MIAMI, Fla. -- The 49ers running game is humming. They steamrolled the NFC with a diverse, aggressive rushing attack that seems to expand by the week and is increasingly difficult for defenses to decipher.
San Francisco coach/offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan is doing new and innovative things that has made the ground game so efficient that the 49ers have barely had to pass in the playoffs.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only passed eight times in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, and the air attack essentially shut down halfway through a divisional-round victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
That run-heavy trend isn’t fooling Kansas City Chiefs coach/offensive play-caller Andy Reid. He has great respect for Shanahan’s run design, but he also has great respect for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Discount him, Reid says, at your own peril.
“Kyle does a great job with his blend of runs," Reid said Tuesday at Miami’s J.W. Marriott Turnberry hotel. "That said, I wouldn’t slight Jimmy. Jimmy can throw the ball well when needed. If you look at his percentages and passer rating over the last few years, it’s up there in every situation. As well as they run the football and as well as they make you honor every gap and zone on the field, you can’t slight the pass game. Our defense is working hard on that, trying to make it right.”
Reid isn’t wrong about Garoppolo performing well in crucial situations. He has a 101.9 passer rating on third down, and an impressive 117.9 rating on third down with seven-to-nine yards to go. He has a 97.8 rating on third and 10 or more, without an interception in those situations.
The Faithful knows Garoppolo can put the ball in harm’s way at times, but he’s aggressive working the ball downfield and giving skill players a chance to gain yards after the catch. His 8.4 yards per attempt ranks third in the NFL, even better than Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his track team of receivers.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo considers it difficult to tell what the 49ers will do pre-snap, and they can do so many things well that every offensive aspect must be respected.
As an offensive innovator in his own right, Reid believes Shanahan is pushing the game forward in his own way by giving retro concepts a modern twist.
“He does one heck of a job,” Reid said. “He does a lot of two-back stuff that was popular back in the day and will be coming back because of his success. Football’s a big circle. What’s good today won’t be good tomorrow and will be cool again down the road. He has done a really nice job. He’s really, really sharp.”