Anavarathan: 49ers' resilient culture on full display, amidst tumultuous stretch of injuries
Sunday's win wasn't about Brandon Aiyuk's 19-yard touchdown run for his first in the NFL or Nick Mullens throwing for 343 yards on the Giants' porous pass defense or Kerry Hyder doing his best Nick Bosa impression.
It was simply a display of how well the 49ers are constructed from the front office down to the 53rd man on the active roster.
Heading into Week 3, the 49ers were without their starting quarterback, top-two receiving threats, top-two running backs, top-two pass rushers, their All-Pro cornerback and their starting strong-side linebacker.
The team was ravaged by injuries at every position and Kyle Shanahan's group was coming off of an emotional win over the New York Jets. While Shanahan and many of his players admitted that Monday and Tuesday were difficult, given the injury situation, the team quickly turned the tide on Wednesday and put their focus towards leaving the Empire State with two victories.
Joe Judge's Giants are not the greatest litmus test, given the losses of running back Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard. But still, per DVOA they had a 6th-ranked rushing defense and 12th-ranked passing defense that looked completely outmatched against a Kyle Shanahan-managed 49ers' offense.
San Francisco finished the game with 420 yards of total offense, nearly double the Giants' output. They didn't turn the ball over or punt all game, while they forced New York into three turnovers. The 49ers' battered defense also kept the Giants out of the red zone the entire game.
While the 49ers came into the game as 3.5-point favorites, there was still a question of how this severely under-manned bunch was going to perform given the expectations placed on them. Well, they knocked it out of MetLife Stadium, boat-racing the Giants and proving that the offensive and defensive depth on this roster is still better than some teams' starters.
This win was a culmination of the last four years of roster development and culture building. In 2018, when the 49ers' starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down, the team couldn't move the ball on offense or struggled to slow down opposing opponents.
Fast forward two seasons and Nick Mullens had an Expected Points Added (EPA) measure of 25.6 -- which is the highest total EPA for a 49ers' quarterback in two seasons. Kerry Hyder stepped up with six total pressures, while Dion Jordan provided a sack off the edge. Offensively, Ross Dwelley stepped up with four catches and Jeff Wilson Jr. was the bell cow in the second half, forcing the Giants into submission.
Players that were expected to be depth at various roles, stepped in on Sunday and delivered in a must-win game for the 49ers, as they try to weather an injury monsoon for the next few weeks. The coaching performance from Robert Saleh and Kyle Shanahan was as impressive as I've seen from them in their tenure together and they deserve all the credit for it.
Reinforcements are on the way, so San Francisco may be a force to be reckoned with soon, but any news of their Super Bowl hangover are overblown. With the 0-2-1 Philadelphia Eagles and 1-2 Miami Dolphins coming to Santa Clara, the 49ers could be getting healthy and racking up wins in a "Coach of the Year resume" stretch for Kyle Shanahan.
(Cover Image: Vincent Archietta)