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Anavarathan: 3 positives from 49ers-Panthers?

September 12, 2017

The 49ers took the field for the first time under HC Kyle Shanahan on Sunday and the result was unexpected. The Panthers rolled San Francisco in front of the 60,000 at Levi's Stadium, 23-3.

 

There weren't a lot of things going for the 49ers. The offense couldn't find a rhythm behind QB Brian Hoyer and some key fourth-down miscues ended their drives. The defense sure looked better than last season, but they were on the field for so long, eventually the levee broke and they couldn't hold off Cam Newton and the Panthers. 

 

HC Kyle Shanahan looked like a rookie head coach, making multiple miscues with his time management, wasting timeouts and then being uber aggressive on fourth down that cost the 49ers at least six points. 

 

Yet, there were some positives to take away from the 49ers-Panthers matchup on Sunday. 

 

3. WR Pierre Garcon's play

 

The 49ers haven't had a true No. 1 wide receiver since the days of Terrell Owens. They've had some great names walk through since, but none have lived up to the expectation. Most usually had a gadget-y role and would have a limited route tree. From WR Torrey Smith to Michael Crabtree, the big names were always limited. 

 

With Pierre Garcon, the 49ers truly have a player that can play every down and threaten all levels of the field. Garcon was a bright spot in the 49ers' offense, making timely grabs. He finished the day with six catches for 81 yards, including a long of 22 yards. He was targeted a total of 10 times, but a few of those were uncatchable from Hoyer. 

 

Garcon's route running has always been praised, but I got to witness it in person first hand and he was often turning around Panthers' CB James Bradberry. He'll be an important piece in the matchup against Seattle -- assuming Hoyer has enough time to get the ball to him.

 

2. LB Reuben Foster's aggressiveness

 

While DE Solomon Thomas was drafted higher than LB Reuben Foster, the widespread enthusiasm in the Bay Area definitely lies for the ex-Alabama linebacker. Foster has been a human highlight reel throughout preseason and all of the fans were waiting to witness him take the field in a live game.

 

In 11 snaps of play, Foster had three tackles, one pass defended and a tackle for loss. He did injure his ankle and was carted off. At that moment, Levi's Stadium went radio silent as they were trying to figure out when their new linebacker would return. It took the life out of the stadium and the team -- who gave up a touchdown two plays later. 

 

Foster is already the best player on this defense and will be for years to come. His aggressiveness was amazing to watch in person and hopefully the ankle doesn't keep him out for too long.

 

1. 49ers' run defense

 

The 49ers were historically bad last season with their run defense. They would routinely bleed rushing yards to opponents and not have a chance as a result. HC Kyle Shanahan and DC Robert Saleh have made a firm commitment to stopping the run at all costs. 

 

In Week 1, the 49ers were always on the pursuit of the runner. They made a conscious effort to send all bodies towards the running back and it paid dividends. 

 

The Panthers may have gotten 115 yards on the ground, but it took 38 rushes, giving them an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Saleh would take that any day over their ugly run defense last season.

 

The 49ers need to correct a lot of mistakes and build on these positives to stand a chance in Seattle next week. Stay tuned with the 49ersHub for more coverage on the 49ers, @49ersHub on Twitter and the49ersHub.com!

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