Image Credit: The Chronicle
The San Francisco 49ers opened their season with a 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The fan base has breathed a sigh of relief because Sunday’s game is one that this franchise would have found a way to lose over the last five seasons. With that said, here is your weekly look at whose stock is up and whose stock is down.
Stock Up: 49ers’ Secondary Catches the Ball from the Other Team
Stop me if you have heard this before but the 49ers set an NFL record for fewest interceptions over the course of a season in 2018. That slump can now be considered busted wide open as the defense surpassed that number in just one game. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon both made house calls of errant passes from Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston while linebacker Mark Nzeocha, filling in for the ejected Kwon Alexander, won the tip drill over the middle. Alexander and safety Tarvarius Moore also dropped easy interceptions over the course of the game. It appears that whatever bugaboo was cursing this defense has been exorcised for the moment.
Stock Down: The Run Game
The 49ers saw their three-headed monster at running back become a two-headed monster before the season even got off the blocks as Jerick McKinnon was once again placed on season-ending injured reserve. That number dwindled further after newly-acquired Tevin Coleman exited the game with a twisted ankle. He is set to miss some time, leaving Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert as the only active backs on the roster. Once the deepest position on the team, the 49ers are already looking at promoting practice squad player Jeff Wilson Jr. or bringing in someone off the street. Not great, Bob.
Stock Up: Edge Pressure
Plenty of fans were shocked to see the coaching staff and front office let go preseason All-Star Damontre Moore when the roster was cut down to 53. The career journeyman dominated at the edge in a way the team had not seen since Marcus Rush in 2015. Their ease at which they moved on from him is now very clear: defensive ends Dee Ford and Nick Bosa are the real deal. Ford and Bosa terrorized Winston all afternoon, combining for four tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Their biggest impact did not come on the stat sheet, though, as their constant pressure of Winston forced many poor throws, Witherspoon returned the last of which for a touchdown.
Stock Down: Touchdown-negating Penalties
Contrary to popular belief, the 49ers actually scored six touchdowns on Sunday: one from the offense, two from the defense and three that were called back to a variety of different penalties. Tight end George Kittle prematurely celebrated twice and Mostert thought he had his second career touchdown before each realized that it was not to be. To make matters worse, the offense could not muster a single touchdown following those undone by flags. They settled for a pair of field goals and lost a fumble after rookie WR Deebo Samuel ran into the back of right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Red zone woes continue to haunt Kyle Shanahan and will need to be figured out. The 49ers cannot rely on multiple touchdowns from the defense each week.
Stock Up: Stone Cold Kittle
Despite missing out on a pair of scores, Kittle was far and away the most effective player in the 49ers’ passing attack. He finished the game with 8 catches for 54 yards while Samuel was second with three catches. Kittle appears to have picked up right where he left off in 2018 even without playing during the preseason. Not much else to be said. To paraphrase the late, great Dennis Green: Kittle is who we think he is.
Stock Down: Receivers Don’t Step Up
Speaking of the passing attack, the wide receiver corps as a whole was very disappointing. Even though QB Jimmy Garoppolo was shaking off the rust, none of them were able to present consistent targets. Marquise Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne dropped a pair of not-so-perfect passes from Garoppolo that could have kick started the offense. Sure, the passes were not on the numbers but NFL receivers need to catch passes that hit them in the hands. Second-year receiver Dante Pettis has had his share of lumps throughout training camp and was limited to just two snaps with a calf injury.
Stock Up: East Coast Woes No More
For the first time in 12 games in the Eastern Time zone, the 49ers came out victorious. The last win came against the New York Giants in 2014. To put that in context, the 49ers were coached by Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback and Patrick Willis was still active. Now that Kyle Shanahan and Co. have gotten that monkey off their back, they look to turn it into a winning streak as they remain in Youngstown, Ohio to prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.
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