The Jaguars are on a five-game win streak, the NFL’s longest entering Week 10, while San Francisco has lost three straight.
Suddenly, it’s 6-2 Jacksonville with the better record than the visiting 5-3 49ers. While the Jaguars are somehow an underdog in the EverBank Stadium matchup, there’s plenty of reason to think the team could get to 7-2 with a sixth straight win Sunday.
If Jacksonville plans to pull off the “upset” at home in Week 10, here are five things they’ll need to accomplish against San Francisco:
Stop the run
For all the talk about Kyle Shanahan’s creativity on offense, the 49ers’ bread and butter is the run game. They’re fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts, fifth in rushing yards, and third in rushing touchdowns. It’s the Christian McCaffrey show with a little Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, and Deebo Samuel mixed in.
With Trent Williams and Samuel out of the lineup, the 49ers running game took a step back and the entire offense slowed down significantly as a consequence. While Samuel is good to go for Week 10, it’s still unclear if Williams will be ready.
Either way, the Jaguars run defense, which ranks fourth in the NFL, needs to have another good day.
When the 49ers run game slowed down and the team fell in holes in the latter half of October, quarterback Brock Purdy struggled to make things happen on his own. After throwing nine touchdowns without an interception in the first five weeks, Purdy threw five picks in a three-game stretch and fumbled away a sixth possession.
According to PFF, there are only four starting quarterbacks in the NFL who have been credited with a turnover worthy play on more than five percent of their throws. Two of them, Gardner Minshew and Desmond Ridder, combined for five interceptions against the Jaguars. Mac Jones and Purdy are the other two.
The Browns, Vikings, and Bengals took advantage of the 49ers quarterback’s mistakes and the Jaguars need to do the same.
Avoiding crucial mistakes has been a significant emphasis from Jaguars coaches, yet Jacksonville is still one of the worst at hanging on to the ball. Only six teams turn the ball over more frequently than the Jaguars so far this year.
Interceptions have been few and far between, but it’s the league-leading 17 fumbles — nine of which were lost — that can’t keep happening.
“I think we have eight turnovers when we’re inside our field goal range,” Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said. “If, worst case scenario, the drive stalls out and we end up kicking field goals with a really good kicker, those points are critical for us. Instead, we’ve given the football away and given away opportunities to score.”
In a game where field position could be paramount, the Jaguars can’t afford to make those kind of errors.
Communicate in the secondary
When 49ers receivers get open, they get really open. With Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey all in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, San Francisco has consistently found ways to get their most dangerous offensive players into a lot of space.
A look at the average separation a QBs receivers generate and how often QBs throw to an open man. pic.twitter.com/rMO6bIDaLx
— Jrfortgang (@throwthedamball) November 9, 2023
The Jaguars simply can’t have players that fast, talented, and skillful out in space carving them up. With Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco back in the lineup, Jacksonville needs its secondary to be sharp against the 49ers.
Get out ahead early
The 49ers aren’t exactly a team that’s built to come back after digging into a hole. San Francisco leans heavily on the run and intermediate passing that’s set up by play action. All of that becomes much more difficult to keep up when it’s coupled with the urgency of coming from behind.
Gardner Minshew is the only quarterback in the NFL (with at least 50 percent of his team’s snaps) who has fewer passes 20+ yards downfield than Purdy.
If the Jaguars can jump out in front early, it could force the 49ers out of their comfort zone sooner rather than later.