American Football

4 observations from Week 18: 10 consecutive wins to end the season seals COTY for Shanahan


Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

4 more wins! He’s not done yet.

The 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals with easy, 38-13, for their tenth consecutive win to end the regular season. We were reminded why Kyle Shanahan is a fan of Elijah Mitchell, George Kittle’s dominance, why the secondary has some work to do, and why Shanahan should be the Coach of the Year.

Elijah Mitchell reminds the NFL of San Francisco’s dynamic backfield

Christian McCaffrey has carried the load since joining the 49ers. Injuries to Elijah Mitchell and Ty Davis-Price, together with Jeff Wilson getting traded to the Miami Dolphins, forced McCaffrey to man the backfield.

Both of Mitchell’s touchdown runs reminded the NFL that San Francisco’s backfield has multiple playmakers. Watching Mitchell score was a breath of fresh air. His bruising running style will be essential for playoff football. The 49ers score 33-plus points in five of their last six games. However, you never know when you may have to run the ball 50-plus times to secure a victory, and having Mitchell helps with that.

George Kittle earns his first double-digit touchdown season

It feels weird to say, but George Kittle is the most improved player on offense. Or maybe Shanahan is finally getting the touches that Kittle needed. The year started with Kittle sidelined (again), but the sixth-year veteran would shake off the injuries to have his most receiving touchdowns in a season with 10.

There’s no doubt that Kittle will earn second-team All-Pro honors behind the extremely productive Travis Kelce. Kittle’s scoring rate is something we all knew he was capable of. In addition, he separated against man coverage in both of his touchdown receptions. The Peoples Tight End gets his flowers for his run-blocking, but the guy is nearly impossible to guard and needs to be forced-fed accordingly.

Lenoir and Gipson bounce back after the A.J. Green blunder

Arizona’s offense caught San Francisco’s defense lacking with a trick play where A.J. Green Mossed Deommodore Lenoir and Tashaun Gipson on the second play of the game. Lenoir has struggled to locate the ball in the air as of late. The second-year cornerback was in a great position to make a play on the ball, but Green had a flashback to his vintage self and took the ball away from him.

Lenoir impressed later in the game with solid coverage reps on Marquise Brown and helped force a David Blough interception where Tashaun Gipson shuffled over to take the ball out of the air. Gipson would finish the game with two interceptions after missing a tackle on Green’s 77-yard touchdown,

10 consecutive wins to end the season seals COTY for Shanahan

Kyle Shanahan lost his franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, and was left with the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to lead the offense. Little did we know that Brock Purdy was up for the task. As a result, Shanahan’s play-calling and vision for the offense finally look alive. Brandon Aiyuk goes over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time, Kittle scored ten touchdowns for the first time, and McCaffrey’s value strengthens by the week.

San Francisco’s offense looks the strongest it’s been under Shanahan and must keep the energy for a scrappy Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round. However, the defense cleaned up hiccups from Weeks 16 and 17 to ease any worries going into the playoffs.

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