The San Francisco 49ers came out in week one against the Carolina Panthers and stubbed their toe in the 2017 home opener. The 49ers’ offense did next to nothing as the Panthers were able to grind out an ugly 23-3 victory at Levi’s Stadium. The defense did fight hard, but penalties, injuries and some mental lapses helped sink Kyle Shanahan’s bid to kickoff his head coaching career with a win.
WR Pierre Garçon:
The 49ers WR1 finished the day with six receptions for 81 yards. He was able to consistently get open both underneath and to the sidelines, and did a great job at making the first defender miss. Garçon was able to move the chains and is exactly the type of receiver the 49ers expected him to be when signing him away from Washington this off-season.
RB Carlos Hyde:
Hyde only carried the ball nine times, but averaged five yards per carry. He looked lean and ran very physically. He was also a factor out of the backfield, catching the ball six times for 32 yards – including a few key first downs. Hyde performed admirably in pass protection for Brian Hoyer. If Hyde can stay healthy, he can be a playmaker and solid three-down back for SF.
LB Ray-Ray Armstrong:
With an early injury to LB Reuben Foster, Armstrong was asked to step in in his place. He had five solo tackles and was buzzing around the ball consistently. A capable depth player, Armstrong may be asked to replace Foster for an extended period of time depending on how quickly Foster can return from his high-ankle sprain.
QB Brian Hoyer:
Despite completing 68.6% of his passes, Hoyer was largely ineffective on anything other than checkdown throws. While he was under immense pressure due to the interior offensive line constantly collapsing (more on that later), he still missed on too many throws deep down the field. The worst throw of the day was one to TE George Kittle over the middle of the field that was a yard or two behind where it needed to be. The ensuing result of Hoyer’s misplaced pass attempt was an interception by CAR LB Luke Kuechly that really hurt the 49ers at the time.
Kyle Shanahan has been widely-touted as an offensive genius lately. He was even being referred to multiple times this off-season as “the best offensive mind in all of football”. It’s understandable when you remember the Atlanta Falcons were one of the most explosive offenses of all time with Shanahan as their Offensive Coordinator last season. Well, in week one of 2017, that genius was severely missed. From only coverting 18% of third downs, to going for it four, I repeat, four times on fourth down, the play-calling and execution on the offensive side of the ball was poor to say the least. Let’s hope for massive adjustments for next week, as the 49ers travel to Seattle to battle the Seahawks.
Despite having three first-round selections in a row go straight towards the defensive line, the 49ers failed to record a single sack against the Panthers. Cam Newton consistently had time to throw the ball down the field. Even when the line did get penetration, they failed to set the edge on Newton and allowed him to escape and extend plays. The Panthers were able to convert 7/13 third-down plays because the 49ers defensive front failed to stop the run in short-yardage situations. The defensive line is supposed to be one of the top strengths of this team. Well, this Sunday afternoon, they were anything but a strength against Carolina.
P Bradley Pinion:
Not much to say other than that a 39-yard average per punt is not going to cut it for a team that will undoubtedly be punting the ball on a regular basis. This could be a make-it-or-break-it season for the punter out of Clemson if he fails to severely increase that average over the course of the year.
Interior Offensive Line:
The 49ers have a serious problem. The interior line consisting of Beadles, Kilgore and Fusco were about as bad as can be. They gave up interior pressure on almost every play, and failed to allow Brian Hoyer time to let his reads develop. Much of the offensive struggles fall on the back of player like Beadles who, according to PFF, finished the game with a 17.5 pass-blocking grade. Hoyer’s unifrom was dirty on the first possession and if newly-acquired Laken Tomlinson can’t come in and make an impact soon, 49ers offensive players will be wiping the mud of Hoyer’s jersey all season long.
Multiple false starts, holding penalties, an odd delay of game and an absolutely stupid personal foul by S Jaquiski Tartt highlighted the unforgivable lack off discipline by the 49ers. Penalized ten times for 74 yards, SF consistently shot themselves in the foot and killed off any chance they had at making Sunday’s game the least bit competitive. Discipline has been a problem for the 49ers dating back to Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, but with massive roster turnover from last season, there are no excuses for the boneheaded mistakes we saw against the Panthers.
2017 49ers Rookies:
Offensively, TE George Kittle and undrafted camp-darling RB Matt Breida were absolute non-factors; the duo combined for 38 yards on nine touches. Much more will be required from the two rookies going forward if the 49ers offense has any chance of improving upon a dreadful showing. The injury to Reuben Foster early may linger for a few weeks and is a damn shame because when he played, he was all over the field. His absence took the wind right out of the defense’s sail and led to the defense becoming extremely vulnerable in coverage across the middle. Third-overall pick Solomon Thomas had a costly offsides penalty that unfortunately made up his most memorable moment of the game. The former Stanford Cardinal finished the game with only two tackles and didn’t register much pressure on Cam Newton all day. For such a highly-touted class, this was an abysmal season-opener for them.
Levi’s Stadium Heat:
While watching the Panthers equipment personnel hold sunscreens overhead is amusing, seeing a plethora of empty seats at the home-opener is not. Some of that is low expectations, but a lot of that is the oppressive heat that has been complained about today by 49er fans ad nauseum since the stadium opened in 2014. Due to its orientation, 1:25 PM PST kickoffs bathe the visitor side stands in direct sunlight for the duration of the entire game. Santa Clara is a much warmer place than San Francisco, and not budgeting for some form of improvement to the heat is simply unacceptable. As long as that issue remains, the 49ers will face a severe disadvantage when it comes to having a strong, game-changing home-field advantage, even much after the team returns to respectability.