The 49ers and Rams kicked off week 3 with the highest scoring Thursday night game in NFL history. The back and forth affair was by far the best game of 2017, and the teams combined for 80 points and over 800 yards of total offense. Despite QB Brian Hoyer leading the 49ers to their best offensive showing of the season, the 49ers lost a heartbreaker to the Rams 41-39, and fall to 0-3 to begin the 2017 NFL season. Here’s the good, bad and ugly for week 3.
Despite a horrendous interception on the first play from scrimmage, Hoyer showed moxie by leading San Francisco back from a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit, and getting the team to within a first down of having a chance at a game-winning field goal. Feeling the pressure from the fans after being ineffective in the first two games, Hoyer finished 23-37 passing for 322 yards and two touchdowns in the air, with another coming on the ground. Coming back from such a bad opening-play to play such a good game, will keep those asking for the CJB era to begin at bay for just a bit longer.
Far and away the 49ers best receiver, Garçon finished the game with 7 catches, 142 yards and one of the slickest toe-dragging catches that’ll ever be witnessed this season. He fought hard for extra yards, and was a favorite target of Hoyer. Even at 31 years of age, Garçon remains a possession-catching machine and in addition, got loose for a long reception down the sidline. As Garçon goes, so goes the passing attack for the 49ers.
There are games that test a team’s culture and heart. More so than wins and losses, being competitive and tenacious can reveal which direction a team is heading. Despite being down right off the bat, competing through adversity is the best sign of improving in the future.
The ability to wrap up and tackle someone properly is already something that has become more of a rare skill in today’s NFL. The tendency to try to strip the ball is something in vogue across the league and it has lead to more and more broken tackles. Against the Rams, the 49ers missed far too many tackles even when they tried to wrap up. Not even former All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman was immune to letting the opponent slip through his grasp during the game. Shoring up tackling would’ve helped the 49ers cut off key Rams drives and given this team a better chance at winning the game.
At some point, the 49ers are going to have to be able to get to the quarterback to win games. Before the season, the front-seven was thought to have been a major strength of this team (as it should be, drafting defensive linemen in each of the past three first rounds). That has not been the case through the first three games of the season. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff pitched a tent and camped out in the pocket, leading him to missing only six throws in the entire game. Allowing the quarterback that much time to throw was a killer for the 49ers, and forced them to constantly be playing catch up all night. Defensive-Coordinator Robert Saleh needs to head back to the drawing board to figure out how to manufacture more pressure before hosting the Arizona Cardinals in week 4.
Once again, an NFL game was decided by a penalty flag. A pretty weak offensive pass-interference was called on 49ers rookie WR Trent Taylor, wiping out what would’ve been a first down, and also put the 49ers nearly inside field-goal range. TE Garrett Celek was absolutely mugged in the endzone on the previous 49ers drive, yet there was no pass-interference call then. Also, Rams DL Aaron Donald was called for a roughing the passer penalty that really just looked like textbook tackling, and that’s coming from a 49ers fan. The NFL truly needs to take a long, hard look at referee training, and although finally having full-time officials is a good start, it may still be another couple of years before bad refereeing in the leafue stops affecting the outcome of games.
Before the season, Robinson seemed to have a lot to say about developing into a shutdown cornerback. That boisterous talk has come back to bite Robinson, as he was consistently torched yet again against the Rams. At this point, Robinson is playing himself out of a job and the 49ers need to figure out what they can do to minimize the long-term damage and salvage the once blossoming corner. He is consistently late breaking on the ball and when he does get a good jump, he has a tendency to then hold/grab the WR and get flagged. It’s time for Robinson to stop talking and start learning how to be a decent NFL corner, let alone a lockdown one.
The short week came back to bite both teams and highlighted why players and coaches alike hate Thursday Night Football. From Carlos Hyde to Tank Carradine to Kyle Juszczyk, the 49ers were dropping like flies. Some injuries were more serious than others, but they were almost assuredly due to not having enough time to recover from hard fought game in Seattle. After the game, Bowman spoke with reporters and said that the short week absolutely affected his recovery and how he approached the game overall. This is a concerning trend with Thursday night games that the competition committee really needs to take a look at if player safety is truly important to them.
The Field (AGAIN)
It’s been four years since Levi’s Stadium opened, and the 49ers are still trying to find their footing (literally) on the field. Santa Clara isn’t an extreme weather city like say, Buffalo is, but it may be time to look into changing out the natural grass for artificial field turf. During the broadcast, chunks of the field were clearly visible and many players either slipped or came up with lawn-sized chunks of grass in their helmet. It’s safe to say that if the 49ers ground crew hasn’t figured it out yet, they may never end up being able to get it right. Despite being one of the most modern and advanced stadiums in the world, the 49ers can’t seem to figure out something as simple as a manicured field. Make the switch.