• Bret Rumbeck

Great Expectations: The Good, Not So Great, and Not Awesome of the 49ers Win

Image Credit: 49ers


The San Francisco 49ers finished a two-week east coast trip with two wins. One was a somewhat convincing win over Detroit, and the second was a grind-it-out victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

But another win brings another round of questions for our men in scarlet.

Now, I'd rather nitpick a 2-0 team than rip into a poorly coached, empty-roster squad that is getting the doors blown off every Sunday.

I've come to expect more from the 49ers, but sometimes we still bear witness to the same struggles – slow starts, too much reliance on one side of the ball, scattered minor errors that combine for more significant problems.

I want the 49ers to exceed my expectations on a Sunday. My expectations are more than just a win and a touchdown pass. Champions are well-oiled machines, and the 49ers still need to warm up for an hour when the weather dips below 68 degrees.

Below are a few high points, concerns, and melancholy from the Week 2 win over the Eagles.

The Good

Defensive line

For a moment, ignore the 328 net yards the Eagles' offense gained on Sunday.

The 49ers' defensive line was the team's anchor, especially the starting four of Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones, and Nick Bosa. Dee Ford played 16 snaps, contributing two hurries, while Arden Key played 19 snaps and had one hit, one hurry, and one batted pass.

Indeed, the 49ers' defense allowed 151 yards rushing 29 attempts – a thumb in the eye of an otherwise solid defensive performance. But review the game and notice how Armstead and Bosa are ripping through the opposition on nearly every play. There's enough talent on the line that the pressure of success on each play is not on the shoulders of one man.

The 49ers have their greatest depth at the defensive line, and it will continue to be a north star when the team is sluggish.

The Offense Can Grind If Needed

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I don't remember when I saw the 49ers' offense work a 9-minute, 16-play drive that started at their 8-yard line.

The 49ers' offense finished the game needing to chew enough clock to ice the game at the 2-minute warning. I can't say my cup was flowing over with confidence, but I was happy to be proven wrong. Garoppolo and the men around him gained the ten needed yards and politely took a knee to finish the game.

As tight end George Kittle said after the game, "To be able to come into Philly against a team that has a fantastic defense and a lot of weapons on offense and to grind it out in a grimy, dirty game, you have to have wins like that under your belt if you expect to have a good season."

Not So Great

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Head coach Kyle Shanahan feels like he's purposely skipping sections of his playbook, notably the 5-to-7-step drop section that stretches the field vertically and horizontally.

Garoppolo attempted 30 passes and had an average depth of target of 3.6 yards. He did, however, have 6.3 yards gained per pass play. Kudos to the 49er receivers for their yards-after-catch ability.

He had one attempt longer than 20 yards that fell incomplete. Most of his attempts came were between zero and 10 yards. Now, Garoppolo does deserve high praise for his dart to wide receiver Deebo Samuel late in the second quarter with 25 seconds left on the clock.

I am not anti-Garoppolo, but his strengths and weaknesses in the passing game are becoming more apparent. There's nothing wrong with being a game manager – sometimes, that's what the situation calls for. But there are times Garoppolo needs to be a field general, and he's not showing that trait.

The 49ers cannot expect to win games if Shanahan is prohibited from calling passes over 20 yards.

Totally Not Awesome

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Every football season, I hope that the Great Magnet will cast an injury shadow on another locker room other than that of the 49ers. It's an absurd wish, but I figure one year it might come true.

What a fool I am to defy the Great Magnet.

The 49ers ended the game with Trenton Cannon as the only healthy running back. I certainly did not expect the running back corps to be decimated by Week 2. In fact, I thought the mix of backs was one of the 49ers' biggest strengths coming into the season.

Fortunately, Elijah Mitchell is only day-to-day with a shoulder injury. Unfortunately, JaMycal Hasty will be out for a few weeks, and I would be shocked if Trey Sermon is cleared for this weekend's game against the Green Bay Packers.

According to Shanahan, running back Kerryon Johnson might be on the active roster this weekend, and the team is signing RB Jacques Patrick off the Bengals’ practice squad.

None of this news fills me with warm feelings. If the 49ers cannot rely on a ground attack, it certainly cuts the play-action and movement plays that complement the run.

The 49ers feel like a team that could dominate a game if all its pieces could work in perfect harmony. Imagine for a moment the 49ers' offense scoring on its first two or three possessions against the Eagles and the defense holding strong.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.


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