Cersei Lannister: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones (2011)
Okay, so the NFL is not quite that intense and unfortunately there aren’t any dragons and thank God there is not an army of the dead coming from the North. But there can be only one King in the NFL and last season the Eagles won the crown; but now it is a new year as teams fight to be crowned. In the west the 49ers, an heir of a former King, took on the Cowboys, but it was almost as if the 49ers took the black for a cold miserable life at the wall.
We have heard defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s, “All Gas, No Brakes,” and I was hoping to see a Cersei Lannister, “I choose violence,” style defense tonight, but after the Cowboys received the opening kickoff and even though DeForest Buckner did have a nice sack; there was a lack of a pass rush on the defense’s first drive and after Jimmie Ward lost the ball in the sun the Cowboys got off a quick touchdown. It is also worth noting that Ezekiel Elliott did not play in this game and yet the Cowboys had 41 yards rushing on the first drive.
Jimmy Garoppolo was on the field for only one series and made some very nice throws to Richie James and Marquise Goodwin but a due to the lack of running game, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida combined for negative one yards on four carries, led to some long third downs and the 49ers were forced to punt on their opening drive. Some positives from the drive though was Garoppolo’s pocket presence and his ability to make throws even though DeMarcus Lawrence was barreling down on him.
As if the rains of Castamere were playing and in a true red wedding fashion the 49ers had players starting to drop. George Kittle went out with a shoulder injury, Solomon Thomas went down in the second series after getting kicked in the face, but walked off under his own power. Malcolm Smith went out with a hamstring injury. Breida didn’t really have a chance to make a statement as he also went out with a shoulder injury early and Garry Gilliam went out with a concussion.
C.J. Beathard made some nice throws but ultimately shown why Jimmy Garoppolo is the future of the 49ers and not him: he threw an interception,the ball tipped at the line of scrimmage.
The 49ers were finally able to get on the board after Joe Williams, trying to make a statement for a roster spot, punched the ball in with ten seconds left to go in the first half.
Dante Pettis was held without a catch in the first half but caught a 53-yard bomb on the 49ers first drive in the second half. Richie James made some very nice plays, including a third down conversion from Garoppolo on the first drive and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jullian Taylor played in all four quarters and had a sack late in the game.
Williams and Raheem Mostert received most the work in the second half since they are fighting for a roster spot. Mostert had the longest rush of the day for 23 yards.
We need to remember that this is only preseason, Kyle Shanahan isn’t going to open up the playbook and he’s going to run a very vanilla offense; and whether the 49ers won 100-0 or lost 100-0, it doesn’t really matter. Both the Lions and Browns went 4-0 in the preseason in the years they went 0-16. In 2007, the Patriots went 2-2, losing their first two games of the preseason, then went 16-0 in the regular season. We didn’t get a good enough look to gauge the starters, but there were a few bright spots and somethings they will need to practice on as they continue in training camp.
The 49ers did end up winning the game 24-21 after a successful two-minute drill was completed with a pass from third-string quarterback Nick Mullens to Richie James with just 18 seconds left to go in the game. Garoppolo is still undefeated as a starting quarterback.
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