Crazy stats illuminate 49ers' struggles on third down

Kyle Shanahan

If you were to describe the 49ers' offense this season with one word, what would it be?

Inconsistent? Abysmal? Putrid? Fill in the blank with an adjective of your choosing and you probably would be correct. 

Most notably, the 49ers have struggled on third down, leading to oh-so-many 3-and-outs. 

This stat reinforces what many already knew about the 49ers' offense: that they're very predictable in short-medium yard situations. 

What's strange is that they're oftentimes more successful than other teams in 3rd-and-long situations compared to 3rd-and-short and 3rd-and-medium. 

In coach Kyle Shanahan's system, the 49ers usually have been a run-first team that thrives off play-action passes. How could San Francisco improve on third downs? Play-action passes, which Jimmy Garoppolo consistently has excelled at throughout his career. 

Here are Garoppolo's play-action splits from Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

The 49ers' running game has, and should continue to thrive in Shanahan's system. There is not much of a concern there. 

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What they should do if they want to improve their 3rd-and-short and 3rd-and-medium success rate, though, is dial up a lot more play-action passes. This should be the case for every down, to be honest. 

We'll leave that up to the experts, though. 

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