Yes, the team is battling an injury report a mile long, but injuries are absolutely no excuse in the NFL.
Let’s dive right in to what went wrong during this loss.
“That was embarrassing, what we just did out there,” stated by fullback Kyle Juszcyzk, is about as perfect a summary of this performance as one could find.
Jimmy Garoppolo played only one half and compiled an atrocious 15.7 passer rating, he looked hobbled by his ankle injury and, frankly, not ready to play at all. This, in large part, led to an offense that only put up 259 yards against the league’s 27th-ranked defense.
The offensive ineptitude isn’t all on Garoppolo, however.
In the first quarter, the 49ers went for it on 4th-and-1 from the Miami 44. In a short-yardage situation like this, you may expect a quarterback sneak, or a heavy formation handoff — but no, the 49ers decided on handing the ball to Jerick McKinnon out of the shotgun, and predictably, the play went nowhere.
At halftime, Garoppolo was benched to preserve his health. C.J Beathard came in as the reliever and frankly, wasn’t much better. Completing only 50% of his passes during the rest of the game, there was never much of a chance for a comeback. The receivers for the 49ers struggled all game long to gain separation from the Miami defense
The most concerning thing in this game was the fact that, for a second straight week, the offensive line gave up five sacks. When you have a quarterback that is coming off a fresh injury, it is an absolute must to keep his jersey clean. The line apparently didn’t get that memo. There wasn’t just one player damaging the line for the Dolphins, as the sacks came from five different players, as well.
To be positive, Raheem Mostert looked very good in his return from injury, racking up 119 all-purpose yards and displaying his usual burst and vision. Going forward, this appears to be the formula the offense will need to rely on. Feed Mostert and McKinnon early and often.
Where to begin with the defense? To start, if Ahkello Witherspoon was healthy enough to suit up, why did the 49ers choose to start Brian Allen? This is the same Brian Allen who was on the practice squad the day prior. The Dolphins seemed to enjoy this little gift, as they targeted Allen all game long. We are talking, giving up a 47-yard bomb on the first play of the game, type of bad. We are talking, giving up a touchdown on third-and-22, type of bad — and this is without even getting into his penalty issues. From here on out, it may be a good idea to keep Allen off the field, no matter how desperate.
While Allen was atrocious, the entire defensive unit had no answer for Ryan Fitzpatrick, allowing him to complete 22 of his 28 attempts, and looking like a league MVP-type of quarterback. I’m not saying he is in that discussion, but the 49ers made him look that way. Tight end Mike Gesicki was a particularly useful target for the Dolphins, as he abused anyone covering him during this game. A highlight reel 70-yard bomb over the heads of two defenders was the cap on his day.
The defensive line has got to get more pressure on quarterbacks going forward. Fitzpatrick was able to spend most of the day with a rather clean pocket. Kerry Hyder, Jr. and Kwon Alexander did both come up with sacks, which is encouraging, but it is not near the level of pressure the 49ers need to succeed.
The run defense wasn’t nearly as atrocious. The Dolphins were stuffed most of the afternoon, not able to find running places against a formidable front. Myles Gaskin ended the game with 57 yards on 16 touches. That is a very nice job of holding a team’s starting running back.
The Road Ahead
The games are only getting tougher from here. With games against the Rams, Patriots, and Seahawks coming up. The offense is getting healthier and would be helped by taking a heavy run and play-action approach to these games. On defense, the team needs to continue their good run defense. If the 49ers can find a way to manufacture some pressure on opposing QBs or get healthy in the secondary, they may be able to improve here.
It is cliché to say it’s a long season, but it’s the truth here. After a rough start, the team can still fulfill their Super Bowl aspirations, but they have to start now.
(Featured Image Credit: 49ers.com)