The San Francisco 49ers start a three-game road trip this week on the hunt for their first win. Following the heartbreaking 41-39 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football and some very questionable officiating, this team is ready to prove that they should be taken seriously in the NFL. Sadly, there’s a lot more that goes into crafting a win in the NFL beyond “score more points”. Let’s take a look at what needs to happen to move the needle to 1-3.
Run and Hyde
In Week 1 against Carolina, the 49ers had what felt like a very perplexing gameplan: rely on QB Brian Hoyer. That obviously didn’t work well, as Hoyer is not very good and the WR corps is very young and inexperienced. When Hyde did get the ball though he looked like the most electrifying player on the field for either team.
HC Kyle Shanahan has been slowly giving Hyde more touches, and its paid dividends. Hyde is still the workhorse player the team needs and feeding him the ball is the key to the offense. Having the offense run through him relieves the pressure on Hoyer to carry the team, and will make it easier for Hoyer and Hyde to make the most of their reps. The front seven for ARI is still pretty good, but if Shanahan wants the team to have a chance, Hyde needs the ball early and often.
While the team has had flashes of brilliance on both sides of the ball, they’ve been just that: flashes. Thankfully the defense has looked a little more polished than the offense, but that comes with the offense having trouble sustaining drives and the defense needs to stay out on the field.
The defense is currently doing way better than last year, and has a real chance of finishing the season as a top-10 defense. Part of that will hinge on DL DeForest Buckner. Buckner has had a great season so far and has quietly put together an All-Pro start to the season. The rest of the front seven will need to step up though. They have been much better against the run compared to last year. They have also done better at getting to the QB than last year. They need to translate that pressure into sacks, though. QB Carson Palmer is one of the oldest players in the NFL, but he will still have a chance to carve up the Niner defense. Disrupting and sacking him will make it a nightmare for him, and with the injury to RB David Johnson, the offense currently has no identity. A statement win. Against a division rival is very possible, but the defense will need to have the best game of their season.
’Fitz and the ’Shardtrums
The secondary has had its fair share of ups and downs lately, mostly coming in the form of injuries. Thankfully the CB corps has been relatively healthy, with CBs Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson and K’Waun Williams all having some good plays. Most times though, Robinson has been getting victimized. Either he’s playing against a shiftier WR and he isn’t keeping up stride for stride with them, or the refs call him for some sort of penalty, whether its warranted or not.
Luckily, this week he has a chance to shadow WR Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a half of fame caliber WR, but is nearing retirement. He offers a good matchup for Rashard: A player he shouldn’t have too much trouble to beat and has enough name recognition that it should instill some confidence in him.
What do you see as keys to beating Arizona? Let us know on twitter and stay tuned to 49ersHUB for more great content!