Miraculously, the San Francisco 49ers (5-6) have an outside shot at making the playoffs this season. Given how many gut punches the 49ers have suffered in 2020, a playoff run would be a massive win in what many considered a lost season.
The 49ers are getting healthier, and it could not have come at a better time. A huge win over the Los Angeles Rams (8-4) in Week 12 set the team up for a chance to climb back to .500 with a win over the Buffalo Bills (8-3) on Monday Night Football.
Josh Allen, Josh Allen, Josh Allen.
If the 49ers are to walk away with a win Monday night, it will be because of how they contained Bills QB Josh Allen, and the constant pressure they applied on him that allowed their defense to thrive.
One of the young superstar quarterbacks in the league, Allen is a huge threat with his arm and on the ground. He has one of, if not the best arm in all of football, but what the 49ers need to focus on is his running ability. The 49ers have struggled against mobile quarterbacks in the past, and how well they can contain Allen will dictate how much the Bills offense has to work with.
49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh had this to say about the Bills offense:
“This Buffalo Bills team is, they’re very talented. When you look at Stefon Diggs and [Buffalo Bills WR Cole] Beasley and their backs are very talented and then the quarterback, he is a problem. He is much more than I was expecting when I flipped on the tape and it is a tremendous challenge leading up to Monday night. And I think [Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator] Brian [Daboll] has done a phenomenal job with what they’ve done to their scheme and the way he’s evolved it and made it work for the quarterback. So, we’ve got our hands full. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge, probably one of the better challenges we’ve had all year.”
Taking a look at the Bills offense, I imagine the 49ers will put extra emphasis on pass defense this week. Allen is a threat on the ground, but neither of the Bills’ two leading running backs (Devin Singletary and Zack Moss) should strike fear into the hearts of the 49ers.
If I’m the 49ers, I’m focusing heavily on coverage against a great WR duo in Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, with a little bit of Gabriel Davis sprinkled in. Without deep threat John Brown, the Bills are down a man at the wide receiver position, which favors the 49ers’ chances of zeroing in on Diggs and Beasley.
Applying consistent pressure on Allen will not only limit what he does through the air, but also on the ground. He’s thrown eight interceptions, but more importantly, he’s fumbled five times. A couple of turnovers forced by the 49ers could decide the game.
Nick Mullens has options
One of the more frustrating results of the 49ers hurricane of injuries was the lack of time both WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have spent on the same field. The “YAC Bros” as their known, have been on the same field only four times this season, limiting what 49ers QBs have been able to do in the passing game.
That will change this week, as both Samuel and Aiyuk will be active Monday night. A healthy wide receiver core, paired with a stacked group of running backs should give QB Nick Mullens enough to work with while spreading the ball around to other play-makers.
There hasn’t been much of an effort to get the ball to tight ends Jordan Reed and Ross Dwelley ever since George Kittle was lost to injury. That may change this week, as the Bills defense is one of the most favorable defenses for opposing tight ends.
- The 49ers, much to their dismay, have a new home for the next few weeks. Having to up-root from Levi’s Stadium due to Santa Clara County’s latest restrictions, the 49ers will make State Farm Stadium in Arizona their new home.
- Kyle Shanahan gave an update on the status of both QB Jimmy Garoppolo and TE George Kittle, who he hopes to see back on the field this season:
“Yeah, I’m holding out hope for Jimmy for the last couple of weeks, same with [TE George] Kittle. I think they’re in a similar boat with that and that’s not guaranteed. It’s how they react over here the next couple of weeks, but they’re just starting to get into where they can get on the field and not with us, but on their own and do some stuff. That’s hopefully going to be the last couple of weeks, whether it’s two games or one game or none.”