It's been all positive in Santa Clara since the hiring of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. From the front-office culture down to the construction of the roster, the 49ers seemed to be heading in the right direction at lightning speed.
Many fans began to wonder if the overnight transformation by Shanahan and Lynch would correlate to immediate results this season. Some were cautious, but many began to parallel this season to 2011 -- the year Jim Harbaugh took over and led the 49ers to a 13-3 record. While nobody thought the 49ers would go 13-3, they expected that kind of a dramatic change in their record. Most, including me, predicted a record of 6-8 wins, with some even declaring a potential playoff spot.
After Sunday's game, let's start to pump the brakes. The opener against Carolina was just another reminder that Lynch and Shanahan won't be able to sprinkle pixie dust and fix the 49ers overnight. They inherited the worst roster in the NFL, with no blue-chip player on either side of the ball.
They made a bevy of moves to get San Francisco moving in the right direction, which got fans' hopes up -- probably more than it should have.
Let's keep it real: the 49ers got thrashed on Sunday, with Panthers' QB Cam Newton playing an average game at best. The offense couldn't sustain a drive to keep the defense off the field. Kyle Shanahan didn't manage the clock properly, got a bit antsy with two questionable fourth-down calls and seemed to make a lot of rookie mistakes.
Starting with the offense, QB Brian Hoyer looked out of sorts. Judging from the preseason, this offense has to be in-sync across the board for it to have a chance. The 49ers don't have an other-worldly quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. Hoyer isn't going to make magic in the backfield, avoid rushers and make plays. The 49ers will have to execute in all levels, from the offensive line to the receivers to the running backs for Hoyer to have a chance.
The interior offensive line is awful. LG Zane Beadles shouldn't play next week and G Laken Tomlinson should step in against the Seahawks. RG Brandon Fusco wasn't any better, as it seemed like there was always a Panthers' defensive lineman in Hoyer's lap. The 49ers' signal caller was sacked time and time again, leading to a strip-sack fumble.
RB Carlos Hyde was definitely a bright spot on offense, making plays on his 10 carries and also six receptions. He was constantly looking for contact, looked explosive and dynamic in Shanahan's offense. WR Pierre Garcon made plays over the middle and will be a key factor on third down. TE George Kittle had a few catches and WR Marquise Goodwin had a costly, costly drop in the first quarter. San Francisco should have had a 1st and goal on the 5-yard line, instead they were forced to put after the third-down drop. For a young team that needs everything to click to win games, Goodwin can't afford drops like that.
The defense was rolling and from the first play it was obvious that the 49ers were committed to stopping the run first. All the defenders were hustling to take down RB Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey time and time again. LB Reuben Foster was the best player on the field for San Francisco and it wasn't even close. The 49ers' defensive line was expected to be dominant and while their rush defense was good, they couldn't generate a pass rush. LB Aaron Lynch was surprisingly inactive, which left most of the pass rush work to LBs Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson and Elvis Dumervil. All three came up empty, as the 49ers couldn't get a sack on Newton.
The defensive backs played decently, but without a pass rush, they can only cover the Panthers' WRs for so long. S Jaquiski Tartt had a beautiful interception on a deep ball from Newton intended for WR Kelvin Benjamin. DB Rashard Robinson played well in coverage and CB Dontae Johnson flashed at times. S Eric Reid looked like himself and hopefully the back end will be shored up when S Jimmie Ward returns from his injury.
Walking out of Levi's Stadium yesterday, I was reminded once again that this rebuild won't happen overnight. It's frustrating -- as a fan, you want to see your team succeed and win on Sundays. But it's a reminder that rebuilds don't take place in one day. With 53 players on a roster, it's going to take time to replenish the depleted team that was left by the last 49ers' regime.
There's a direction, there's stability in the organization from top down, but it's going to be difficult to expect wins in their first season. There's a reason that Shanahan and Lynch have six-year contracts, because they knew exactly what was going to happen.
Yesterday's loss against the Panthers wasn't a step back for the 49ers, it's just a reminder that this rebuild is going to take a while and that the fans should expect for San Francisco to turn this around today, tomorrow or the next.