What We Saw: Week 16

It was a big week for young WRs

49ers @ Titans

Final Score: Titans 20, 49ers 17

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

It was a grim affair in the first half in Nashville as the threadbare Tennessee Titans hosted the San Francisco 49ers in a doozy of a contest. But it came to life after the break with Tennessee outplaying San Francisco, and Mike Vrabel outcoaching Kyle Shanahan as the Titans overturned a 10-0 deficit to lead 17-10 early in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Tannehill and his makeshift offensive line couldn’t find any consistency on offense in the first half despite the return of star receiver A.J. Brown. The Titans punted on all four drives, leaving the door open for Kyle Shanahan and his “death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts” 49ers offense to gain a foothold in the game.

Jimmy Garoppolo orchestrated a dink and dunk 9-play, 75-yard opening touchdown drive finished off by Jeff Wilson Jr. It was a drive characteristic of this offense under Shanahan โ€“ one dimensional but productive if teams allow them to pass over the middle. Garoppolo completing passes down the middle for Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle to set up the rushing score from the 1-yard line.

 

Jimmy G threw a terrible pick on the 49ers second drive of the game, Janoris Jenkins reading the 49ers quarterback’s eyes and jumping in front of George Kittle for the takeaway. Garoppolo self-destructed as the half ended, missing easy throws and frustrating the life out of an animated Shanahan on the sidelines. He also opened the second half with another interception, this one a disastrous overthrow in the direction of Deebo Samuel.

The momentum was now with the Titans and Mike Vrabel instructed Tannehill to be aggressive down the field as much as possible to A.J. Brown. Brown dominated, catching five passes in two drives including a 42-yard gain and an 18-yard touchdown to put the Titans in front for the first time.

 

The 49ers levelled it up late with a Aiyuk touchdown, however Tannehill and Vrabel outwitted the 49ers defense once more to move the ball into field goal range in the closing moments. Step up Randy Bullock for the win!

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

Quarterback

 

Jimmy Garoppolo: 26/35, 322 yards, TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks | 1 carry, 3 yards

 

This is the Jimmy Garoppolo stat-line we are used to seeing. Effective in the short-passing game but abysmal any further down the field, Jimmy G missed a wide-open Kyle Juszczykย in the first half to extend the 49ers lead and threw a terrible interception in the red zone to let the Titans defense off the hook.

 

Garoppolo wasted a number of key opportunities to extend the 49ers lead before the half, but the interception was a killer as it allowed the early momentum to dissipate, keeping the Titans interested when they were playing terribly.

 

This could go down as one of the worst throws in the league this season โ€“ Jimmy G having plenty of time to survey the field before overthrowing Deebo Samuel on a shallow cross, allowing Amani Hooker to nab the takeaway.

 

Somewhat surprisingly, Shanahan trusted in his quarterback on fourth down on the next drive. It failed and the 49ers then punted as the frustrations set it. Ann 8-play, 95-yard touchdown drive to Aiyuk salvaged Jimmy G’s fantasy stat-line but it was too late as the Titans marched down the field to win it.

 

Running Back

 

Jeff Wilson Jr.: 14 carries, 45 yards, TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 12 yards

JaMycal Hasty: 1 carry, 3 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 26 yards

Kyle Juszczyk: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 45 yards

 

Usually the 49ers running game is the story behind their latest offensive triumph but it was a non-starter today outside of the opening drive. Jeff Wilson Jr. led the backfield once again but only carried the rock 14 times for 3.1 yards per carry and a touchdown. It was a determined effort from the unheralded back to drive his legs over for the score.

 

Deebo Samuel was once again heavily involved with five carries but his contribution fell short of recent weeks. JaMycal Hasty made an important impact in the second half as he took a dump off from Garoppolo down the right touchline setting up a game-tying touchdown. But he only notched one carry as the 49ers offense quickly fell apart.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Deebo Samuel: 11 targets, 9 receptions, 159 yards | 5 carries, 32 yards

Brandon Aiyuk: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 40 yards, TD

George Kittle: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards

Jauan Jennings: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

 

He really is a superstar. Deebo Samuel was finally used in the passing game once again and went off to the tune of nine catches for 159 yards. Deebo made things happen every time he touched the football, turning nothing into something on this play. He fought for every yard.

 

And when his team needed him the most, Deebo produced in a tight spot, catapulting the offense to the the goal line with this electric catch and run over the middle. He continues to be a fantasy stud with his usage.

 

Brandon Aiyuk had a mixed night, dropping a couple of key passes and being responsible for some penalties that hurt his team. However, this grab at the back end of the end zone after busted coverage gave him a 2-yard score and the 49ers a sniffing chance late in the game. After disappointing fantasy managers for most of the season, Aiyuk has been useful these past few weeks. However, useful is not good enough from a WR2 standpoint.

 

It was a miserable night for George Kittle, who tallied just two grabs for 21 yards. The tight end is probably one of the reasons why you are in your fantasy playoffs, however he did you no favors on a quiet night for the big man, who ended up blocking more than catching passes for most of the night. Don’t ask me why!

 

Tennesse Titans

 

Quarterback

 

Ryan Tannehill: 22/29, 209 yards, TD, 4 sacks | 3 carries, 22 yards

 

After a miserable first half in which he completed 10-of-13 passes for a paltry 40 yards, Ryan Tannehill relied heavily on his number one receiver to haul himself back into fantasy respectability in this contest. His chemistry with the returning A.J. Brown was always going to be a key factor in whether this Titans offense could finally find its rhythm. Tannehill has been desperate for help on this stuttering offense so he duly rewarded A.J. Brown (and his fantasy managers) with a monster second half.

Another crucial element of the win was this run to move the chains. Using his legs and taking off for first downs is something I would like to see more of from him. This play effectively won Tannehill the match.

 

His only touchdown throw was of course to Brown. There is just not enough on this offense right now to make a case for Tannehill to be an elite option for fantasy managers

 

Running Back

 

Jeremy McNichols: 7 carries, 31 yards | 1 target

Dontrell Hilliard: 5 carries, 20 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, -6 yards

D’Onta Foreman: 9 carries, 17 yards, TD

Khari Blasingame: 5 carries, 12 yards | 1 target

 

Yuck! Without Derrick Henry this running game is neither comparable to nor worthy of the big back from Alabama. D’Onta Foreman led the backfield but mustered a measly 1.9 yards per carry on just nine touches. Jeremy McNichols (7 touches) and Dontrell Hilliardย (5 touches) also shared touches for no apparent reason.ย  The touchdown was Foreman’s only saving grace.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

A.J. Brown: 16 targets, 11 receptions, 142 yards, TD

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 38 yards

Anthony Firkser: 1 targets, 1 reception, 13 yards

Geoff Swaim: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 10 yards

Julio Jones: 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards

Chester Rogers: 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards

Racey McGrath: 1 target

 

What a day for A.J. Brown, who returned to the Titans team this week and looked fantastic as he proved to be the catalyst for comeback win. It wasn’t all roses for the big receiver as he only had middling production in the first half, Fred Warner welcoming back to the lineup with a bang!

 

The truth will out, however, and that’s exactly what happened in the second half. Brown was the go-to guy on every drive and put in a sensational performance to embarrass the 49ers secondary. Brown eclipsed his previous season-high of 11 targets, twice โ€“ 16 targets were also a new career high. He owned third down in the second half.

 

Young Nick Westbrook-Ikhine keeps making plays for this offense and he once again came up big again in this one, moving the chains on this huge 3-and-15 play.

 

Unfortunately, Julio Jones once again bombed in this offense, catching just one ball for seven yards. The brutality of the long season and its shutdowns have clearly effected the receiver who is no longer what he once was.

 

Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

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