In the words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home”. Home is exactly where our San Francisco 49ers are headed this Sunday September 22nd to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2019 home opener at Levi’s Stadium. 

Not only is the team at 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2012, they also have won consecutive road games for the first time since weeks 13 and 14 of the 2017 season. Though only two games in, there is no way you can’t be super excited about the rest of the season, with your energy level through the roof as a Faithful. In the off chance you aren’t, you may want to check your pulse. 

As always, we at Nothing But Niners strive to and are also pleased to present you, the Faithful, with exclusive, original content to keep you current, informed, and entertained. Now let’s hop in the Silverado, and we’ll be on our way home, to Levi’s stadium.

I’ll skip the introductions and safety brief this time as we’re running behind schedule. You know who I am should be old enough to know to put your seatbelt on. In any case though, first time or return passenger, as always, thanks for riding with me. If you missed the game last week, you know Kev got your back like a chiropractor. That said; put your eyes on this tablet preloaded with the highlights to get you up to speed on what you missed. 

 

Furthermore starting Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season as he had season ending surgery for an elbow injury. Starting in his place is second year quarterback Mason Rudolph. More on him in a minute.

Now that you’re up to date on the current events of what has transpired prior to this ride, let’s now delve into how Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch can continue their streak of preparing successful dishes cooked to perfection. 

This time around, they have the added luxury of home field advantage, as they’ll be preparing the meal in their own kitchen. Though both of the previous dishes have been a success thus far, there are ingredients that can still be improved and even one main ingredient (left tackle) needs to be replaced, at least for the foreseeable future. Here is my list of ingredients that will play the biggest factor in yet another great tasting meal this Sunday.

 

The defense as a unit

This 49ers’ defense has been the best it’s been in years! Through two games this year, the defense has been been filthy, stingy even, as they have four interceptions (two for touchdowns) seven sacks, and have only given up 28 points. 

I mention the reemergence of the defense for a few reasons. First and foremost, because one needs to appreciate and acknowledge how dominant the defense has been thus far. It’s been a long time coming Faithful, but it definitely looks like our 49ers again have a top tier defense that will facilitate multiple opportunities for the offense to light up the scoreboard. 

Secondly, because it needs to continue this week, and be even more dominant come Sunday for the home opener. As they say these days, the defense needs to “KEEP THAT SAME ENREGY!”

Some fans will say, “They’re 0-2, they’re without their starting quarterback, their defense is Tuesday/Thursday (trash days) and has given up a ton of yards.” Be that as it may, here’s a newsflash! This same 2-0 team was trash, the same 0-2, and also gave up a ton of yards as recently as the last two years! So please, miss me with the foolishness and humble yourself! Don’t act like we can’t take an L this weekend. 

Though Mason Rudolph isn’t Roethlisberger, he’s no slouch either, and can put the ball where it needs to be, and with accuracy, especially if he has time. In his first action of the season last week vs the division rival Seattle Seahawks, Rudolph completed 12 of 19 passed for 112 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Despite his one interception, he looked pretty good and almost brought them back to win the game. So the team should not take Rudolph or this team lightly this weekend. 

Excuse me for a moment as I use a term that hasn’t been used in the same sentence as San Francisco 49ers in some time, “trap game”. 

By definition, that is exactly what this could be if the team and defense doesn’t go in and play at the high level they have in the last two weeks. Here are a few names of players showing up with something to prove on Sunday and looking to leave with a win. JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Vance McDonald, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Samuels. 

While most of the aforementioned aren’t household names, they are not coming all this way to lay down and need to be accounted for. That said, this defense needs to be as hungry, determined, and stingy as ever. Continue the ALL GAS, NO BRAKE theme, flying around the field, swarming to the ball, and making plays! We’re going to need linebacker Kwon Alexander , his fellow Hot Boyzz, Ronald Blair III and the rest of this defense, to stay hot! Let’s go defense!

 

The blindside

As many know, starting veteran left tackle Joe Staley will be out at for around 8 weeks with a broken left fibula. Get well soon Joe. The show must go on though. In his absence, the 49ers will look to rookie offensive tackle, Justin Skule to step up and man the blind side of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Two games into the season, the 49ers offensive line has been one of the best, allowing only one sack over the first two games. Let’s hope that trend can continue even with Skule making his first start. I would think the plan would be to conduct business as usual, but to test that left side early. Be it screens, runs, or just trusting him in pass protection. The earlier we see what he’s made of, the better.

Another option, is to line up veteran tight end Levine Toilolo to this side as an extra blocker. Seeing as that is one of his strengths, I can definitely see this happening. But for now, let’s also hope Skule’s favorite food is pancakes and he puts whomever is lined up across from him (most likely Bud Dupree) on their back, or at least keeps them occupied. Tell him a story if you have to, just keep him out the backfield and out of Jimmy’s face. The time is now young man, it’s your time to shine. We got your back Justin, just please keep Jimmy off of his.

Feed the three-headed monster/the genius of Kyle Shanahan

 

After losing running back Jerick McKinnon the last two seasons dealing with knee issues (before even playing a regular season game) and then also losing running back Tevin Coleman for a number of weeks due to a high ankle sprain in week 1, most thought the worst for the 49ers and run game as they were down to only two healthy running backs. 

Most, except for the three that make up the three-headed monster.

That monster consists of Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson Jr. (welcome back to the active roster) and has this running game clicking. Last week on the road in Cincinnati, this trio gave the Bengals all they could handle, rushing for a combined 259 and two touchdowns.

Let’s talk Matt Breida aka “The Cheetah” and his video game type moves for a moment. I promise you, on one run he had #22 William Jackson III, (number on number crime) flat on his face as if he were doing a Febreeze commercial.  I would’ve thought somebody was controlling him with a PS4 controller from home using the right analog stick, with a quick right to left-click. It was a thing of beauty. Easily a classic, “whoop, whoop”, Chris Berman moment.  Dare I say, “Barry Sanders-esque?” Brieda finished the day with 121 yards on 12 carries. Good show Matt!

The second head of this three-headed monster, Raheem Mostert. You want to talk about resilient? Well, Mostert is just that. After suffering a terrible injury in week 9 of the 2019 season vs the Oakland Raiders, he not only recovered, but he also came back better than ever. Most commonly known as a special teams “gunner”, (shout out to his young son brilliantly named Gunner) Mostert has established himself as a viable option and threat in both the running and passing game. And might I add, that dude is “Monday” fast, meaning he’s fast as Monday comes after getting off work on a Friday. Yeah, let that sink in. Mostert displayed that speed running around and away from the Bengals defense, and finished the day with 151 scrimmage yards and one touchdown.

Last but not least, my guy, freshly promoted from the practice squad Jeffery Wilson Jr. Known as the most physical, downhill running back of the trio, he did just that as he finished his first day back with 34 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns. Don’t be mistaken though, just because he is primarily known as a bruiser, the man can scoot too. Look to see much more from the young bull in coming weeks as this trio continues to give Shanahan the freedom to work his magic with misdirection, and play action through the air due to their success running the ball. Good work Jeff. Is it Sunday yet?

We’re home, Levi’s stadium

Well, it’s been a blast, but not only do you have to get out here, but I do too. Yep, my Nothing But Niners squad and I will be live and direct from the home opener Sunday, helping bring that much-needed energy to help fuel our 49ers to victory and head into the bye week 3-0. That said, they need to play with the confidence of a 2-0 team, but also with the hunger of a 0-2 team! 

So long as the defense continues to play stingy, harass Mason Rudolph, clog the running lanes, get a solid day from Justin Skule, repeat the dominance of the three-headed monster, minimize the penalties (negated touchdowns and chunk plays) and the fans KEEP THAT SAME ENERGY as the past two road games. Our 49ers will come out victorious. 

Ah yes, one last thing, “ALL GAS, NO BRAKE!” Let’s go Niners! Thanks for riding, see you inside.