Well guys, there it is. Jimmy G’s first loss. It’s bound to happen to every starting QB, albeit this one looks like it could’ve played out differently. Although the loss was extremely frustrating for most, there was a lot of positives to go along with the negatives. Some see this as a learning curve for Jimmy, others see this as a reality check for the 49ers — that making mistakes will prove very costly. We’ll go over the positives first, then break down the negatives.
The defense kept the Vikes in check (for the most part)
17 points? Hell, I’ll take it. Outside of a couple of misplayed balls and perfect throws, the defense held Cousins and a well put together WR group relatively in check. Richard Sherman in his debut, played the entire game — 71 defensive snaps, and only gave up 1 catch to Stefon Diggs. Uncle Sherm also recovered a fumble forced by rookie LB Fred Warner. On the other end, Ahkello Witherspoon also played the whole game, allowing one catch (a TD) on 3 targets. Saleh’s mix of zone-blitz and man blitz concepts brought the pressure on Cousins, which lead to three sacks, although there could’ve been more. DeForest Buckner lead the way with two and a half sacks alone, and only played 54 of the 71 defensive snaps.
— John Chapman (@JL_Chapman) September 10, 2018
Fred Warner shined the brightest on defense
Man, what a debut for the rook! Filling in for a suspended Rueben Foster, Warner looked like a seasoned veteran out there, finishing the game with 9 total tackles, 5 of which were for a loss, to go along with a forced fumble. His impact was surely felt on the field, as he lead all 49ers defenders with an 88.7 grade from Pro Football Focus. Warner made a couple of highlight plays in which he alone took down Vikings RB Dalvin Cook for a loss of yards. While Foster and Malcolm Smith remain out, look for Warner to be a key cog for the defense during their absence. I know it’s still very, very early in the season, but John Lynch looks to have found gold once again in the middle of the NFL Draft with Fred Warner.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 9, 2018
Fred Warner introduces himself to the NFL and shows why fast, smart ILBs are all the rage. Warner IDs the run immediately, and the pulling center can't get over in time to block him. When the 49ers have both Warner and Reuben Foster at the same time, it'll be hard to run on them. pic.twitter.com/6Q2SXLPxkI
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) September 10, 2018
George Kittle proving he’s a rising star
We get it — drops happen. Although many have already pointed to Kittle‘s big drop, there’s a lot more to take away from the rest of his game. He would finish the game with 5 catches for 90 yards on 9 targets, and as the leader in receptions for San Francisco, Kittle proved why he’s a star in the making. His ability to get to open field and make plays takes the pressure off the rest of the offense and helps open up plays for the likes of guys like Kyle Juszczyk and Dante Pettis. Kittle’s evolution in the offense hopefully translates into the redzone, as it’ll be key in establishing a top-notch unit the 49ers have the potential to be.
TE George “Over the Middle” Kittle had a big first game. This is our red zone threat so we got to him him the ball when the time comes. Stats: 5 Rec, 90 Yards, 18.0, Avg, 36 Long. @gkittle46 #GeorgeKittle #49ers #IowaHawkeyes pic.twitter.com/3lvfyIlZkE
— 49er_Edits (@49er_edits) September 11, 2018
Dante Pettis made a statement
Rookie receiver Dante Pettis spent Sunday filling in for the injured Marquise Goodwin, who suffered a deep-thigh contusion. Pettis played pretty well, especially considering he was thrown straight into the fire. Jimmy G targeted Pettis five times, leading to two catches for 61 yards and a beautiful, finger-tip touchdown catch. Although he is likely a rotational player for now, Pettis will surely earn more time as the season moves on, as this game alone is a statement for him. He proved early on that he can get open in 1-on-1 coverage (even with one of the league’s best in Xavier Rhodes) and take the top off the defense, leaving the middle of the field open for others. It remains to be seen if Goodwin and Pettis will be on the field at the same time, but if so, the offense will be more explosive than many can really imagine.
Dante Pettis, who was open at the 3-yard-line when Garoppolo was sacked on the previous play, catches this one. pic.twitter.com/oBTJzYkzUQ
— James Brady (@JamesBradySBN) September 9, 2018
Shanahan’s play calling is still top-caliber
Nothing screams “exploit this defense” like the usage of boot-action plays and movement on the line. While the 49ers did lose, Shanahan’s ability to create mismatches with guys like Kittle and Juszczyk prove he’s able to put his offense in the position to establish big gains on what originally looks like something small, or even nothing at all.
Juice’s ability to play the slot and easily find a hole running a seam-route lead to a 56-yard gain and an eventual field goal.
Good lord Kyle Shanahan is a genius.
-Zone blocking scheme to the right sprinkled in with misdirection allowing George Kittle to be schemed open on the TE dumpoff. pic.twitter.com/vuY8FBBeCP
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) September 10, 2018
KS’s scheming of Kittle by running a play-action boot would result in an open Kittle and a gain for the first down, his usage of movement and misdirection is huge for his scheme, and will likely be the focal point of the offense when at midfield and on the opponent’s 40-yard line.
Oh man, this drop from George Kittle stings even worse now. Look how wide open Kyle Shanahan schemed him up. Kyle is a gangster pic.twitter.com/Sg8r0aS9jf
— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) September 11, 2018
With the positives stated, here’s the negatives:
Jimmy G struggled
Three interceptions to go along with 15 completions out 33 passes isn’t exactly a warming season debut. Anyone can find excuses for his interceptions, at the end of the day however, they’re still interceptions on the stat sheet. Errant throws and miscommunication between him and the WRs lead to a sporadic day for JG. Although he was playing the top defense in the NFL, plenty of missed opportunities ultimately cost the 49ers this game.
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 9, 2018
Here, Kittle wide open on the seam route, JG overthrows the ball.
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 9, 2018
Blame can be put on both sides, Bourne slipped sure. Either way, Jimmy G needs to hit Bourne where he see’s, not where he expects.Turnovers proved costly in a game that in reality, could’ve been won.
“I was just thinking of another play, a common play… I was supposed to run an ‘under,’ so where he threw it was right and I was wrong. It was on me, man. That stuff can’t happen. It’s a big play. It’s a turnover and for a touchdown. It definitely affected the outcome… But the coverage they showed, Jimmy made the right throw. I just ran the wrong route. The corner didn’t feel any threat, so he just sat there and looked at the quarterback and made the play.”” – 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne when asked about the interception by NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco
“It is what it is. You don’t want those things to happen. It’s unfortunate, and we just have to bounce back from it.” – 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on throwing three interceptions on the day.
The OL can only do so much
Injuries proved costly last season, and it looks like the injury bug is back to bite again. Within the first half alone, the 49ers lost both their starting RG Mike Person and his backup, Josh Garnett. As a result, rookie RT Mike McGlinchey had to kick inside to RG and backup tackle Garry Gilliam slid to RT. Needless to say, OL signings will be inevitable in the coming week, as both Person and Garnett might miss extended time. Both are unlikely to land on the IR.
Key drops were a major downfall
Seems like a repeat of last season with all of the injuries, as well as the drops, I mean especially the types of drops that occurred against the Vikings. Drops from the likes of Garçon in the redzone and from Kittle which would’ve been a huge TD ultimately paved the way for the pace of the game. Overall, chemistry couldn’t exactly be established between JG and his WRs, as the consistent drops and miscommunication lead to pivotal drives coming to a halt and also eventual turnovers.
George Kittle’s drop felt like the turning point of the game for the #49ers. What should’ve been a game-tying touchdown quickly became a 14-point lead for the #Vikings, with Jimmy Garoppolo’s pick-six on the next play.
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 11, 2018
Here, Kittle’s huge drop which lead to a JG pick. Kittle over extended on the ball too soon, which negated what could’ve been a huge gain.
Brock Coyle is serviceable at best
Although he filled in nicely, Brock Coyle proved to be exactly what he’s slated to be against the Vikings: a backup. Missed tackles, to go along with missed man pickups and terrible coverage lead to a very inconsistent day from the backup LB. Although he showed decent flashes, Coyle remains to only be a backup due to his inconsistency and inability to come through when needed most. He would eventually leave the game with a concussion and be replaced by Elijah Lee. It’s remained to be seen if he’ll play in week 2 against the Lions.
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 9, 2018
A quick example of Coyle’s poor judgment. Instead of charging Cousins, he sticks to his man, unaware of the other defender behind him.
With negatives and positives aside, this unit as a whole as a lot to work on. However, if our 49ers can keep up with the likes of the Vikings, you have to wonder if every game really is truly winnable. In this case, it is.
Next up is a matchup against the Lions, who on Monday Night Football were ransacked by the Sam Darnold-led Jets.