So that didn’t exactly go as planned. After all sorts of offseason optimism and excitement, the San Francisco 49ers opened their season with a 23-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium, starting the Kyle Shanahan era at 0-1.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers
“It was disappointing, but whether it was the first, last, or any one I have the rest of my career, it was disappointing,” said Shanahan. “…Anytime you lose and lose that way, it’s frustrating and disappointing. I’ll feel that all day today and all night and I’m sure our players will too. We’ve got to watch the tape tomorrow morning and figure out a way to get better.”
Granted it’s week one, and this team is in a rebuild, but there is a lot of work to be done and room for improvement. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of the day.
Before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter, Reuben Foster looked like the special player we all expect he’s going to be. He had three solo tackles and an almost interception before rolling his right ankle. Foster was taken off the field in a cart, but it looks like the injury is not as serious as the cart made it seem. Shanahan said X-rays were negative, and Foster made it clear that he has no plans to be off the field long.
“I’ll be back soon,” said Foster. “Very soon.”
Things were actually looking pretty good for the Niners until the Foster injury. It changed the momentum of the game and quickly.
The Offense Needs Work, Like a Lot of It
Quarterback Brian Hoyer did not have a good day, but to be fair, a lot of that fell on the shoulders of the offensive line. He finished the day 24 of 35 for a 166 yards and one interception. He was also sacked four times, which is where the offensive line comes in.
Guard Zane Beadles bears the brunt of that, as he got beat for one sack, four hurries, and he allowed for a hit on Hoyer. Wherefore art thou Laken Tomlinson? I have a strong feeling we’ll see him in next week.
“I can speak for the offensive line, but Brian got hit too many times,” said center Daniel Kilgore. “I think anybody standing back there would be uncomfortable. He just got touched too many times. I don’t think there was an confusion on the game plan. I think everybody was dialed in…It’s game one, but we have to get it right for game two.”
Beyond that, the 49ers committed two turnovers, and there were a number of missed opportunities, including a deep ball to Marquise Goodwin early in the game on 3rd and 3 that most likely would have been a touchdown if he caught it. And he should have caught it.
“I think anytime that you have those two turnovers…” said Shanahan. “I thought we had some opportunities early and we didn’t come down with it. We had a couple opportunities. We had that deep ball that we just missed on the third down. I think that was our opening drive. I think the next series, I thought we had a chance to get a huge play to [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice, I mean [TE George] Kittle down the sideline. We would have ended up inside the 10 and I think we were just a little short on protection and ended up having a sack fumble on that. That turned it over. Then we lost Reuben on the next play and they went down and scored. I think the opportunities we had we missed and once we got in that second half and started to become a little bit one-dimensional. That’s a team and a defense that you do not want to become one dimensional against, so it just made it tough.”
After the game, a visibly disappointed Goodwin reiterated what Kilgore said. It’s week one and they have to figure it out and improve.
“Nobody likes to lose,” said Goodwin. “I’m humbled by this. I need to get this out of the way early…I have to come back stronger. I will come back stronger. The team will come back stronger. We’ll dominate and do what we need to.”
On the plus side, Hoyer and wide receiver Pierre Garçon have good chemistry, connecting on six receptions for 81 yards. Carlos Hyde had nine carries for 45 yards and six receptions for 32 yards. Although he didn’t have a lot of opportunities, Hyde looked good when he did. And, the 49ers are going to be aggressive. They went for it four times on fourth down. They only converted once, but it was good to see some aggressiveness.
An Improved Defense
Free safety Jaquiski Tartt, who got the start in place of the injured Jimmie Ward, gave up a touchdown and had a penalty, but he made up for it with a big interception and seemed to settle into the game after that, finishing the day with seven solo tackles.
The run defense gave up 114 yards. Although ideally it would be less, it’s an improvement over last season. The defense is clearly still a work in progress, but it did look better.
“I can see the direction the team is going to go,” said defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. “Obviously there are things we’ve got to fix, but as a defense we did alright…We’re trusting in the system and we’re going to come back next week rollin.”
Overall, the defense gave up 287 yards. Cam Newton was 14 of 25 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and interception. All in all, the defense kept the 49ers in the game, despite the score. There is a lot to be positive about there.
“…[T]he way the game played out, they gave us a chance,” said Shanahan. “The two touchdowns they gave up were off the turnovers on a very short field. I thought they did a decent job in the run game and the pass game. They got us the ball twice with two turnovers. Unfortunately, we had two of our own. Again, I’ll see the tape, but I’m definitely never satisfied and want us to do better in all facets, but it looked like they competed pretty well.”
And the Beat Goes On
It was a rough way to start the season, but it’s to be expected. This team is young and rebuilding, and there are going to be a lot of ups and downs. Next up on the agenda, the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. Like I said, a lot of ups and downs. Go Niners!Don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly podcast and YouTube channel. Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @49ersfangirl. Go Niners!