49ers Stock Report: 3 Risers, Fallers Heading Into NFC Championship
Jose Luis Sanchez III
Quick work was made of the Minnesota Vikings in Saturday’s divisional playoff game for the San Francisco 49ers. The game lasted less than three hours in the 49ers’ 27-10 victory.
It was a simple plan of running the ball down Minnesota’s throats and smothering them on defense. Such a dominant performance from the 49ers aided some players in raising in their stock, while some players had their stock take a hit.
With that said: Here are Three Risers and Fallers heading into the NFC championship on Sunday.
Throughout the month of December, the pass rush of the 49ers had failed to record a multi-sack game. Flip the page to Saturday’s divisional playoff game and you’ll find the pass rush reawakened.
Six sacks was the amount the 49ers racked up on Kirk Cousins with Dee Ford a main factor to the resurgence. Ford had been missing in action since week 14 against the New Orleans Saints due to a lingering hamstring injury. Now that he is back, it is as clear as day that he was the missing piece to the puzzle.
The 49ers notched their first multi-sack game since week 12 against the Green Bay Packers. Ford was missing in that matchup, but the 49ers were also healthier on the defensive line. So long as Ford is out on the field, trying to scheme against the 49ers’ pass rush becomes impossible. It is why his stock is at an all time high.
The demand for his services becomes critical with the lack of players due to injuries and just his overall production. The 49ers are sure glad that Ford is back and healthy for them once again.
Ever since Kendrick Bourne had the case of butter fingers in week 10, he has established himself as a reliable receiver.
Look no further than his constant connections with Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone. Saturday marked the sixth time this season that he has caught a red zone touchdown. The guy just has a knack to get open and make a play when the 49ers need him to. Even though he had only three catches on the day, his contributions with just those three were greater than any other receiver.
By far the most impressive reception he made was on a diving catch that Garoppolo tossed up after getting hit. It moved the chains and helped keep the drive alive. Bourne’s stock is rising high. Not only is he apart of a core of receivers that Garoppolo looks for, but he is practically “Mr. Clutch”. If defenses want to take away George Kittle, like Saturday, then the 49ers will have no issues relying on Bourne as one of the main targets.
For the second consecutive game, Emmanuel Moseley was brought in for relief of Ahkello Witherspoon. This time it came early on near the end of the first quarter. It was a move that immediately solidified the secondary for the 49ers as the Vikings were not able to put up anymore points on their own.
Stefon Diggs had scored their lone touchdown against Witherspoon, while the field goal was a result of a Garoppolo interception. Moseley showed a lot of discipline by filling in the remaining three quarters. He was basically an anchor out there. The moment he stepped on the field, any hope of the Vikings moving the football was over.
If there was any doubt who the better cornerback was, it definitely should be quelled by now. Moseley is playing much more confidently than Witherspoon and is a part of the reason why his stock has risen. Starting Sunday, Moseley should undoubtedly be he starter going forward.
It has been tough sledding for Witherspoon ever since he returned from an ankle injury. He started the first three games of the season playing elite level football. Now he is just an Achilles heel that opposing offenses drool to take advantage of.
Throughout the first quarter in Saturday’s game, the Vikings knew where they wanted to go with the ball. They wanted to pass it against Witherspoon with every chance they had. First it was an easy completion to Adam Thielen who completely put him on skates. Then it was Diggs who just outplayed him on a go-route to score a touchdown.
Witherspoon is a talented player, but it just looks like his confidence is shot. It’s not so much a technique issue with him since most of what he is doing is sound. Regardless, Witherspoon has been a liability. With his second benching this season, it will most likely mean his days as a starter are over.
Speaking of a starter, Matt Breida actually got the start for the 49ers on Saturday. However, starting the game off at running back in this offense means absolutely nothing.
Kyle Shanahan utilizes his running backs by committee, so whoever is running hot will get snaps. That is why Breida has not been involved. He just doesn’t give Shanahan a reason to run him anymore other than to spell Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert for a breather. For all we know, Breida could be in the dog house.
It could be due to missing too much due to injuries or because he puts the ball on the ground way too much. Whatever it is, it’s clear that Shanahan doesn’t trust him running the football in big moments. Breida is essentially an afterthought in the offense, which has his stock falling to rock bottom.
Following up his tremendous performance in week 17 at Seattle was going to be tough for Garoppolo.
However, he completely fell off from his elite week 17 performance. Outside of the opening offensive series, Garoppolo was average at best. A few of his throws were thrown behind or just in a tough spot for his receivers to catch it. To top it off, he threw an egregious pass that would be picked off by linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Garoppolo had no business throwing that pass as it was as a poor of a decision any quarterback in the playoffs can make. The 49ers won the game easily without any serious contributions from Garoppolo. However, if the game had gotten to a point where Garoppolo needed to shoulder the burden for more than one drive, then I doubt he steps up.
It was that average of a performance by him. Going forward, Garoppolo will need to clean up his game. At some point in the playoffs, he will need to show up on multiple drives if not the whole game. Playing like he did on Saturday against the Vikings will not get the job done for the 49ers.