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Third down conversions help propel 49ers to first victory of season

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The San Francisco 49ers — one of the NFL’s worst teams on third down — converted over two-thirds of their third down attempts en route to their first win of the 2017 season.

 

Although the 2017 San Francisco 49ers have been an inconsistent offensive team, a few things have been consistent during their nine-straight losses: penalties, turnover differential, red-zone scoring percentage and third down conversation rate, as the Niners ranked near the bottom of the league in all four categories.

In Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants, the 49ers excelled in one of those categories — third down conversation rate. The Niners converted eight of 12 third down attempts, which turned punts and field goals into touchdowns, and led to the 49ers to 31 points — their second-highest point total of the season.

Not surprisingly, the only other game the 49ers scored over 30 points was the only other game the team converted half of their third down attempts — in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.

On third down, the 49ers leaned on rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, who played his best game at the NFL level, ending the game with a 123.4 quarterback rating. On third down, Beathard threw for a touchdown and ran for another, and converted every third down attempt less than 21 yards. Prior to Sunday, the 49ers converted just 31.6 percent of their third down attempts.

Beathard was able to consistently convert on third downs — and throughout the game — thanks to improved blocking from the 49ers’ offensive line. After allowing 16 sacks in their previous three-and-a-half games, the 49ers didn’t allow a sack to the New York Giants.

With the 49ers on bye in Week 11, it will be interesting to see whether head coach Kyle Shanahan affords Beathard another start in Week 12, or if he hands the reigns to the team’s presumed franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. If Beathard gets the start but isn’t able to convert on third down, expect Shanahan to quickly switch to newcomer Garoppolo, who has been proficient on third down in his short career.

Be sure to visit Locked on 49ers during the upcoming bye week, for a set of articles breaking down Garoppolo’s third down successes.

 

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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