Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports



The San Francisco 49ers opened up the 2014 season with a dominating 28-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The 49ers jumped out to a 21-3 lead by the end of the first quarter and cruised the rest of the way. It is always good to start the season with a win, but what did we really learn about the team?

The first thing we learned was just how meaningless the preseason is. Many fans and members of the media were concerned about the fact that the first team offense had been held without a touchdown through three preseason starts. The offense put those concerns to rest by going 80 yards on their first 3 play for a touchdown. They then put together another touchdown drive right before the half, going 64 yards in only 3 minutes.

In 2011 the 49ers were one of the most opportunistic teams in the NFL. That's the second thing we learned about this team. The ability to be opportunistic had fallen off a bit the last couple of seasons, but it was back on Sunday. On the second play of the game Chris Culliver scooped up a fumble and took it in for the score. Not long after the 49ers had gone up 14-0, Eric Reid intercepted a Tony Romo pass and put the offense on the Cowboys 1 yard line.

Even when the defense wasn't shutting down the Cowboys they found a way to be opportunistic. After the Cowboys had marched 75 yards down to the 49ers 5 yard line, Patrick Willis ended the threat with an interception of Romo in the endzone. Opportunistic.

The 49ers offense struggled throughout the 2013 season without Michael Crabtree and any receiving threat outside of Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis. To fix that Trent Baalke went out an brought in Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and drafted for Carlos Hyde. In doing so he made the 49ers offense explosive once again.

There was explosive play after explosive play by the offense. There was Anquan Boldin over the middle. Vernon Davis on a wheel route deep. Stevie Johnson taking his first reception as a 49er 21 yards. Carlos Hyde exploding up the middle for a 15 yard run. And old reliable, Frank Gore even got into the act with a 20 yard run of his own. Explosive.

Trent Baalke has made over 20 draft picks the last two years. On Sunday those picks paid major dividends. At one point in the first half the 49ers defense had 5 players all in either their first or second seasons on the field together, yet they finished the half giving up only 3 points.

On the offensive side there was Carlos Hyde breaking big runs and exploding into the endzone for a 4 yard touchdown run. There was Bruce Ellington returning a punt 13 yards, and rumor has it that Ellington may find himself in an expanded role this coming week against the Bears. The 49ers are young.

The fact that the 49ers jumped out to such a big lead masked a number of mistakes. Mistakes like Ahmad Brooks committing 3 penalties and missing a tackle as a result of taking a bad angle on the Cowboys second possession. Justin Smith later bailed him out with a sack to help keep the Cowboys to only a field goal.

Mistakes like the 49ers offensive line continually breaking down in pass protection. Colin Kaepernick bailed them out repeatedly. On that first scoring drive mentioned earlier, it took two amazing escapes by Kaepernick to keep the play alive. A less mobile quarterback would not have a chance to make some of those plays.

Mistakes like penalties that wiped out explosive plays by Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis just to name two.

These are the type of mistakes that the 49ers must clean up before they welcome the Chicago Bears into Levi's Stadium on Sunday night. It may not matter though; the Bears are a terrible football team coming off a loss at home to another terrible football team. The 49ers could almost approach this game as if it were the preseason.

On second thought.