The San Francisco 49ers are once again one of the NFL's best teams. After making the NFC Championship Game in three of the past four years, this may seem just like the same old 49ers the NFL is used to, but there are some notable changes with this team.
One of the biggest trends with this 49ers team is that they are no longer more reliant on their defense than their offense. Even with several of the 49ers' key weapons still on this team since their 2019 Super Bowl run, the 49ers total offense and passing offense rank the highest they have since Kyle Shanahan took over. They rank first in total yards and passing yards per game, when they usually rank outside of the top-10 in the passing game.
Tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who have both been with the 49ers since Shanahan became coach in 2017, agreed this season's offense is better and more balanced.
“I think the No. 1 thing for this year is just we have a veteran offense,” Kittle said. “We understand what Kyle wants. Kyle knows what our strengths are and he does a really good job of putting his players in the best positions to succeed. … And I think that's one of our main reasons for the efficiency that you're seeing,” via ESPN's Nick Wagoner.
“We are such a balanced offense and with Brock now and the way Brandon and Deebo are playing, and Christian and George,” Juszczyk said. “We can be so effective in the pass game as well as the run game that we're just more balanced and it feels different than it has in years prior.”
This has in turn helped the defense, which in previous years often had to play outstanding most games for the 49ers to become contenders. This year's defense is no slouch — ranking fifth overall and second in both rushing yards and points allowed per game — but they now have the flexibility to not worry if they allow a few points or a big play.
“I think as the defense sees us be a little bit more explosive and score a little bit more points, it gives them a little bit more confidence that they can have setbacks,” Shanahan said. “And they feel they've got another side of the ball that can catch up if they aren't perfect.”
Of course having Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey in their second years with the team has also helped this offense grow. Both players have been part of the NFL MVP conversation, and are key factors in the 49ers' success.