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The 49ers’ red zone offense is good but it got all it takes to be great

Nov 23, 2023 #49ers

With all the weapons available, the 49ers should have a touchdown rate better than 60 percent.

The 49ers’ offensive weapons are the envy of 31 other NFL teams.

An efficient and accurate quarterback in Brock Purdy. The league’s most famous touchdown machine is Christian McCaffrey, and another two-way wild card player is Deebo Samuel. A classic wideout in Brandon Aiyuk and a admittedly old school tight end in George Kittle.

That doesn’t include fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a seven-time Pro Bowler.

He could be overlooked in a galaxy of stars and excel offensively.

The 49ers ranked sixth in red zone offense, scoring 24 touchdowns on 40 trips to or near the 20-yard line. That’s 60 percent.

Miami, whose offense is led by former 49ers running game coordinator Mike McDaniel as head coach, ranked first at 73 percent, followed by the Los Angeles Chargers (66.7 percent), Buffalo (65.9 percent) and Baltimore (65.2 percent). Indianapolis also reached 60 percent. 6th place is not bad. In fact, that’s a good thing.

But if the 49ers have revealed anything in 2023, it’s that being good isn’t enough.

They are pursuing greatness, and if there’s one area where the available talent suggests the 49ers should be the best in the league, it’s red zone touchdown scoring.

Former 49ers quarterback and Hall of Famer Steve Young likes to say that hitting a field goal only brings you three points closer to defeat.

Field goals are obviously necessary, but the idea is to score touchdowns.

That belief was embodied in Young by Mike Shanahan, former 49ers offensive coordinator and father of Kyle Shanahan.

In the last four games (two of which were lopsided wins), the 49ers had just 5 of 12 touchdowns in the red zone.

It’s an area the 49ers (7-3) will look to improve on Thursday night when they take on Seattle (6-4) in their first Thanksgiving game since 2014.

McCaffrey, who leads the NFL with 14 touchdowns, has half the 49ers’ red zone touchdowns with 12, with the outliers being a 65-yard scoring run against Pittsburgh in Week 1 and a game against Minnesota in Week 6.

It was a 35-yard scoring pass from Purdy.

He believes the 49ers can perform better in close games, but to be fair, he thinks so in almost every aspect of every game.

“You can always get better, especially if you have high expectations and high standards for yourself,” McCaffrey said.

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“That’s the beauty of this game. It’s hard to win. It’s hard to play perfectly, but you strive for it. You’ll see what you can fix, how you can fix it, and you’ll get better every week. ”

The 49ers are good defensively, but it’s an offense-oriented league, and Red’s failures in his zone can mean the difference in games, often resulting in high-scoring shootouts.

It’s safe to assume that one of the reasons the 49ers took Jake Moody in the third round of the NFL Draft is because he has a longer reach than his predecessor Robbie Gould.

Because every time the 49ers approach the 20-yard line, they think about a touchdown, not a field goal.

“There are going to be some games where you’re playing an opponent who can’t rely on their defense to stop you,” Kittle said. “I expect that to happen, but there are other really good offenses in the NFL.

That’s why we always put pressure on ourselves to go down and score points, especially touchdowns. Because if you don’t score touchdowns, it’s pretty hard to win the game. ”

McCaffrey led all NFL rushers in the red zone with 138 yards and eight touchdowns on 45 attempts, and had 10 receptions for 62 yards and four touchdowns.

One of Shanahan’s most questionable play orders this season came against the Bengals, on a play where McCaffrey took over as a blocker after Purdy failed to pass the ball to Kittle on a backside throw short of the 8-yard line.

Purdy compounded his first mistake by throwing an interception to linebacker Jermaine Pratt on the play, but the lineman was downfield expecting to score, so it was called back anyway.

I was about to go For a team that prides itself on its sharp play, the match went smoothly, like an elementary school fire drill.

The 49ers scored just two of five touchdowns in the red zone in a 31-17 loss, arguably the most lopsided game of the season.

That was a low point, but Purdy’s selection aside, Shanahan should be thinking of a similar play where he hands the ball to someone other than McCaffrey at the heart of the defense somewhere near the goal line.

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