San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo warms up for the first preseason game of 2018 against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco 49ers passing attack scrutinized after close win over Detroit

By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner

The 49ers secured their first win of the 2018 season on Sunday but head coach Kyle Shanahan was not happy.

Along with nearly blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Detroit Lions, 49ers struggled mightily in the passing game for most of the afternoon. For an offensive-minded coach like Shanahan, that simply won’t work.

“I don’t think anyone did a great job [in the passing game],” Shanahan said. “We just didn’t get enough production.”

With only 156 yards through the air, the 49ers posted their lowest total of passing yards since Week 3 of 2016.

While San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 69 percent of his passes (18-for-26) he also earned a 40.6 quarterback rating, the second lowest rating of his career with the 49ers.

While some of the blame can be cast on Garoppolo as the man ultimately throwing the ball, the inability for 49ers receivers to get open against man coverage was a large problem as well.

“They played very, very tight man coverage,” Shanahan explained. “Aggressive coverage, holding them a lot, which is part of the game because rarely does that stuff get called. You’ve got to see how it is going to plan early in the game and then you see they’re going to let them do it, so you’ve got to get used to it.”

Creating space is a skill that Shanahan requires within his offense. The ability to scheme players open and exploit weaknesses in opposing defenses is what’s made the second-year head coach an offensive savant over the past five seasons.

Shanahan also noted his biggest concern was the team’s lack of execution on third down, as the 49ers converted on only five of their 13 attempts, stalling drives.

Because of this, the team was forced to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on several occasions.

Another issue that greatly affected San Francisco’s ability to pass the ball was the absence of Garoppolo’s No. 1 target, Marquise Goodwin (quad), who is listed as questionable for Week 3 as well.

Without Goodwin’s Olympic-caliber speed, the 49ers were left unable to stretch the field vertically.

In his place, San Francisco started rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis, who Shanahan says will have to work on adjusting to the NFL’s style of play.

“He’s got to get used to it,” Shanahan said. “They definitely let [defenses] get away with a lot more in the NFL than in college. Dante was fighting some things in the game, too. He needs to get better at it.”

Moving forward, the 49ers will have to shore up their passing game for Week 3 as they will be taking on the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.

Making his first two starts for the Chiefs, Texas Tech product Pat Mahomes has lit the league on fire by throwing 10 touchdowns in his first two starts (an NFL record).

Facing that kind of fire power, a shootout is a real possibility so passing the ball will be essential to keep up.

Notebook:

– The 49ers will welcome back starting linebacker Reuben Foster after the Alabama product served a two-game suspension to begin the season.

It is not clear if Foster will return to his starting role immediately but the 49ers say they will make that decision as the week progresses.

– Strong safety, Jaquiski Tartt, is listed as questionable, per the 49ers, after suffering what Shanahan called a “stinger’ in his shoulder.

This is the second week that Tartt has experienced problems with his shoulder and it will be something the team will monitor during the week.

If Tartt does not start, defensive back Jimmie Ward is a possibility to step into that starting role.

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