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Well, that went much better than expected, didn't it? In a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score, the 49ers punched the Cowboys in the mouth early and refused to relent late. The 49ers overcame injuries, missing starters and a few very interesting calls to put the game away. Final score: 49ers 28, Cowboys 17. This week, we'll be looking back at the highs and lows of Week 1, forward to the 49ers home opener and picks against the spread for Week 2.
Frank the Tank and Mr. Hyde
The 49ers didn't have an overly prolific day on the ground (as they seemed bound and determined to air it out), but the ground game produced two truly amazing achievements: Frank Gore topped 10,000 yards rushing and rookie Carlos Hyde averaged 7.1 yards per carry, scoring his first TD for good measure.
Frank Gore gained 66 yards on 16 carries...hardly his best day. But he did something that only 28 other players in NFL history (only 10 with the same team) have managed: he crested the 10,000 yard rushing mark. He's not the fastest 49er running back ever. He's not the strongest. Certainly not the shiftiest. But he might have the most complete combined skill set of any runner to wear red and gold. He may not be a lock for the Hall of Fame...but this milestone certainly puts him in the discussion.
I've stated previously that Carlos Hyde was the best running back in the 2014 draft. I'd like to amend that...he has the potential to end up being the best player taken in the 2014 draft. He only got 7 carries on Sunday...but what he did with them is worthy of note. Hyde flashed good vision, excellent burst, and outstanding pass blocking ability in blitz pickup. The sample size at the pro level is small, but this is nothing more than an extension of what he did at Ohio State. He's on his way to being a truly remarkable player.
If there was a cloud that hung over Sunday's contest (outside of recent media scrutiny), it would have to be the uncharacteristic play of the 49er run defense. After watching and re-watching the game, one thing became plainly evident: Ian Williams is not 100%. Not by a long shot. To make matters worse, his primary backup, Tony Jerrod-Eddie was ineffective, too. For almost the entire first half, the 49ers were pushed off the point up front, leaving Patrick Willis and Michael Wilhoite to deal with blockers at the second level. The net result was that a very average offensive line made the 49ers look very bad on obvious running downs.
Could it have been first week jitters? Maybe. Could it have been that the 49ers assumed Dallas would run pass heavy to emphasize the obvious strength of their offense? Perhaps. Is Ian Williams struggling to regain the strength and burst that helped him earn the starting spot at NT early last season? Could be. As with all things football, it is very likely a combination of factors. But regardless of the cause, it is likely that there will be shuffling of some sort up front for next week's contest. My guess is that Quinton Dial will be activated to shore up the run defense.
Strike First, Strike Hard, Strike Fast
When Colin Kaepernick and the balance of the offense finally took the field (with a 7 point lead, courtesy of Dan Skuta and Chris Culliver), less than eight minutes remained in the 1st Quarter. Three plays, 88 seconds and 80 yards later, they were celebrating their first score of the 2014 season.
No need to fact check, kids. You read that right. The offense that had pundits the league over bemusing the demise of the 49ers rolled out in Dallas, aired it out early and kicked ass. Big time.
Were there bad plays? Of course. Were there miscues? Absolutely. Was it against a defense that would have trouble stopping anyone? Sure. But if what we saw last weekend is any indication, the 49ers have adapted their air attack, Colin Kaepernick has grown as a passer and this offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Two Minute Drill
*According to reports from Ian Rappaport and Mike Florio citing "unnamed sources" Jim Harbaugh is losing the locker room. If the early returns are any indication, Misters Rappaport and Florio can suck it.
*When Donte Whitner departed in the offseason, pundits feared that the 49ers secondary had lost a big hitter at Strong Safety. Perhaps this pundits should ask Dez Bryant what he thinks.
*With the injuries suffered in last week's game, it is conceivable that the 49ers could be starting Dontae Johnson and Perrish Cox at CB this Sunday. This situation bears monitoring, as the 49ers are perilously thin at CB.
Week 2 Picks
Pittsburgh At Baltimore (-2.5)
Remember how I said that the Steelers might be looking up at the Ravens at season's end? I need to amend that. Any team starting Justin Forsett at HB isn't deep enough to compete through 6 games, let alone 16. PITTSBURGH
Detroit At Carolina (-2.5)
Detroit is a much better team than New York, so Monday night's result was hardly a surprise. Since Carolina actually has a defense, I'm not sure that "Corky to Megatron" will run wild this weekend. I'm willing to wager that a stingy defense can at the very least keep them contained. CAROLINA
Miami (-1) At Buffalo
Well how about that? The Bills can actually play football. Who knew? All the same, I think that the momentum the Dolphins built up beating down Tommy Terrific and friends (who saw that coming?) will carry them to victory in Orchard Park. MIAMI
Jacksonville At Washington (-6)
Is Washington better than the Jags? Definitely. Are they 6 points better? Not after the way they played last week. WASHINGTON
Dallas At Tennessee (-3.5)
Dallas is bad. How bad? Bad enough that I think they'll lose to the Titans, the current NFL standard for epic inconsistency. TENNESSEE
Arizona (-1.5) At NY Giants
Arizona could start Neil Lomax under center and win this game. After what I saw Monday night, it might not be a stretch to say that the Giants have a shot at the worst record in the NFC this season. ARIZONA
New England (-3) At Minnesota
Tommy Terrific and Company looked downright awful in Miami. The Minnesota Vikings (Codarelle Patterson in particular) looked less than awful against an injury depleted Rams squad. While this game might get interesting, I haven't seen enough to convince me that the Vikings can beat a good team...or that the Pats are circling the drain. NEW ENGLAND
New Orleans (-6.5) At Cleveland
It is a relative certainly that Cleveland won't be sneaking up on anyone this week...and that the Saints defense will suck that badly week over week. NEW ORLEANS
Atlanta At Cincinnati (-5)
Atlanta is not as good as their performance last week. Cincinnati is probably the most complete team in its division. Try as I might, I cannot shake the feeling that the Falcons are a bit overhyped at this point. CINCINNATI
St Louis At Tampa Bay (-5)
Oh, look. A game Tampa Bay can actually win. Why? Kellen Clemens is under center for the Rams. TAMPA BAY
Seattle (-5.5) At San Diego
I could get into all of the reasons why this game will be closer than advertised, how matchups dictate a compelling contest, and how Seattle is a different team on the road. But after watching the Chargers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Monday night I just can't do it. SEATTLE
Houston (-3) At Oakland
Raiders newest corporate sponsor: Geritol. HOUSTON
NY Jets At Green Bay (-8.5)
Can Green Bay bounce back from an opening week beatdown at the hands of the Seahawks? Nothing says "slump bust" like a home game against the Jets. GREEN BAY
Kansas City At Denver (-13.5)
If the Kansas City offensive line can't figure out how to block (and fast), the Chiefs may be forced to lure Len Dawson out of retirement. DENVER
Philadelphia At Indianapolis (-3)
After that underwhelming opening day effort by Chip Kelly's Chuck n' Duck Project, I am unconvinced that they can beat a quality team, especially on the road. INDIANAPOLIS
Chicago At San Francisco (-7)
The 49ers are a better team than the Bears, player for player. But there are a few things that bear watching this week (no pun intended). First, will the 49ers be able to field a pair of starting cornerbacks? Next, will the 49ers be able to shore up their run defense with Matt Forte coming to town? And will the platoon of Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta be able to apply pressure to help a banged up secondary? These questions need answering...and a better team will bring these issues to a head. The Bears are not that team. If the 49ers play as well as they did last Sunday, this game should be at least a 7 point win. SAN FRANCISCO