season was Garoppolo’s second start with the 49ers. Again on the road, the 49ers faced a 4-8 Houston Texans team who had won just one of five games since rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson sustained his season-ending knee injury.
Unlike the previous week against the Chicago Bears, the 49ers failed to sustain an extended drive until this drive in the second quarter of the game. After starting the drive on their 35-yard line, Garoppolo connects with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on a 32 yard catch-and run, which gives the 49ers a 1st-and-10 from Houston’s 33-yard line. Running back Matt Breida takes the first-down carry 12 yards for another first down, but the play is called back due to an illegal shift penalty on wide receiver Louis Murphy. With a 1st-and-15 from the 38-yard line, the 49ers have 21 personnel in a spread pistol formation, with both receivers in the slot, before running back Carlos Hyde motions up to the line of scrimmage.
The Texans are playing Blitz-Man with a robber in the short middle of the field. As Garoppolo drops back to pass, Houston’s star pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney blitzes around the edge, but isn’t seen by backup right tackle Zane Beadles. Meanwhile, Hyde runs a slant-and-go, which is probably an option route, since the Houston elected to use a shallow robber instead of a deep safety in the middle of the field. unfortunately for Garoppolo, Clowney is bearing down on him untouched, which forces the quarterback to heave the ball downfield as soon as he hits the back of his drop. The result is a 45-yard bomb to Hyde on the right seam, but the running back — definitely not the best pass-catching back in the league — is unable to track the ball, which falls to the ground. Unfortunately for the 49ers, what is likely one of the best passes of Garoppolo’s short career results in an incomplete pass instead of a 38-yard touchdown:
On second down, Breida is caught in the backfield for a 1-yard loss, which brings up a 3rd-and-16. The 49ers line up with 11 personnel in an offbalanced shotgun formation, with two wide receivers and a tight end — as well as Hyde — on the boundary side of the formation. Looking to get into field-goal range for kicker Robbie Gould, the Niners run a short flood to this side of the field, which results in a 5-yard reception, and a subsequent 52-yard field goal by Gould:
Verdict: A penalty pushed the 49ers back, and Garoppolo was given just one chance to move the chains. This attempt was a near-perfect pass under intense pressure due to poor play by his offensive line. After a failed second-down run, Garoppolo successfully moved the ball into field-goal range. This drive stalled for a number of reasons, none of which were the fault of Garoppolo.
The 49ers next drive begins on San Francisco’s 32-yard line. This drive will consist solely of 2-yard runs by the team’s halfbacks, and long pass receptions by their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. A 29-yard reception by Juszczyk sandwiched between two 2-yard runs by Breida gives the 49ers a 2nd-and-8 from Houston’s 35-yard line. The Niners line up with 21 personnel in strong-I-formation, with doubles on the opposite side of the field. The 49ers call a Flat-7 route combination on the same side that the Texans blitz into. Garoppolo quickly fires the pass to Juszczyk once he sees that his fullback will beat his man to the flat. Juszczyk takes the ball and turns upfield, until he’s finally brought down at the 4-yard line:
On first down, the 49ers’ line fails to open a hole for Breida, who goes down after a 2-yard gain. The offensive line does no better on second down, but Hyde bounces the run outside, and outruns the Texans’ defenders for the score:
Verdict: With little help from his run game, Garoppolo leads the 49ers into the end zone by giving his “Offensive Weapon” Juszczyk opportunities to make plays.
With 48 seconds remaining in the half, the 49ers seem content running out the clock before Hyde rips off a 31-yard run to the Texans’ 48-yard line, giving Garoppolo 37 seconds to get the Niners into scoring range. On first down, Garoppolo scrambles out of a closing pocket for a 4-yard gain. On second down, Garoppolo recognizes the corner blitz and hits wide receiver Aldrick Robinson with an 18-yard pass before the unblocked corner gets to the quarterback. With 15 seconds remaining, the 49ers spread out the defense with an empty shotgun formation. The Niners run a horizontal stretch play, and Garoppolo hits Robinson over the middle again for a 9-yard gain. The 49ers call their final timeout, and Gould kicks a field goal as time expires:
Verdict: Garoppolo was successfull in moving the 49ers into scoring range in the 37 seconds he was given. Perhaps you could fault the quarterback for scrambling on the first play — forcing the team to use their second timeout — but Garoppolo produced three positive-yardage plays, which allowed the 49ers to extend their first-half lead with the last-second field goal.
After the Texans scored on their opening drive of the second half, the 49ers start the drive on their 25-yard line. Seven plays later, the Niners have a 3rd-and-7 from Houston’s 17-yard line. The 49ers line up in 11 personnel in a tight shotgun formation. Garoppolo motions wide receiver Trent Taylor to the field side, forming a bunch formation with the two wide receivers and tight end. Garoppolo takes the snap and the Texans blitz up the middle. Outside receiver Goodwin initially runs an out route short of the marker before pivoting back to the inside. Garoppolo hits him with the pass, which Goodwin takes down to Houston’s 7-yard line:
With a 1st-and-goal, the 49ers call three consecutive passing plays, but all are unsuccessful. On first down, both Beadles and Hyde miss blocks, which forces Garoppolo to quickly throw the ball away. On second down, Houston linebacker Brian Cushing doesn’t bite on the play action, forcing Garoppolo to attempt a quick pass to Kendrick Bourne, which the receiver is unable to haul in. On third down, Garoppolo is forced out of the pocket, and attempts a desperation pass to Goodwin which sails out of the back of the end zone:
Verdict: Although pressure played a factor, Garoppolo was given three opportunities to get the ball into the end zone. With the 49ers settling for a field goal, Garoppolo takes the blame for this stalled drive.
The 49ers’ next drive begins deep in their own territory, but a 61-yard pass to tight end Garrett Celek has the team with a 1st-and-10 on the Texans’ 14-yard-line. With the game tied at 16, the Niners call an inside zone run to Hyde that goes for six yards before it’s called back for a questionable holding penalty on guard Laken Tomlinson:
Needing to make up lost yardage on 1st-and-20, the 49ers line up in the shotgun with 11 personnel, and motion Taylor to the two-wide-receiver side of the formation. The Niners run a smash concept with Taylor and outside receiver Bourne, and with Houston bringing six rushers, Garoppolo quickly rifles the ball to Bourne on the hitch route. Bourne makes a man miss, and takes the ball down to the Texans’ 6-yard line:
Still in 11 personnel on 2nd-and-2, the 49ers run play action to the field side, as Celek leaks out to the boundary-side flat. Garoppolo hits him with the pass, and the 49ers are up by seven:
Verdict: Another penalty put the 49ers in a difficult situation, but Bourne’s catch-and-run made up for the mistake. Garoppolo put both passes where they needed to be, which helped the Niners overcome the setback to get the ball into the end zone.
Still up by seven, late in the fourth quarter, the 49ers take over on Houston’s 32-yard line after recovering a fumble caused by safety Adrian Colbert. After Hyde’s first-down run goes for six yards, the Niners have a 2nd-and-4 from the Texans’ 26-yard line. The 49ers have 21 personnel in a pistol formation, with Juszczyk also lined up strong-side next to Garoppolo. Head coach Kyle Shanahan calls an option run, but the play is played perfectly by Clowney, who initially crashes down the line toward Hyde, then bounces outside to chase Garoppolo. Clowney catches him near the sideline for a 3-yard loss:
On 3rd-and-7, the 49ers line up with 11 personnel in a shotgun formation. The Texans run a Zero Blitz, with seven defenders rushing the quarterback. As Garoppolo hits the back of his drop, he looks to hit Taylor at the sticks, but defensive back Andre Hall makes contact with the receiver at the top of his route, pushing Taylor back toward the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo’s pass is behind Taylor, but the receiver makes a nifty play to haul in the reception. Hall tackles Taylor just short of the sticks, and with a seven point lead, Shanahan elects to kick the field goal to go up by two scores:
Verdict: Again, it’s hard to blame this stalled drive on Garoppolo. On second down, Garoppolo made the right call to keep the ball, in what could be considered an ill-advised playcall by Shanahan. On third down, Garoppolo threw to his best option, and although the ball was off the mark, it’s difficult to determine what effect the illegal contact had on the pass.
Conclusion: Of the 49ers’ four field goals, three came after stalled drives, with the fourth occurring at the end of the first half. Of the three stalled drives, one drive can be attributed to Garoppolo, one drive Garoppolo played perfectly, and the final drive is up to interpretation. Of the 49ers’ two touchdowns, both were the product of Garoppolo making correct decisions and giving his playmakers the opportunities to make plays.
Next, we’ll take a look at Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers’ scoring opportunities in Week 15 against the Tennessee Titans.
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