Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports


What Did We Learn about the San Francisco 49ers during Week 1?

Sep 10, 2014 at 6:39 PM


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.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


5 Comments

  • Rusty_in_SoCal
    Excellent read, as always, Jack. I appreciate your insight, and that your opinions are always fact-based. You bring a lot to the party, man! Surprised by your comment about the second half of the season...most seem to think that getting back so many of our top guys will make it a cruise. Care to expand?
    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:03 AM
    0
    Response: Thanks. I say that because they have Seattle twice in three weeks, Saints on the road and finish with San Diego and Arizona. That could be tough sledding.
  • MichaelC
    One of the biggest improvements... fast play calling. This is the first time I can think of when Kap rolled to the line setup and started his reads with nearly 10-12 seconds on the clock. Usually its 2-3 seconds.. This helps everyone.. big improvement.
    Sep 10, 2014 at 9:31 PM
    0
  • mooseman
    Good job Jack, Because of multiple injuries(including our two cbs.) plus suspension of Alden I feel the first 9 games will be critical.Our Defense should get better over time then our reinforcements come back.I learned from week one that a well coached team can adapt to current situations.We may not have a nasty defense now however that could change fast in 8-10 weeks.And our offense needs to score an average of 7 points per game more than last year.Again Coach Jim knows this and we saw it last week,with multiple receiver sets.If we can get deep in the playoffs,this could be Coach Harbaughs best coaching job to date. Peace
    Sep 10, 2014 at 8:55 PM
    0
    Response: Thanks Moose. This team is very deep. I really am more worried about the second half.
  • Robert
    Jack loved it am interested to know if iupatis ankle is still causing him problems Saw him get blown by a couple of times
    Sep 10, 2014 at 7:46 PM
    0
    Response: Thanks. When I watched it live I thought Iupati was terrible, but when I went back for a second look he wasn't as bad as I thought. They were moving him a lot on play action passes and Staley/Kilgore struggled. They may get by with it this week, but Arizona will be a test.
  • Adusoron
    Nice write-up, Jack. I think the description of the offensive explosiveness was a good point. A lot of fans, including myself, did not realize how much explosiveness the offense lost in 2013 in terms ofscheme variety, diversity, and stress-factor on opposing defenses. I'm specifically referring to losing Crabtree, Randy Moss, Delanie Walker, and not getting Manningham and Kyle Williams back healthy. It seems clear to me that the loss of quality targets really hampered Kaepernick's development in 2013 and for at least one week, we see him looking more comfortable as a pocket passer and progression reader.
    Sep 10, 2014 at 7:21 PM
    0
    Response: Thanks. They lost a lot last year when Crabtree went out and the rookies, Patton and McDonald, didn't step up.

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