Super Bowl LIV

49ers' Jerick McKinnon 'has looked phenomenal', Kyle Juszczyk says

49ers' Jerick McKinnon 'has looked phenomenal', Kyle Juszczyk says

Jerick McKinnon has yet to appear in a regular-season game for the 49ers, but he figures to be a major part of San Francisco's offense this coming season now that he's healthy.

That was the expectation when he joined the 49ers as a free agent prior to the 2018 NFL season, but when he sustained a torn ACL in the week prior to the regular-season opener, Kyle Shanahan's best-laid plans went out the window. McKinnon also sat out the entirety of San Francisco's run to Super Bowl LIV last season while on injured reserve due to complications with the surgery to fix that injury.

McKinnon has since fully recovered and potentially could add another dynamic weapon to an offense that ranked second in the league in scoring last season. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is excited by his unique skillset, and offensive tackle Trent Williams "can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk on Tuesday echoed Williams' expectations for McKinnon (H/T 49ers Web Zone).

"I think we all share the same sentiments as Trent," Juszczyk told reporters on a video conference call. "Jet has looked phenomenal. You just would never guess, going out there, and watching the way he practices, how smooth he is, how he doesn't second guess himself, how quickly he answers questions in meetings, all that kind of stuff, you would never guess that this guy hasn't been on the field for two years.

"He just makes things look so natural, so smooth, that I think there can only be positive things for him this year. I think he's going to have a really good year."

[RELATED: Juszczyk explains why Jimmy G is ready to 'turn it loose']

Shanahan has been waiting a long time to unleash McKinnon within his offense.

Assuming the running back can stay healthy, we'll soon get to see why.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Steve Young believes 49ers must prove lasting power in 2020 NFL season

Steve Young believes 49ers must prove lasting power in 2020 NFL season

The goal, of course, is to build a contender that remains a contender on a yearly basis.

The 49ers emerged last season from the ruins of a 4-12 year that landed them the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The club came within a disastrous seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter of winning Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.

This is the season that Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young believes will show whether the 49ers have what it takes to remain among the elite teams in the NFL in future years.

After all, Young said defensive coaching staffs around the league undoubtedly have spent countless hours during the COVID-19 months searching for ways to decode the 49ers’ offense.

“That will be tested this year and it’ll be fun to watch,” Young said during a virtual event to remember the late Dwight Clark. “Because if they can withstand that scrutiny and that intensity, that’s when you think, ‘Oh, we’re going to be great for a long time.’ Because that’s a big filter, a big hurdle to get through.

“One of the easier hurdles is coming from behind. People aren’t really ready for you. You get good really fast, and you kind of run through the season and run the table. It almost happened last year. That’s the best kind of way to do it. Now comes the hard work, and if they can do it this year, you got to think that they can do it every year for four or five years.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Coach Kyle Shanahan designed and called plays for an offense that ranked fourth in the NFL in yards gained and seconds in points at 29.9 per game during the regular season. The 49ers finished 13-3, won the NFC West and cruised through the NFC side of the bracket with 17-point victories over Minnesota and Green Bay.

“There’s an extra level of challenge this year because the rest of the league now knows that they are the kings,” Young said. “They’re everybody’s homecoming game. Every game that they play will be the biggest game that other teams play.

"The challenge will be put out there.”

Young still marvels at the offensive innovation he witnessed when the 49ers traveled to face the New Orleans Saints in December in a key game for NFC playoff seedings.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns, and the 49ers rolled up 516 yards of total offense in 48-46 victory at the Superdome.

[RELATEDHow Jimmy G, Trent Williams feel about fan-less games]

“It was a remarkable game to watch, the play-callers and the offensive coordination,” Young said. “I can’t remember ever feeling that way ever before where I just like, ‘My gosh, the innovation and what’s happening in this game is amazing.’ "

That game serves as a challenge to every defense on the 49ers' 2020 schedule, as well as a manual for offensive coaches, Young said.

“And, then, that game now, is now ... everyone in the world is going to run those plays, and learn how to defense those plays, right?" Young said.

“You got to know that most everything that Kyle and the 49ers did last year that was innovative, will now be ubiquitous throughout the league.”

49ers' Nick Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for big Super Bowl no-call

49ers' Nick Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for big Super Bowl no-call

Third-and-15.

Three words that will forever be linked to the 49ers’ inability to close the door on the Kansas City Chiefs in the middle of the fourth quarter of their Super Bowl LIV loss at Hard Rock Stadium.

Third-and-15 conjures up a bunch of “what-if” scenarios. The 49ers led by 10 points. They'd lose the game by 11. That play on third-and-15 gave the Chiefs a chance.

It took a while for Tyreek Hill’s downfield route to develop. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes needed time in order for Hill to fool 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley into believing his destination was the deep middle of the field. Mahomes had just enough time to allow Hill time to break his route back outside.

What happened at the beginning of the play made the 44-yard pass completion possible. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa appeared to beat Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher with an inside move. But Fisher steered Bosa clear of Mahomes with his right arm wrapped around Bosa’s right ribcage.

Months later, does Bosa believe he was held on the play?

“I’ve gotten that question a bunch,” he said with a laugh during a video call with Bay Area reporters.

“I don’t like thinking about that game very much, but I have gone back and watched up until the fourth quarter and, um, was I held? I mean, it comes down to the opinion of a human being. So that’s what refs are. They’re human beings. So if they think it’s holding, they think it’s holding. It could’ve been holding. It could’ve not been holding. It just depends on what he thinks.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Referee Bill Vinovich did not reach for his flag, and the play stood.

Bosa did not have a chance after Fisher got his arm around him. Meanwhile, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who lined up inside of Bosa, was a split-second late in getting to Mahomes.

“I’m not going to say that’s the reason we lost the game because there were plenty of opportunities where I could’ve done better,” Bosa said of the no-call. “I could’ve done better on that move on third and 15. I’m sure Buck is kicking himself. He thinks he could’ve done better on the wrap and gotten there a little quicker. I’m not going to blame the ref, by any means.”

Buckner is now with the Indianapolis Colts after the 49ers traded him for a first-round draft pick that was used to select his replacement, Javon Kinlaw. Buckner is the only defensive starter who does not return for the 49ers this season.

[RELATED49ers' Bosa expects Kinlaw to 'kill it' in rookie season]

All the holdovers will use third-and-15 as “good motivation,” said Bosa. After all, his rookie season fell just short of the ultimate prize.

“First year, you get there and you’re seven minutes away and a nightmare of a situation happens,” Bosa said. “So you could bet we’re going to come back pretty strong this year if we’re able to get 16 games in and the playoffs.”