In 2017, the NFC West added not one but two of the most respected and revered offensive minds in the NFL today, coaches who have helped develop several more current head coaches in the league who are now garnering near equal respect. Names like Mike McDaniel, DeMeco Ryans, Kevin O’Connell, Zac Taylor, and Matt LaFleur. And Brandon Staley too, I guess.
Those coaches are obviously Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, two friends who face off again this Sunday at SoFi Stadium when the Rams host the 49ers. But the rivalry has yet to take shape for McVay, as L.A. has lost the last eight regular season games against San Francisco. The only saving grace being that the Rams won the most important game of all, the 2021 NFC Championship.
For McVay to really land another blow in the head-to-head matchup, he’s going to need to help L.A. pull off the upset this week and to do that, he’s going to need his defense to find a way to stop the Niners offense. Not many teams have figured out how to do that recently and a huge component that helps Shanahan win so often is how he gets San Francisco’s supporting cast to block for their premier weapons.
For a thorough and interesting breakdown of how that happens, check out this video from former NFL offensive linemen Alex Boone (who played for the 49ers, but before Shanahan’s tenure) and Jeremiah Sirles. They go over the best blocking plays in the 49ers 30-7 win over the Steelers in Week 1, including not just how the offensive line performed, but also the weapons themselves.
That includes receiver Brandon Aiyuk, arguably an All-Pro in the making. He not only caught two touchdowns, he also sold out for some of the best receiver blocks of Week 1.
Of course, George Kittle has been praised in the past for being a true dual threat at the tight end position, not just as a receiver, and Deebo Samuel, perhaps the most physical receiver in the NFL. Christian McCaffrey gets in on the blocking too and Kyle Jusczcyk is long considered the best fullback in football.
Pretty interesting stuff to consider ahead of the Rams difficult matchup against San Francisco’s offense in Week 2, a much harder test than slowing down Geno Smith behind two backup offensive tackles in Week 1. The Rams held the Seahawks to 13 points, which is great for the defense, but a huge assist goes to L.A.’s offense for controlling 40 minutes of the clock thanks to 11-of-17 on third down and 1-of-1 on fourth down.
The 49ers bring a more talented offense, the most versatile weapons in the league, a top-three left tackle, and a top-three offensive coach. Can they get through the blocks to make the tackles and pressure Brock Purdy?
That’s going to be the ultimate decider in how improved this surprise defense is from last season.