49ers

49ers receivers embracing responsibility as key blockers in run game

49ers receivers embracing responsibility as key blockers in run game

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers did not select wide receiver Dante Pettis in the second round of the 2018 draft for his tenacity as a blocker.

And Marquise Goodwin did not qualify for the Olympics because of his size, strength and aggression.

But the team’s starting wide receivers have played a significant supporting role in enabling the 49ers to rank No. 2 in the NFL through five games with a 178.9-yard average on the ground.

“They’re a smart group, so they know that if they block well in the run game, it’ll set up the play passes and things like that down the field,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said on Wednesday.

“When you have a group of receivers that are willing to do that and they’re able to make plays on the back end on the play passes, that makes for a dangerous combination. You got to tip your hat to them. That’s not easy for a wide receiver to go into the box.”

Neither Pettis nor Goodwin is known for his physicality or aggression. Yet, they often speak to each other about that area of their games. For Pettis, he said his improvement as a blocker is a direct result of understanding how it ties into the successes of the offense.

“I did it because I needed to,” he said of his improved blocking. “I was lazy in it before.

“My whole life blocking has never been something. I’m a receiver. But seeing how Kyle does a really good job of showing how important we are to the run game, showing how much our blocks tie into the scheme up front. Seeing all that, it was like, ‘OK, this is super important to the team.’”

Pettis said there will be times when he and Goodwin are watching film and Goodwin tells him he’s not doing his job well enough. Pettis consults Goodwin, who is an effective and willing blocker, about certain techniques.

In the 49ers’ 20-7 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Pettis made good blocks in the running game against linebacker Samson Ebukam and free safety Eric Weddle.

“You can’t play if you’re not out there blocking,” Pettis said.

[RELATED: Brunskill's success shows work of 49ers' practice squad]

Pettis’ increase in playing time from the first couple games of the season has been a direct result of how much he has embraced his role as a blocker. Pettis has just nine catches for 83 yards and one touchdown on the season. Pettis had three receptions against the Rams, and each went for a first down.

“Dante is going to show up when he gets his chances,” Garoppolo said. “He’s been showing it in practice, consistently and it’s starting to transfer over to the games. He’s a hard-worker and puts in time, and he’s always going to be there for you.”

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 36-26 win over Cardinals

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 36-26 win over Cardinals

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers were in danger of tumbling out of first place in the NFC West on Sunday.

The pesky Arizona Cardinals got off to a roaring start and controlled the 49ers for much of the first half. But the 49ers rallied from a 16-point deficit for a 36-26 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

The comeback was the 49ers’ largest in the regular season since coming back from 20 down to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 2, 2011. In the NFC Championship in January 2013, the 49ers came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

The 49ers (9-1) extended their lead in the NFC West to a full game over the idle Seattle Seahawks (8-2).

Here are the 49ers’ grades from the Week 11 victory:

Rushing offense

The 49ers were having such little success that coach Kyle Shanahan scrapped the running game altogether in the second half.

“I think that was the first time I consciously got away from it in the second half, just because it didn’t look like it was going well,” Shanahan said. “I think they were playing really well upfront. We weren’t creating a ton of lanes.”

Matt Breida was sidelined with an ankle injury. Tevin Coleman had just 14 yards rushing on 12 attempts, while Raheem Mostert added 13 yards on six carries. The only good thing that can be said about the 49ers’ running game is they did not fumble.

Grade: D-minus

Passing offense

It was not without some drama, but ultimately quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got the job done with a career-high 424 passing yards, including the game-winning 25-yarder to third-string running back Jeff Wilson in the closing minute.

Garoppolo completed 34 of 45 passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating was 115.4.

Both of his interceptions came deep in Arizona territory in the second half and looked to be costly. Then, he drove the 49ers 65 yards on eight plays for the go-ahead touchdown.

Deebo Samuel had eight catches for 134 yards, and tight end Ross Dwelley had four receptions for 14 yards and two touchdowns.

Grade: A-minus

Rushing Defense

The 49ers had a difficult time bottling up the quarterback-driven run game of Kyler Murray, as he gained 67 yards on just eight attempts. And when he was not keeping the ball to himself, he was giving it to Kenyan Drake, who also had 67 yards on 16 carries.

Linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw led the way for the 49ers’ defense with 12 and 10 tackles.

Grade: C-plus

Passing Defense

Murray had a solid day, completing 24 of 33 passes for 150 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. But the 49ers also forced two fumbles in the passing game.

Newly signed defensive end Damontre Moore had a big forced fumble in the closing minute and Jaquiski Tartt recovered. Then, in a desperation situation, D.J. Reed scooped up a fumble and returned it 4 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game.

Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Jimmie Ward were credited with sacks.

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman had a difficult day in coverage against Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk. Sherman was called three pass interference penalties totaling 72 yards.

Grade: B

Special Teams

The 49ers held their own on special teams.

Kicker Chase McLaughlin, filling in for injured Robbie Gould, made three extra points and a 43-yard field goal attempt. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky averaged 50.5 yards net on his two punts.

Richie James averaged 4.0 yards on two punt returns and 23.3 yards on three kickoffs.

Grade: B

[RELATED: Kittle reacts to Dwelley's big game]

Overall

Considering how this game started, the 49ers can feel fortunate to escape with a victory and a one-game lead in the division.

The 49ers bounced back on a short week to withstand a gritty performance from the Cardinals, who gave the NFC West leaders everything they could handle.

Despite some agonizing moments for Garoppolo, he rallied the team with a game-winning drive late in regulation.

The defensive performance was not dominant, but the 49ers made the plays necessary to win for the ninth time in 10 games this season.

Grade: B

Jeff Wilson's only offensive play helps 49ers beat Arizona on birthday

Jeff Wilson's only offensive play helps 49ers beat Arizona on birthday

SANTA CLARA -- On the biggest play of the game, 49ers running back Jeff Wilson was on the field for his first offensive snap.

“That might be all you get, so you better be ready for it,” Wilson said.

On Sunday, that was all Wilson got. And, boy, was he ready.

One day after turning 24, Wilson had a celebration -- the result of his ability to remain focused and loose. Wilson rose to the occasion to beat an all-out blitz with a 25-yard catch and run on a quick pass from Jimmy Garoppolo as the key play in a 36-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Wilson’s first career touchdown reception gave the 49ers the lead with 31 seconds remaining Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers added a touchdown on the final play of the game, when the Cardinals fumbled in desperation mode and D.J. Reed returned it 4 yards for a touchdown. The 49ers improved to 9-1 on the season, and Wilson was the latest unexpected hero to emerge.

[RELATED: How crazy final-play TD in 49ers' victory affected bettors]

Matt Breida was sidelined with an ankle sprain, and the 49ers did not get much production on the ground from Tevin Coleman or Raheem Mostert. Coleman had 14 yards on 12 attempts, while Mostert gained 13 yards on six carries.

After a delay for a booth review, the 49ers entered the huddle trailing 26-23 with 37 seconds remaining with the ball at the Arizona 25.

Coach Kyle Shanahan made the decision to put Wilson in the game because he was effective running the upcoming play during the practices leading up to the game.

“Honestly, we were in the huddle initially and it was Tevin next to me and then I went to the sideline and was talking to Kyle and came back and all of a sudden it was Jeff next to me,” Garoppolo said. “You got to tip your hat to him to be ready in that situation. As big of a moment as that was, I think it was his first offensive snap and, I mean, to do that, it’s incredible.”

The play opened up for Wilson when Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph called an all-out blitz, leaving the middle of the field open and Wilson matched up against edge rusher Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL with 12.5 sacks.

On the previous play, tight end Ross Dwelley caught a 3-yard pass on a third-and-3 situation. Shanahan said he was going to go for it on fourth down if Dwelley had been stopped short. And when the 49ers got the first down, it gave them time to get Wilson into the game for his one play.

“It was neat watching him just because that was the play we were calling as long as we got the first (down),” Shanahan said. “When they were reviewing it and watching Jeff do high knees in the huddle, trying to get warmed up for the route. Glad he had the time to get loose.

“You had five guys in protection and they are usually bringing six, so it can be a very bad call or it can be a very good call. It’s going to be one or the other when it’s over.”

Wilson said he knew Jones would be matched against him when he saw Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick move a few feet to his left. That indicated to Wilson that Reddick would blitz and if Wilson exited the backfield around the left side, Jones would be responsible for covering him.

“I knew he was one of the better guys on their defense, but I also knew he was a D-end,” Wilson said of Jones. “His hips aren’t that good. He can’t move side to side, especially when his whole body was turned. So it was a simple one step, cut across his face, go get the ball.”

Wilson made the inside move on Jones, who stumbled and fell. Wilson caught the pass and outran safety Jalen Thompson and split Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson to arrive untouched into the end zone.

[RELATED: Jimmy G put team on his shoulders, carried 49ers to win]

The game-deciding play was not the only time Wilson stepped on the field, of course. He also served as one of team’s core special-teams players. He said he stayed mentally sharp due to the nature of the game and being in another close, thrilling finish.

“I stay warm by watching. My teammates give me thrills,” Wilson said. “You do a little stretch here and there, and I play special teams, as well. Special teams always keep me loose.”