How Shanahan, 49ers rediscovered their offensive identity

Kyle Shanahan

Four weeks ago, Kyle Shanahan stood at the podium after the 49ers' 30-18 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Levi's Stadium and pulled back the curtain on San Francisco's early-season offensive struggles.

"No, I don't think I've gotten in a great rhythm," Shanahan said that night. "I think we've done it on a couple drives, but we have not sustained that and I haven't felt comfortable with it."

A lot can change in a month.

Following Sunday's 30-10 beatdown of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 49ers now have scored 30 or more points in three of their last four games. On Monday, Shanahan discussed how he has found his rhythm as a play-caller and the offense has rediscovered its identity. Or, at the very least, is on the right path.

"I just think we've all gotten a little bit better in what we're doing," Shanahan said Monday. "It's not much of a new way that we've been going about it. I think we've just been doing it at a consistent, higher level. When we haven't run the ball as well, which we haven't, yesterday at times and verse the Rams. But we've been able to move the chains on third down, which allows you to keep smashing the ball as you say and playing smash-mouth football. But it's not like we're just gashing people in the run game. We're finding a way to stay out there.


"Whether it's been the run or the pass game. And I think at the same time, our defense has been stopping guys at a higher level. I also think we've gotten turnovers on special teams and defense. And it also has been very big that these last couple of weeks our offense hasn't turned the ball over at all either. So when you do all that stuff, you do get a lot more plays, a lot more drives and that helps everybody. Coaches and players get in a better rhythm."

During their offensive renaissance, the 49ers have leaned heavily on their physical rushing attack, got the ball out of Jimmy Garoppolo's hands quickly, and relied on their playmakers to rack up yards after the catch. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

It should. It's similar to the formula Shanahan used in 2019 when the 49ers bulldozed their way to Super Bowl LIV.

As Shanahan noted, the rushing attack hasn't been as explosive this season, but it has allowed the 49ers to control the ball and wear both the Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams down over the past two weeks.

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Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk also have played big roles in the 49ers' offensive resurgence. Over the past four weeks, Garoppolo is the most efficient quarterback in the NFL and one of the most accurate. During that same stretch, Aiyuk, who spent the first half of the season in the doghouse, has re-emerged to give the 49ers another dynamic weapon in the passing game.

"Yeah. I think B.A. has been playing at a real high level here these last few weeks in all aspects of the game," Shanahan said Monday. "Just his physicality in the run game, his physicality when he's got the ball in his hand, and his physicality when the ball is in the air. His game has become a lot sharper, he's not hesitating on anything and I feel his confidence growing and you can see the quarterback's and his teammates' confidence growing around him."

Shanahan and the 49ers got their groove back and now sit at 5-5 heading into Sunday's tilt with the Minnesota Vikings at Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers' offensive rebirth could very well be a product of facing a Rams team that Shanahan owns and one of the NFL's worst outfits in the Jaguars.

But after wandering through the wilderness to open the season, Shanahan and the 49ers have rediscovered who they want to be offensively. Now, they have to prove their offensive success is repeatable and not a mirage that will dissolve when met with resistance as it did during the first six weeks.

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