JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On the surface, the 49ers’ victory Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars might not have been as impressive as their win six days earlier against the Los Angeles Rams.
But the fact the 49ers showed their blueprint against one of the better teams and executed it again with precision signified their best back-to-back showings of the season.
Whether the 49ers’ 30-10 victory over the Jaguars means they have rediscovered themselves will be known in time.
The 49ers climbed back to the .500 mark with a 5-5 record, and in the process played the kind of game that is expected from a team making a serious run for a spot in the NFC playoffs.
Here is the 49ers’ report card from their Week 11 victory:
It seemed wild that the 49ers controlled the game against the Rams with a rushing attack that consisted of 44 attempts. This time, coach Kyle Shanahan did not present his goal for how many times they would run the ball.
Was he surprised that the 49ers had 42 rushing attempts for 171 yards against the Jaguars? Yes.
“That's a real good run defense,” Shanahan said. “They commit to the run really well. I know that first drive helped out a good amount, and I know it's good on third down and helped out a lot, too.”
The 49ers controlled the game from the opening drive with a 20-play, 87-yard drive. Jeff Wilson Jr. got most of the carries, and little came easy. He carried 18 times and managed just 50 yards. The 49ers’ leading rusher was wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who came through with 79 yards and a touchdown on eight rushing attempts.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was a big reason the 49ers were able to run with as much frequency. Again, he was very efficient. Garoppolo completed 16 of 22 pass attempts for 176 yards. He threw touchdown passes to Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
Aiyuk had his best game of the season, as he caught all seven passes thrown his way for 85 yards. He has clearly earned the trust of Garoppolo, who targeted him on some critical third-down plays, including the 6-yard touchdown. The offensive line did a good job of protecting Garoppolo, who was sacked twice for 14 yards.
The Jaguars’ recipe for success consists of running the ball. They got nothing working against the 49ers, as James Robinson managed just 29 yards on 12 attempts. Linebacker Fred Warner led the way with seven tackles. The 49ers’ defensive front did its job of occupying blockers and holding firm at the point of attack.
Cornerback Josh Norman made the big play early in the game when he punched the ball out of the grasp of Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Warner made the recovery, and the 49ers’ offense cashed it in.
Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick, completed 16 of 25 passes for 158 yards. Nick Bosa registered two sacks, giving him 10 in just 10 games. Arden Key registered a sack in his third consecutive game.
This game did not start well, as Trenton Cannon muffed the opening kickoff. But that was just about the only blip for the 49ers in this one. Robbie Gould made field goals of 48 and 45 yards.
In the fourth quarter, Trent Sherfield recovered a muffed punt. Mitch Wishnowsky only punted twice, but his average was 44.0 yards with no return yardage.
Shanahan left himself open to a lot of second-guessing among the haughty analytics crowd with his (apparently) percentage-point-defying decision to get the three points at the end of the first drive of the game rather than trying to go all-or-nothing on fourth down. Was it the right decision? We will quote Shanahan, who said, “It wasn’t the wrong decision.” As much as Shanahan was pushing the wrong buttons earlier in the season, all the calls are working out now. But, above all else, he kept the team together and pulling in the same direction during the rough times. And that might be his best accomplishment.
The 49ers avoided giveaways. They collected a couple of takeaways. The Jaguars made some big mistakes with an early turnover and some critical third-down penalties. The 49ers adapted their plan to fit the rhythm of the game. The 49ers needed this victory or else their win against the Rams would have been washed down the drain. They left no doubt, and that’s as much as can be expected.