The San Francisco 49ers suffered an agonizing loss not at the hands of the Carolina Panthers, but from their own inexperience and youth. Turnovers burned the team pretty bad, and 10 penalties for 74 yards are not just infuriating, but also inexcusable. So what are we supposed to take away from this game? Let’s take a look at some of the major storylines following that game.
The Heart of the Defense. The Heart of a Warrior.
At the start of the game, the Niner defense was on fire. Reminiscent of the defenses with Justin and Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. They were keeping Carolina from getting much of anything going. Specifically rookie Reuben Foster was continuing his mission from preseason of hurting anyone and anything that got in his way, totaling 3 tackles (1 for a loss) and one pass break up.
Then he went down clutching his leg.
The crowd at Levi’s had the life sucked out of them, as if the Ghost of Injuries Past came by once again and thankfully decided to spare Bowman. After Foster went down the defense, and team as a whole never really recovered. They settled down, but it’s clear that his talent and passion for the game is a cog that needs to be constantly running to make this team run properly. Immediately following the injury, Cam found WR Russell Shepard for a 40-yard TD, and the Niners just couldn’t recover.
Foster later came back out in full uni, minus his helmet. While he had a fairly significant limp that started to go away the more he walked around, Foster brought something else out with him. He brought Hope. The hope that SF can work through its problems. The Hope that the injury bug will go away. The Hope that the penalties will subside and the team will gain maturity and discipline.
I Say a Kittle Prayer for You
Analysts both in the NFL and fantasy football have made clear that the only threats on the offense are WR Pierre Garcon and RB Carlos Hyde. Both were the workhorses of the team, with RB Matt Breida struggling a bit and WRs Trent Taylor and Marquise Goodwin struggling to get much going, but the more surprising stat was from TE George Kittle.
Kittle seemed unlikely to play at all on Sunday, being limited during the week with a similar hamstring injury that plagued him during training camp. During the opener, Kittle managed to haul in 5 catches for 27 yards. Not earth shattering by any means, but he was making his presence on the field known. Aside from the offensive line, the tight end corps feels like it has had the most unrest and alck of production. After the departure of TE Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald being unable to get anything going and ultimately being traded, Kittle offers some cautious optimism and the chance to have another dependable weapon for QB Brian Hoyer and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan.
New Pass Rush, Who Dis?
Heading into the offseason, all eyes were on how the defensive line would shake out. Having high draft picks of Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas and free agent acquisitions in Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil, expectations were understandably high. Unfortunately the DL generated 0 sacks, and, according to ProFootballFocus, pressured QB Cam Newton on only 7 of his 27 dropbacks. Its clear that in this first game they have not lived up to their potential, but thankfully it is only week 1. Chemistry will come. Technique and execution will improve, and from there sacks, hits and hurries will come.
What did you notice from this game? Let us know on twitter and stay tuned for more great content here at 49ersHUB!