Why Jerry Rice didn't like 49ers' key fourth-down play in Ravens loss

Why Jerry Rice didn't like 49ers' key fourth-down play in Ravens loss

The 49ers have no reason to hang their heads after their last-second 20-17 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.

Coach Kyle Shanahan's club went toe-to-toe with the hottest team in the NFL, but couldn't make the crucial plays necessary to win a slugfest at M&T Bank Stadium.

Shanahan had questionable clock management at the end of the first half, which might have cost the Niners much-needed points. Then, with the game tied in the fourth quarter, Shanahan went for a fourth-and-1 at the Ravens' 35-yard line. Instead of handing the ball off to get the yard, Shanahan had the 49ers go into the shotgun, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's pass was batted down. The 49ers never saw the ball again.

49ers legend Jerry Rice was proud of the Niners' effort in Baltimore but took umbrage with the fourth-and-1 call.

"We got to find a way," Rice said Monday on 95.7 The Game's "Jo, Lo and Dibbs." "Fourth-and-1, you've got to give the ball to that running back. You've got to leave it up to that offensive line to get you one yard. That hurt us during this football game, and it also hurt us during the game against Seattle."

Shanahan always has been an aggressive play-caller, and Sunday was no different. The 49ers went for a fourth-and-2 on their first drive, and Garoppolo threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to rookie Deebo Samuel. On a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, Shanahan once again dialed up a pass play and Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey was flagged for pass interference on Emmanuel Sanders.

Still, it was odd not to give Raheem Mostert the ball on that late fourth-and-1. Mostert had a career day up until that point, getting to the outside and forcing the Ravens secondary to make open-field tackles. It seems more than probable he would have gained a yard. 

It was an aggressive play call that backfired, but one that Shanahan likely would call again if given the chance.

[RELATED: Ravens will be ready for Super Bowl rematch with 49ers]

The 49ers now sit at 10-2 and need the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night in order to maintain their hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Still, the Niners look like one of the elite teams in the NFL and will have another chance to prove it next week when they travel to New Orleans to face the 10-2 Saints.

Jimmy Garoppolo had good reason for missing Emmanuel Sanders' TD pass

Jimmy Garoppolo had good reason for missing Emmanuel Sanders' TD pass

The 49ers threw five touchdown passes in their thrilling 48-46 road win over the Saints on Sunday. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tossed four of them. The player who was on the receiving end of his second was the gunslinger on the other passing score.

Three offensive plays after wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders caught a 75-yard touchdown -- the longest TD pass of Garoppolo's career -- San Francisco utilized some trickery against New Orleans, as Sanders took a reverse before tossing a 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Raheem Mostert. Sanders actually made a great adjustment to avoid the oncoming rush, and this throw was right on the money.

It turns out, though, that Jimmy G didn't see it in the moment, and he had a funny explanation as to why.

"I didn't actually get to see it," Garoppolo admitted with a smile following the victory. "I was 'blocking'".

Don't sell yourself short, Jimmy. Another look at the tape reveals that Garoppolo indeed was "blocking" on the right side of the 49ers' offensive line during the developing play, and even threw a shoulder -- the non-throwing one, of course -- into an oncoming rusher.

[RELATED: 'You're balling': Garcia praises Jimmy G for recent play]

The play probably would have been successful without Garoppolo's blocking, but his additional effort made it that much more impressive. He might not have seen Sanders' great throw in real-time, but hey, that's what replays are for.

49ers disappointed with lack of defensive execution in win over Saints

49ers disappointed with lack of defensive execution in win over Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- For the second week in a row, the 49ers' defense got off to a slow start on Sunday in their 48-46 win over the Saints

Prior to their matchup in New Orleans, the 49ers' defense was ranked second in the NFL by allowing only 267.4 yards of offense per game -- 116.6 on the ground and 150.8 through the air. Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints crushed those numbers, with 465 yards of total offense. 

The defense was unable to sack Brees after successfully getting to opposing quarterbacks 45 times over their first 12 games. Missed tackles and blown assignments allowed the Saints to put up 27 points in the first half alone. 

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who left the game early with a hamstring injury, seemed more disappointed by the performance of the defense than upset. While the 49ers have often relied on their defense to control and direct the outcome of games, this time the offense was the difference maker

“Thank goodness for our offense,” Sherman said. “Thank goodness for Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, obviously Kyle Shanahan, the entire offense. They made plays when they had to. We’re thankful we got the win.” 

Sherman’s disappointment fell predominantly on the mistakes in basic coverage and a lack of execution. 

“It’s frustrating because of simple plays,” Sherman said. “It’s things we’ve gone over. It’s not like they beat us with a bunch of trick misdirection plays. These are day-one football plays that we have to execute better. 

“Give credit to them. Drew saw them, found the people that were open, and made the plays. Give them credit, they had a good plan coming in, but we have to execute better.” 

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner couldn’t put his finger on why the defense came out flat for the second week in a row, but definitely recognized the issue. 

“Early on we needed to get our feet set and they jumped on us early,” Buckner said. “I feel like towards the second half we started to make key stops and keep them to field goals. They got us on that last drive. Our offense responded well and we know there’s things that we need to clean up.” 

[RELATED: 49ers' Moore mocks Saints for not knowing rule on fake punt]

The 49ers have a week to prepare for their next matchup facing the Falcons, and must have a much stronger start defensively. 

“We just have to come out with more energy,” Buckner said. “Two weeks we came out kind of slow and that’s just not like us. So we just got to get back to what we do and just take it one play at a time.”