So much for the snap-count concerns on defense.
After playing 63 snaps against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Nick Bosa logged 39 against the New York Giants on Thursday night. That’s because Bosa and his San Francisco 49ers’ teammates pressured Daniel Jones on half of the quarterback’s dropbacks and forced five three-and-out series.
Because of that, the Giants had the ball nearly half the time (20:50) the 49ers did (39:10). The 49ers played just 50 snaps on defense and only three defenders — Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir — played all of those snaps. Meanwhile, the offense was on the field for 83 snaps, the second most in the last three seasons.
Here is how the individual snaps were divided …
Quarterback: Brock Purdy 79, Sam Darnold 4
Ask Kyle Shanahan which of Purdy’s 2022 outings impressed him the most and he’ll talk about Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins. Not only did Purdy enter for injured Jimmy Garoppolo and keep the offense humming, he did so in the face of an unremitting Dolphins blitz.
The Giants’ pressure on Thursday was even heavier. Per Pro Football Focus, New York sent at least one extra rusher on 37 of 43 dropbacks, including the four plays nullified by Giants penalties. That’s a blitz rate of 86.4 percent in a league in which the average is 31 percent.
The pressure meant that the play-action cross-routes Shanahan and Purdy usually rely on simply weren’t available. Purdy connected on exactly one of those, the 40-yard gain by Deebo Samuel early in the third quarter. Otherwise it was a quick passing game with most of the throws outside the numbers. Per NextGen Stats, Purdy got rid of the ball in an average of 2.34 seconds. Only two other quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa (2.08) and Joe Burrow (2.28), have been quicker this season.
“After watching the film, I was even more impressed than I felt last night after the game,” Shanahan said of Purdy. “We missed a number of blitz pickups … I thought he hung in there, made a few mistakes, but played a hell of a game.”
Purdy’s best throw may have come on his touchdown pass to Ronnie Bell in the second quarter. The Giants sent six rushers and the 49ers had five receivers spread wide of the alignment. It meant all of them were covered one-on-one but also that the Giants would have a free runner at the quarterback.
Purdy knew that, drifted back to his left to buy another fraction of a second, then put the ball in the corner of the end zone where only Bell could grab it. His 310 passing yards marked just the second time he’s gone over the 300-yard mark (332 vs. the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional playoffs).
This was one of Brock Purdy’s most impressive plays on Thursday. The Giants have one more pass rusher than the 49ers have blockers. Purdy bought time, then put the ball where only Ronnie Bell could catch it … pic.twitter.com/cCWqlbcKa7
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 22, 2023
Running back: Christian McCaffrey 51, Kyle Juszczyk (fullback) 42, Elijah Mitchell 28, Jordan Mason 4, Samuel 4
Shanahan heard your complaint. Mitchell, who didn’t play a snap Sunday against the Rams, was in on the second series Thursday and finished with 11 carries for 42 yards.
McCaffrey still had a heavy workload. But that was largely due to the 49ers’ hogging the time of possession. He played 61 percent of the snaps, his lowest percentage since last year’s regular-season finale, a game in which the 49ers pulled their starters in the third quarter.
Receiver: Samuel 64, Ray-Ray McCloud III 38, Jauan Jennings 31, Bell 31, Chris Conley 9
With Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) out for the game, the speculation was that either No. 3 receiver Jennings or Aiyuk’s understudy, Bell, would step into the starting role. Instead it was McCloud who mostly served as the No. 2. McCloud did well as a blocker (see below) but he wasn’t targeted in the passing game despite playing 46 percent of the snaps.
Bell gave the offense the same sort of spark he provided in the preseason, not only on the touchdown but by gathering in a tipped pass intended for Samuel later in the second quarter. Bell also distinguished himself as a gunner on special teams, cutting down the Giants return man at the 10-yard line in the first quarter.
Shanahan said Samuel suffered no fractured ribs after falling on the ball in the fourth quarter but that he was sore on Friday and was considered day to day.
First NFL touchdown for @Ronnieb_8 comes under the primetime lights!
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 22, 2023
Tight end: George Kittle 69, Charlie Woerner 27, Ross Dwelley 12, Brayden Willis 5
Kittle caught seven of his nine targets for a season-high 90 yards. It was also a prolific day — snap-count-wise — for the team’s other tight ends. Woerner’s 27 plays were the most since Week 2 last season, a game in which Kittle didn’t play. Woerner’s 83.5 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus was second only to McCloud’s 87.8 grade. Even Willis got his first NFL snaps on the 49ers’ final drive.
Offensive line: Aaron Banks 83, Spencer Burford 83, Trent Williams 79, Jake Brendel 79, Colton McKivitz 70, Jon Feliciano 4, Matt Pryor 4, Jaylon Moore 4
On Sunday, Kittle took out two Rams defenders on a big catch-and-run play by Samuel. Four days later, Banks had a double block on a pair of Giants defensive backs on a 30-yard catch and run by Samuel, the play that seemed to spark the 49ers offense.
On Sunday it was George Kittle who took out two Rams defenders on a big Deebo Samuel catch and run. Thursday it was right guard Aaron Banks who got a double block on this 30-yard play … pic.twitter.com/TzwWEWWoLZ
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 22, 2023
To this point in the season, the 49ers had been decidedly left-handed — nearly all of their big plays had come on the left side where Banks and Williams play. On Thursday, the right side guys got in on the action.
Burford had the block that sprung McCaffrey on a 17-yard catch and run in the second quarter. Burford and McKivitz also had nice blocks on an 18-yard Mitchell run to the right side in the second quarter. Everyone blocked well on McCaffrey’s 4-yard touchdown run in that quarter, but Burford’s effort seemed to create the hole McCaffrey used to burst through the line of scrimmage.
Burford’s 73.7 run-blocking grade led all of the 49ers offensive linemen and was far better than his dubious grades in Week 1 (49.3) and Week 2 (43.3).
Defensive line: Bosa 39, Arik Armstead 36, Javon Hargrave 34, Drake Jackson 30, Clelin Ferrell 20, Javon Kinlaw 19, Kevin Givens 14, Kerry Hyder Jr. 11
Hargrave was impossible to block one-on-one and had his best game of the season. He blew past right guard Shane Lemieux for a sack in the second quarter, his second of the season. He also left center John-Michael Schmidt in his wake in flushing Jones from the pocket in the fourth quarter.
Javon’s knocking 🚪 @Jay_MostWanted
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 22, 2023
While Hargrave was credited with five pressures, Kinlaw had four in far fewer snaps. His 33.3 percent win percentage was the best of any 49ers defensive lineman. For the first time this season, Jackson logged more snaps than Ferrell, who has started all three games so far.
Pass-rush win percentage:
- Kinlaw 33.3%
- Bosa 24%
- Hargrave 24.8%
- Armstead 18.5%
- Jackson 13.6%
- Givens 9.1%
- Ferrell 7.7%
Linebacker: Warner 50, Dre Greenlaw 42, Oren Burks 21
Warner has no takeaways so far this season, but he does have two assists. Talanoa Hufanga’s fourth-quarter interception occurred when Ward tipped a pass into Warner’s helmet, causing the ball to go straight in the air where Hufanga picked it off.
Burks, who played just 10 snaps in the first two weeks, had his most prolific game of the season and looked good in making five stops, including two behind the line of scrimmage.
Greenlaw was flagged for his second unnecessary roughness call in as many games for his fourth-quarter hit on Darius Slayton. Like Sunday’s penalty, this one seemed borderline and Shanahan said he’s curious about what the league will say about the play. He said he didn’t think it crossed the line into a dirty play.
“Both of these (penalties) the last two weeks were as close as they could get,” he said.
Greenlaw may be suffering from his reputation for attracting those sorts of penalties. He’s been flagged for unnecessary roughness or an illegal hit six times in his career. By contrast, Warner has two such penalties — a pair of roughing the passer calls — over his career despite playing 2,645 more snaps than Greenlaw.
Both Greenlaw and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles suffered low ankle sprains and are day-to-day.
Cornerback: Ward 50, Lenoir 50, Isaiah Oliver 34
Ward had a strong game, thanks in large part to the constant pressure the 49ers’ front put on Jones. He was targeted six times, breaking up two of the throws and allowing three completions for 22 yards. Jones averaged just 4.3 yards per attempt.
Oliver finished the 49ers’ first two games at nickel cornerback. Thursday’s outing was the first time he played it from start to finish, which was no surprise given that Ambry Thomas (knee) didn’t play and that Oliver performed so well against Los Angeles. The Giants completed 4-of-7 passes for 15 yards with Oliver in coverage.
The 49ers on Friday re-signed cornerback Anthony Brown, whom they had cut on Thursday, and waived cornerback Tre Swilling. Swilling had been promoted to the active roster from the practice squad on Thursday when Brown was cut.
Safety: Tashaun Gipson Sr. 49, Hufanga 45, George Odum 4, Ji’Ayir Brown 2
Odum came in for Hufanga for two snaps early in the game, but Shanahan didn’t report any injury for Hufanga, who now has two interceptions on the season. Brown’s snaps were his first on defense this season.
Special teams: Woerner 26, Odum 22, Flannigan-Fowles 21, Burks 20, Mason 20, Swilling 19, Dee Winters 17, Brown 17, Dwelley 14, Oliver 13, Jake Moody 13, Shemar Jean-Charles 13, McCloud 10, Taybor Pepper 9, Mitch Wishnowsky 9, Banks 6, Burford 6, McKivitz 6, Moore 6, Pryor 6, Feliciano 6, Bell 6, Hufanga 3, Juszczyk 3, Ward 2, Warner 2, Lenoir 2, Jackson 2, Hyder 2, Givens 2, Kinlaw 2, Gipson 1.
After showing he can blast the ball deep into the end zone on kickoffs against the Rams, Moody did more directional kicking — especially when kicking north and into the wind — on Thursday. One of them resulted in Odum bringing down the return man at the 20-yard line.
Moody (9-for-9 on field goals) is one of 13 kickers who have made all of their field-goal and extra-point attempts so far. It’s unlikely there will be 13 when all of the Week 3 games are complete.
Bell, Swilling and Jean-Charles rotated at gunner. Winters’ 17 special teams snaps were his first plays in the NFL.
(Top photo of Brock Purdy: Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)
“The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Preorder it here.