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49ers have two crisis points: Trent Williams’ injury and converting third downs

By Jerry Mcdonald

Good thing 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff have an extra day to prepare this week.

It gives them an extra 24 hours to figure out how to replace an irreplaceable player and simultaneously determine what went wrong offensively on third down against the Denver Broncos.

If Shanahan is the offensive wizard everyone says he is, he’ll have something conjured up before the 49ers’ Week 4 matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Trent Williams almost certainly won’t be playing after being diagnosed with a high ankle sprain on the disastrous play that cost the 49ers a safety and essentially the game in an 11-10 loss Sunday in Denver.

Williams played while severely injured last season in the NFC Championship Game loss on a bad ankle. He later conceded he had no business being on the field, but a Super Bowl berth was at stake. Since the 49ers have only played three games in 2022, this time Williams and the coaching staff will be looking at the long haul.

With a high ankle sprain, Williams will miss some time. The question is how much time he’ll miss. Will Williams be placed on injured reserve and be out a minimum of four weeks? Or can he come back sooner than that?

That may become more clear Monday when Shanahan talks with the media in a late afternoon  conference call.  Or maybe not, depending on how the 49ers play it. They did their best to create the illusion that George Kittle would play the first two weeks when it seemed pretty clear he wouldn’t.

It wasn’t a good sign that a cart was immediately brought to transport Williams from the field. Williams refused the ride, and slowly made his way to get medical attention.

Williams was voted the 14th-best player in the NFL by his peers as voted upon by, and the highest-ranking lineman. And teammates, such as Kittle, thought it was too low.

“He’s the best player in the NFL, so when you lose the best player in the NFL . . . it’s nothing against the guys below him on the depth chart, but there’s nobody nearly as good as Trent Williams,” Kittle said.

Against the Broncos, the 49ers first went with second-year player Jaylon Moore and then to veteran Colton McKivitz.

As Shanahan has said when addressing injuries in previous weeks to Elijah Mitchell and Trey Lance, there’s no running backs store and no quarterbacks store. So you go with what you’ve got.

The same goes for left tackles, so it will be either Moore or McKivitiz or perhaps some combination of the two.

Either way, it’s a huge dropoff from a potential Hall of Fame player in his prime to a developmental player and/or a journeyman lineman.

And the way things work on an offensive line, the ripple effect of losing Williams will be felt by every other lineman who will now have more responsibilities in terms of blocking assignments.

Add in the fact that Williams is pretty much the locker room sage, a role similar to Richard Sherman in 2019. He’ll still be around to dispense wisdom, but won’t be doing it in games or practices for the near future and leaders lead better when they’re at their dominating best.

DENVER, COLORADO – SEPTEMBER 25: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on September 25, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Not having their best lineman can also directly impact the 49ers on third down, where they were woefully inadequate in Denver. Shanahan and Garoppolo talked about rhythm so much after the Denver loss it may as well have been a dance revue.

The biggest factor in getting enough plays for rhythm is converting third downs, and here was Sunday’s roll call in going 1-for-10:

First half

Third-and-9 at the 49ers’ 26, Garoppolo incomplete to Kittle. Punt.

Third-and-4 at 49ers’ 41, Jake Brendel false start. Garoppolo sacked on third-and-9. Punt.

Third-and-3 at 49ers’ 49, Garoppolo incomplete to Brandon Aiyuk. Punt.

Third-and-9 at 49ers’ 48, Garoppolo to Samuel for five yards. Punt.

Third-and-4 at 49ers’ 9, Mike McGlinchey called for holding. Garoppolo incomplete to Jauan Jennings on third-and-9 after half-the-distance to the goal yardage. Punt.

Third-and-7 at 49ers’ 14, Samuel gains two yards on last play of the half.

Second half

Third-and-18 at Denver 47, Garoppolo incomplete to Aiyuk. Punt.

Third-and-10 at Denver 41, Garoppolo completes 8-yard pass to Jeff Wilson Jr. Robbie Gould kicks 51-yard field goal on fourth-and-2.

Third-and-3 at 49ers’ 44, Garoppolo incomplete to Samuel. Punt.

Third-and-3 at 49ers’ 32, Garoppolo completes 5-yard pass to Jennings for first down.

That possession ended with a Garoppolo interception. The final one with a lost fumble by Wilson.

The 49ers got their only touchdown in the first half when they avoided third down entirely. Six plays, 75 yards, no third-down plays and a brief glimpse of what the 49ers could be on offense but haven’t been through three games whether it was Garoppolo or Lance at quarterback.

In case you were wondering, Garoppolo got his job back when Lance was hurt running the ball on second-and-8. He came in on third-and-7 and threw a 4-yard pass to Aiyuk, with Gould coming in to kick a 33-yard field goal.

Garoppolo’s next drive where he hit three passes including a 38-yard touchdown to Ross Dwelley, blinded everyone to the fact that he’s still getting his sea legs. At this point, he’s something less than the guy the coaches pushed aside for Lance.

Source: Paradise Post