The 49ers, with a sea of 49er jerseys and attire painting Estadio Azteca in Mexico City even though they were the designated road team, rolled over the Arizona Cardinals 38-10 on Monday, November 21.
San Francisco clearly would not have poured on the 38 if it weren’t for some rare decisions by the sixth-year head coach. Shanahan has often been criticized by fans and media for some his decision making during games — often considered predictable by some and bland to others.
But 49ers Twitter was a much different story toward Shanahan.
Shanahan Went With Legendary Head Coach Philosophy
During one point in the game, Shanahan did the unthinkable in front of 49er fans who attended the game or watched on television: He went away from the run for nearly 10 straight plays.
That’s right. He trusted Jimmy Garoppolo and his arm…and trusted him with pouring rain falling and dealing with a slicker football as witnessed by The Athletic’s David Lombardi.
And among the nine passing plays Shanahan called? Garoppolo’s first touchdown strike of the night to Brandon Aiyuk:
And this rumbling connection to George Kittle to extend the lead to 14-3:
But that sequence on passing to set up the run eventually led to Shanahan calling this soul snatching play designed for Deebo Samuel:
Part of the reason why that Samuel gallop was so effective? Shanahan clearly noticed how the Cardinals began to play both of their safeties further back. Those consecutive passing sequences clearly got Cards defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to adjust to the pass and play the back end of his defense deeper. But that only opened the door for a misdirection run like Samuel’s touchdown to happen.
“Pass set up the run. Deebo backbreaking TD. Welcome to the 2022 49ers’ identity,” Lombardi said.
Furthermore, Lombardi revealed how Shanahan’s play-calling was reminiscent of one legendary coaching name in 49ers and NFL lore.
“Bill Walsh made passing to set up the run famous. Kyle Shanahan has used it at some opportune times this season and then HEAVILY tonight, and we see the 49ers’ immense offensive potential starting to be realized because of it,” Lombardi said.
The praise for “Shanny” stretched to other analysts including those who cover the 49ers.
“Kyle Shanahan firmly in his BAAAAAG right now. What a play from Deebo Samuel,” posted Akash Anavarathan of Niners Nation on SB Nation.
Nick Newman of All 49ers on Fan Nation/Sports Illustrated raved about how Shanahan out-coached a man who helped sweep the 49ers last year Kliff Kingsbury.
Michael F. Florio of the NFL Network chimed in saying how Shanahan now has the personnel to play this style of offense:
Even Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Troy Aikman — who once had his fierce battles in the 1990s with the 49ers and provided the color commentary for the Monday Night Football broadcast — raved about Shanahan’s play-calling.
“If I could hire anybody I wanted, Kyle Shanahan would be that guy,” Aikman said on Sportscenter with Scott Van Pelt postgame.
Notable Offensive Accolades Against Cards
The 49ers took the wind out of the Cards at a place known for sitting more than 7,300 feet above sea level.
And in the process, Shanahan’s call sheet helped lead to the following new marks:
Garoppolo hit rare accolade: Garoppolo not only went 20-of-29 for 228 yards, but for the first time since the epic December 8, 2019 road shootout with the New Orleans Saints, Jimmy G tossed four touchdown passes.
Kittle more involved: There were questions about Kittle’s usage before the MNF game — with a noticeable lack of touches in the air attack as he entered the Cards game with a combined four catches the last two games against the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. But in Week 11, Kittle caught four passes for 84 yards and delivered his first two touchdown game this season.
Past leading rusher reignited: Elijah Mitchell didn’t get a chance to touch the football until the 2:16 mark of the second quarter. But he went on to average 6.6 yards per carry — marking the third time in his young career that he surpassed an average of more than six yards in a game.
Former “doghouse” member hit career first: Aiyuk is far removed from being in Shanahan’s doghouse. While he only caught two passes, both were touchdowns. And, for the first time in his career, he’s delivered a season that’s witnessed multiple two touchdown outings (scored twice in October 16 road loss to the Atlanta Falcons).