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[voiceover] Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives... fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts... that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.
These words, spoken by Coach Taylor at the end of the first episode of the critically-acclaimed show Friday Night Lights feels eerily appropriate for the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers came out of MetLife Stadium Sunday afternoon with a decisive victory over the New York Jets 31-13. The score doesn’t even truly reflect how decisive the victory was, as a late touchdown throw by quarterback Sam Darnold with seconds left in the game was more of a reflection that the 49ers defense has already mentally moved on to their opponents next week than any kind of strategic win by the Jets. Unfortunately for the 49ers, it’s what the team lost the will send ripples through the remainder of their season.
Early in the first quarter of the game, DE Nick Bosa appeared to have planted his left foot awkwardly while defending a run play and shifted his weight to his right side while his left foot was still planted. He got up visibly in pain and was unable to walk much further and had to wait for a cart to come to assist him to the back for further examination. It is believed at this point that he has a torn ACL.
Shortly after that, DT Solomon Thomas also went down with a knee injury and needed to be carted off. He is also feared to have a torn ACL.
In all the chaos following these two injuries, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got rolled up and appeared to injure his ankle. Though clearly limping and in pain, Garoppolo valiantly carried on playing, completing 14 of his 16 pass attempts for 131 yards and connected with tight end Jordan Reed on two touchdowns. Even with his defense in a state of chaos and fans around the world hurting, he completed 86.5% of his pass attempts, the highest number of his career and is the only quarterback who is undefeated after a loss, according to ESPN stats and info, since 2014 with minimum of five starts, having gone 5-0 after today’s win.
Following Garoppolo’s injury on offense, running back Raheem Mostert appeared to injure his knee, and is now feared to have an MCL sprain. This came following another huge performance with eight carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, and two receptions for 15 yards. Following last week’s 75-yard touchdown run, Mostert is now the first member of thew 49ers to score a touchdown of 75-or-more yards in back-to-back games since wide receiver Jerry Rice did it in 1988.
“Obviously it’s great to get a win but a lot of guys went down today. My heart goes out to them.” Fred Warner reflectively said following the game. “It’s tough. It’s a tough game. To have this many injuries this early is a sucky situation but it’s a next man up situation.”
Of the 31 other teams in the NFL, maybe one or two would be able to handle these kinds of injuries in a single game, but none would be able to handle these kinds of blows while also missing their WR1 and starting center. The resilience and fortitude this team showed today cannot be understated. The level of depth that general manager John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have compiled is remarkable, and kept the game out of the Jets’ reach despite those injuries, limiting them to 10 points over the course of the second half while the 49ers makeshift offense scored 10 of their own over the same time.
Running back Jerick McKinnon stepping up the way that he did to aid the clearly nervous backup quarterback Nick Mullens is the kind of camaraderie you hope to see from championship level teams. His 55-yard run on a third-and-32 ignited the offense and kept a drive from getting back to the Jets’ offense, keeping the defense from getting gassed like they did in last week’s game. His 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter marked his first rushing touchdown as a 49er and his first set of back-to-back touchdowns in three-years.
Thanks to COVID, every team is facing their own level of adversity. Every team is having to rethink how they do everything in order to keep their players, coaches, front office members and press safe. You can blame the other team, or the turf, or the pandemic but the only thing you can truly control is how you respond to these trials. The 49ers fell, and now it’s time for the fans, and themselves, to see what they have inside.
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