• Akash Anavarathan

Akash's Monday Morning Blitz III: How will the 49ers handle their first taste of adversity?

Kyle Shanahan walked up to the podium on Saturday night after an ugly performance from the San Francisco 49ers and didn't seem particularly interested. A head coach that usually answers the questions in a straightforward manner, sprinkling in the occasional joke, this week he wanted to be anywhere but in front the Bay Area media.

Characterized by turnovers, careless penalties and a lack of rhythm, the 49ers began to face their first taste of anxiety after a loss against the Denver Broncos. Yep, "it's just the preseason." So the final score -- 33-14 -- didn't necessarily matter. But how the 49ers got to that point is what's important.

Up until this point, the dynamic duo of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have not faced much trouble internally or externally. They took over a 2-14 team and a roster that was filled with misfits. Six months and 60 percent roster turnover later, the 49ers are in the best shape they have been in in nearly three seasons.

A solid draft class that included DE Solomon Thomas and LB Reuben Foster -- who was a steal with the No. 31 overall draft pick. Free-agent signings that included QB Brian Hoyer, WRs Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson. An overhaul of the coaching staff and front office that has 49ers' fans believing that something magical is happening in Santa Clara.

Combine that with a strong training camp, avoiding major injuries sans DB Jimmie Ward, and a Week 1 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs, there was a lot of positive vibes at 4949 Marie P. DeBartolo Way.

Yet, it seemed to unravel a bit this past Saturday. That doesn't mean you should run and slam the panic meter, but it will give an idea of how Shanahan handles adversity.

It also reminded 49ers' fans that this complete rebuild isn't going to happen overnight. Lynch and Shanahan may exactly be what the doctor ordered for the 49ers, but they're not magic erasers that can take away years of poor decisions by this historic franchise.

San Francisco has one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, but have veteran leaders on both sides of the ball. For a rookie head coach, weeks like these are critical to the growth of the team. Can Shanahan help correct the fundamental mistakes that the 49ers continue to make two weeks in a row?

It may be a new scheme, new personnel and new verbiage, but the 49ers cannot afford to make pre-snap penalties that put them in adverse situations. Mental errors from S Jaquiski Tartt and Hoyer put the 49ers' defense behind the eight-ball. Poor interior line play couldn't get the 49ers' RBs Carlos Hyde and Joe Williams un-tracked.

The Broncos didn't have seven defensive starters and yet they managed to come away with five turnovers -- including four in the first half.

The 49ers' defense seemed to step up on Saturday, but having the end zone right behind their backs wasn't a recipe for success.

So this week will be about Kyle Shanahan and the preparation of the young players. They're heading to Minnesota for the first prime-time game under the Lynch-Shanahan era. The 49ers will once again take on one of the top defenses in the NFL in a hostile environment.

Can they correct these mental errors and get back on track? The score at the end of the game isn't important. It'll be correcting the mental mistakes that the young 49ers have made two weeks in a row.

The 49ers are tasting adversity for the first time in this new era of San Francisco football. Can they respond on the road or will it reveal how long this rebuild will really take?