49ers’ flaws were highlighted by Raiders in OT win — and Nick Bosa is thankful

The 49ers won a game in a playoff-like atmosphere, they’re in line for the No. 2 playoff seed and they could even grab the top seed — and a bye — if they win next week’s finale and the Eagles lose theirs.

And yet their 37-34 overtime win against the Raiders also highlighted flaws, especially on defense, that playoff opponents will be sure to study and seize upon later this month. Heading into the game, the only team that had gouged the 49ers this season was the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs, who gained 529 yards in a Week 7 blowout. The Raiders came close to that mark — 500 yards — behind a backup quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, making his first NFL start.

“Stidham can throw – he’s got a big arm and can make all those throws,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “I thought we let him get a little too comfortable there, especially in the first half. (We) didn’t hit him very much and let him move the chains with his legs. And that got them in a pretty good rhythm.”


The 49ers’ clunky but constructive jump to the NFC’s No. 2 seeds

Where were the team’s weaknesses Sunday? Here are five, starting with the biggest.

1. Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir

When the 49ers faced the Seahawks in Week 15, they had their top cornerback, Charvarius Ward, shadow Seattle’s top weapon, receiver DK Metcalf, wherever he lined up. They didn’t follow that plan with Davante Adams, which resulted in Adams being against Deommodore Lenoir throughout the contest. That included a 45-yard reception down the sideline late that set up the Raiders’ touchdown that sent the game to overtime.

Lenoir had a good position on the play and it was a terrific catch on an underthrown ball by Adams. But Lenoir was also in coverage on a 27-yard gain by Adams — who finished with 153 receiving yards and two touchdowns — in the first quarter and on a big catch by tight end Foster Moreau in the fourth quarter. Lenoir also was flagged for holding and had trouble setting the edge on some early runs by Josh Jacobs, although he was better at that in the second half.

2. Quarterback runs

The Raiders were the first team to run for more than 100 yards against San Francisco since the Chiefs, and Stidham gained 34 of their 135 rushing yards. Quarterback runs have been a consistent problem for the 49ers over the years with their aggressive, up-field pass rush creating wide running lanes for quarterbacks when the pass rush doesn’t hit home.

Against Stidham, those lanes were wider than normal, especially in the first half. Stidham also made the 49ers pay with his arm when the defensive line failed to encircle him. The 49ers recorded no sacks.

“The lanes we gave him – anyone could have run through them,” Nick Bosa said. “Tom Brady could have run through those. That’s one of the things that a D-line, even a dominant D-line, can’t have. Good quarterbacks are going to get out of the pocket and create (plays) down the field. And that puts our back end at a disadvantage.”

The 49ers’ potential playoff opponents include the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles, all of which have mobile quarterbacks. New York’s Daniel Jones, for instance, led his team with 49 rushing yards when the Giants and 49ers played in 2020. The Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, meanwhile, had 82 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown against San Francisco in Week 2 last year.

3. Back-end mistakes

Some eyebrows were raised when Talanoa Hufanga was voted to the Pro Bowl last month. Yes, he leads the NFL’s top defense in takeaways and it seems like he’ll be a mainstay in the secondary for years to come.

But he also made mistakes in coverage that any aggressive, young safety will make, including on Sunday’s opening drive when he bit on a Raiders play fake and had to play catch-up on tight end Darren Waller’s 24-yard touchdown. Hufanga made back-end mistakes against the Dolphins and Commanders as well, and his inexperience promises to be something upcoming opponents will try to exploit.

To his credit, Hufanga wasn’t fooled by a similar play-action fake at the goal line on the Raiders’ ensuing drive, and Las Vegas had to settle for a 20-yard field goal.

4. Bad tackling

As noted above, Lenoir struggled early on to bring down Jacobs on the perimeter while Fred Warner whiffed so badly in attempting to bring down Hunter Renfrow that he reached out and snagged the receiver’s face mask, giving the Raiders a 15-yard infraction and new life. on a stalled third-quarter drive. They scored on a 60-yard throw to Adams two plays later.

As strong as they’ve been overall, Hufanga and Warner have had a lot of missed tackles this season. Hufanga leads the team with 16, per Pro Football Focus, followed by Warner with 13.

5. Brock Purdy

This ranks last on the list because Brock Purdy had another promising outing and did so under the most difficult circumstances since he became the starter. Still, he missed George Kittle streaking through the middle of the field early in the game and seemed to do the same with another tight end, Tyler Kroft, along the goal line on a late drive on which the 49ers had to settle for a field goal. .

His third-quarter interception, just his third since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13, was also a miss to Kittle. The 49ers were on a roll at the time and Shanahan called a bread-and-butter play, one in which the quarterback rolls out of the pocket one way and a pass catcher breaks free deep toward the other side. It’s the play that Trey Lance successfully executed with Trent Sherfield for an 80-yard touchdown in Lance’s preseason debut in 2021.

On Sunday, however, Purdy saw Kittle break open but left the ball so short that Raiders cornerback Amik Robertson caught up and made the interception.

“When I threw it to George, I thought there was no one else out there and all I had to do was just give him a ball to catch and he’d have a big gain,” Purdy said. “But the corner came a little late and I didn’t put enough on it to get it out there. I’ve just got to lead him, and that’s something I’ve got to watch and learn from.”

Of course, Purdy then led the 49ers on three straight scoring drives and set the team up for a potentially game-winning field goal — missed, wide right, by Robbie Gould — as regulation expired.

And while the defensive line recorded no sacks on Stidham, it forced two interceptions, one early in the fourth quarter when Kerry Hyder Jr. deflected a pass that Drake Jackson grabbed and one in overtime when Bosa shoved left tackle Kolton Miller into the quarterback as he threw, resulting in a fluttering pass that was intercepted by safety Tashaun Gipson Sr.

After the game, Bosa saw something positive in the defense’s second-worst performance of the season: It will force that unit to address its issues, perhaps in the same way it did following the loss to the Chiefs.

“I think we needed this as a defense,” Bosa said. “That’s a really good team, the best running back I’ve played against in my career, no doubt about it. That dude’s a beast. … The NFL will humble you 100 percent of the time.”

(Photo: John Locher/Associated Press)


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