49ers’ Kyle Shanahan Reacts to Newcomer’s Struggles Against Seattle

Kyle Shanahan

Getty Kyle Shanahan looks on during the Super Wild Card Weekend opener on January 14, 2023 in Santa Clara.

Kyle Shanahan is among many who noticed the struggling San Francisco 49ers playoff debut of Charvarius Ward, who went from allowing a combined 38 yards in two games versus DK Metcalf to surrendering 88 yards facing him on Saturday, January 14.

It was a stunning reversal from what’s been a strong 49ers debut for the cornerback who signed a $40.5 million deal to take on wideouts like the Seattle Seahawks‘ Pro Bowler. The 49ers head coach, however, believes Ward’s down performance will only ignite him moving forward after reacting to Ward’s struggles on Monday, January 16.

“I think it’ll fuel him a lot,” Shanahan told reporters per 49ers Webzone. “He played as good as he could versus DK in that first game and it’s hard to do that again. DK is as good of a receiver as there is in this league.”

Shanahan Gives View Point of Metcalf Touchdown on Ward

In one play, and on a go route, Metcalf surpassed his previous combined yardage totals against Ward here:

That touchdown came with Ward playing man and being locked in on Metcalf the whole way with no safety over the top. But Ward, noticeably, looks back to where the football is — which gets Metcalf to take advantage by hitting another gear as Ward lost his footing. Was Shanahan irate about the coverage Ward was playing plus making a huge mistake in turning his head?

“[DK Metcalf] is a problem to stop and I like that Mooney didn’t stop, he didn’t shy away from him once he got beat on that deep ball,” Shanahan said, praising Ward’s hustle on that play. “He was playing the back shoulder pretty well and D.K. did a hell of a job slowing down and looking back and he got him. Mooney thought it was going to be a back shoulder and he took his eyes off it to stop that and then DK slipped down the sidelines on the go-route.”

Ward would go on to add 66 receiving yards after that huge touchdown and ended his day hauling in 10 receptions for 136 yards. Shanahan, though, is not panicking about the struggling playoffs debut of Mooney Ward.

“That’s going to happen with a good player like that,” Shanahan explained. “You hope it doesn’t happen too often and Mooney’s done a hell of a job with that all year and I know he will come back and continue to do that this week.”

Ward’s Next Challenge

Next up for Ward and the 49ers secondary? A wide receiver who has a lighter frame compared to the 6-foot-4, 236-pound Metcalf but a receiver who delivered more receptions, yards and touchdowns than the Seahawk: CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound two-time Pro Bowler delivered career-best numbers across the three major receiving categories by snatching 107 passes for 1,359 yards and scored nine times. Lamb additionally delivered eight games of catching six passes or more and had five 100-yard games during the regular season. Most recently, he caught the Tampa Bay Buccaneers off guard with this wide open touchdown on a fourth and four:

It won’t be the first time Ward will take on Lamb. The two previously met on November 21, 2021 in Kansas City when Ward was with the Chiefs. Ward bottled Lamb to just one catch for five yards per Pro Football Focus.

Lamb will likely be motioned and used in a variety of ways by Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but Ward is still likely to cross paths with the multiple Pro Bowler on Sunday, January 22 in Santa Clara.

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