Well, it wasn’t pretty (okay, maybe it was depending on who you ask) but the 49ers got the job done against the Buccaneers. 31-17 was the final score, as Jimmy G (lead?) his team to an opening day victory.
For this post-game review, I’ll be going over my thoughts on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, what stood out to me, if there’s concerns, positives, negatives, etc. I’ll even hand out some grades as well.
To begin, let’s start with the man of the hour: Jimmy Garappolo.
- It wasn’t the most successful day, but he got the job done. Against what many people considered a porous defense, Jimmy G looked… average. And hey, that’s OK. It’s his first real game back from ACL surgery. Aside from that, Bruce Arians brought on his former DC Todd Bowles from Arizona. Bowles is a coach who is highly touted, I feel he got the most out of his Bucs defense, even with very few playmakers outside of Suh and Devin White. Jimmy G did not look comfortable for most of the game, and at one point he was practically relegated to check down duties. But again, that’s OK too. He game-managed well while the defense got the job done. Although, for most of us, we didn’t want to see Jimmy throw so poorly, many of us expected 300+ yards, 3 TDs, etc. While he didn’t meet the fans’ expectations, again, don’t expect immediate results from him. He still needs time to grow and get comfortable in the pocket and simply adapt to NFL game speed. Over the next two games (Bengals, Steelers), that could be enough time to get JG acclimated once again. After the Steelers’ poor performance and the Bengals’ disappointing loss, the door is arguably open for Jimmy G to regain confidence in his ability. For the game, he would finish 18-27, throwing for 166 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
- GRADE: C+ The plus is for his ability to game manage and at least keep the offense somewhat moving, albeit not effectively. The C is for the average performance. If he was fully healthy, I wouldn’t have given him a C. However, coming off an injury and shaking off rust can be his saving grace for the time being. The Bucs defense played well, but at times, Jimmy did miss some open throws and big gains. Also, Jimmy had two scores called back due to penalties that had nothing to do with him. Two more scores added to his stats would have gone a long way in quieting the media for another week.
- George Kittle once again appears to be the team’s only play-maker. With underperforming games from the entire WR group, Kittle was by far the player that stood out the most on offense. Entering his third year into the league, many deemed Kittle as the 49ers’ breakout star, and who can blame them. Not only is he one of the best receiving TEs in the league, he’s also one of the better run and pass blocking tight ends as well. The value he brings to this time far exceeds any offensive player outside of Jimmy G. He would finish this game with 8 catches for 54 yards. Kittle could’ve had a couple of TDs if they weren’t either called back because of penalty or due to an overthrow by JG.
- Grade: A- The best offensive player of the day, Kittle simply got the job done and kept the chains moving.
- The Buccaneers’ defense played at a level that many didn’t expect, and that can be attributed to new DC Todd Bowles. One thing to takeaway is the 49ers could not get the run game going all game. Between Tevin Coleman, Breida, and Mostert, all 3 combined to rush for 100 yards total. What felt like an easy defense to pick on turned into a frustrating team to figure out, as the Bucs were able to stuff the run all afternoon and hold Jimmy to 16 completions — 17 if you count the pick-6. Although I don’t take into account that it’s week 1, it is slightly concerning that the 49ers couldn’t do more against the Bucs, although opportunity was on the table to score more. Tevin Coleman is going to be out with a high-ankle sprain, which’ll open the door for RB Jeff Wilson Jr. to get the call up from the practice squad. Can they get the run game going against an even better defensive Line in the Cincinnati Bengals?
- The tackles (Staley, McGlinchey) played better than the interior OL (Tomlinson, Richburg, Person) when it came to run blocking. As for pass-protecting, the entire unit held up surprisingly well. Throughout the game, Jimmy G never faced too much pressure, although the Bucs don’t have a major pass rush, it’s still good to see the OL unit create early chemistry and success. Something to keep an eye on is not only the health of Richburg, but really the overall success of the OL itself. Things need to be cleaned up but for now, this unit appears to be one of the better cores in the league.
- What a start for the defensive unit. As a whole, the entire group performed spectacularly. Sacking the QB, forcing interceptions, fumbles, tackles for loss, etc.; it was a fantastic performance. Most notably, the team forced turnovers. 4 total takeaways, 3 of which were interceptions, 1 on a forced fumble by Fred Warner. There could’ve been more interceptions as well, as both Tarvarius Moore and Kwon Alexander each dropped a would-be interception. With the play of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa on both edge positions, having a pass rush to go to made all of the difference, as Jameis Winston was facing pressure all throughout the game. Even if Sherman and Witherspoon aren’t defensive playmakers, they were still able to take two interceptions to the house, something the 49ers haven’t done in sometime. As for the secondary overall, the play was noticeable better. Sherman played well, albeit not his usual standard of play. Witherspoon was the best CB of the night, as he matched up against both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, and played extremely well. According to PFF, Witherspoon would finish with an 80.8 grade, by far the best grade out of the secondary. Other players such as Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, and Tarvarius Moore played well also. Overall, the secondary unit already looks to be one of the best in the league (thank you, pass-rush). Even if that’s the case, seeing the DBs be able to capitalize on mistakes is exactly what Saleh and Shanahan have been waiting for since the regime came into place.
- Grade: B+ – A little hard, but I still feel Ford and Bosa left a lot more on the table, as Ford even noted that he felt like there was more to do. However, the unit wreaked havoc, as it causes fits all game long for Winston. The LBs might’ve been taken advantage of on the ground after Kwon left, however, coverage by the group was above average, as the guys were able to keep up with crossers and other short routes. The interior DL can be as much to blame for the run defense, however, the LBs still left tackles and allowed extra yardage on the field.
- Welcome to today’s NFL, Kwon. After a great early start to his 49ers tenure, his first game in would end abruptly has Kwon was ejected for an iffy helmet-to-helmet on QB Jameis Winston. Prior to the ejection, Kwon looked the part, as he was flying around the field trying to make any play he could, including a dropped interception. Although just a glimpse, Kwon looks to be a key cog in a young and budding 49ers defense. After the ejection, Fred Warner stepped up to the task and played admirably. One noticeable thing to know is that when Kwon was ejected, the Bucs were able to run the ball more efficiently. Although Warner filled in nicely, the Bucs were still able to take advantage of a young group of LBs, including Dre Greenlaw and Mark Nzechoa. With that being said however, the unit as a whole did not play too bad. Nzechoa finished with an interception and some great tackles, Greenlaw made some key plays both in coverage and tackling, and Warner would finish with 9 total tackles, as well as a huge forced fumbles in which Blair recovered.
- Outside of the edge play, the interior DL was quiet, including DeForrest Buckner. According to PFF, Buckner finished with 2 total tackles, 1 QB hit and 1 pressure. Not an ideal start to a contract year for Buckner. Although Ford and Bosa got the job done, the rest of the interior DL will need to step up if the 49ers want to really take their pass rush to the next level. The best D linemen outside of Ford and Bosa was Arik Armstead, who would finish the game with a sack, 3 pressures on the QB, and 4 total tackles. Again, the interior DL needs to step up vastly if the 49ers want to get Bosa and Gord to their highest level of play. One surprise player who played somewhat well was D.J Jones. Another interior guy and moreso a nose tackle, Jones was arguably the best interior DL on the day, finishing with 2 QB pressures and a solo tackle.
Other quick notes:
- Mitch Wishnowsky’s debut was ok, as he would finish with 2 punts, an average of 45.5, with a long of 50. He would punt the 50-yarder inside the 20. I only say ok because he arguably shanked a punt out of the end zone, although the hang time on it was spectacular.
- Robbie Gould is still gold, as he finished the game 3-4 on field goals, with his only miss coming from 57 yards which really only needed another yard to clear the crossbar. He also finished 2-2 on PATs.
- No other pass catcher outside of Kittle finished with more than 3 catches, as the other leading receiver was Deebo Samuel was the only receiver with 3 catches.
- The last time the 49ers beat the Bucs? December 15th, 2013.
Next up on the schedule is the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1), as they went toe-to-toe in a loss against the Seattle Seahawks. A more daunting task than the Buccaneers, the 49ers will need to bring the pass-rush once again against a stout offensive line. Aside from this, Jimmy G will need to bring his A game against a defense that has always played stingy, even before the addition of new head coach Zac Taylor.