49ers report card: Appreciate the start, shake off frightful fourth quarter

Peninsula Premier Admin

DETROIT — Here is how the 49ers graded in their 41-33 season-opening win over the host Lions:


DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 12: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass during the second quarter of game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo started hot (8-of-8) and racked up 314 yards. He was 17-of-25 with no interceptions, and the most impressive play came when he took a big hit but still unleashed a bomb that resulted in Deebo Samuel’s 79-yard touchdown catch and a barely insurmountable 28-point lead. Trey Lance’s one and only pass produced the 49ers’ first touchdown, a play-action, 5-yard toss to Trent Sherfield, who surprisingly took most of Brandon Aiyuk’s snaps opposite Samuel (nine catches, 189 yards, fourth-quarter fumble). George Kittle was his classic self (four catches, 78 yards).


DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 12: Elijah Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates his 38-yard rushing touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Before we get to the running back chaos, let’s applaud the blocking, especially left tackle Trent Willaims and Kittle on the edge. Kudos to Elijah Mitchell for replacing an injured-again Raheem Mostert and running for the most yards (104) in a 49ers’ rookie debut. Mostert had 20 yards on two carries before a knee injury sidelined him, which seemingly would have opened the door for another rookie to seize a bigger role but third-round pick Trey Sermon wasn’t activated. Instead, the 49ers’ third running back was JaMycal Hasty (3-yard touchdown run on his only carry). Kittle aptly noted that the run game directly opened windows for the play-action passing game.


DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 12: Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates a sack against the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The fourth-quarter follies mainly came with second-stringers, and, more pertinent, they followed cornerback Jason Verrett’s knee injury that likely ends his season. So the 49ers have cornerback concerns, big time. But that’s also why they drafted a pair (Deommodore Lenior, Sunday’s fill-in starter) and Ambry Thomas (fourth-quarter struggles), as well as why they signed Josh Norman a week ago for what likely will yield his debut Sunday at Philadelphia. Now the good news: Nick Bosa and Dee Ford played a lot, played well, and each had a sack, as did Kentavius Street. Such pressure prompted Jared Goff to throw an interception that Dre Greenlaw returned for a touchdown (and hurt his groin in the process).


DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 12: Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammates after a 39-yard interception return from a pass from Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions (not pictured) during the second quarter at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Sure, there were nine tackles for loss, but there’s no way the 49ers’ run defense can get by in future games against tougher rushing attacks. They allowed a 10-yard run on the season’s first snap, a 20-yarder on the Lions’ first touchdown drive, and, a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-1. D’Andre Swift totaled only 39 yards but had runs of 16 and 15 yards. This was all before the fourth quarter when the only runs were two Goff scrambles.


Robbie Gould avenged a 52-yard miss but making one from that same distance in the fourth quarter, his second field goal of the day. So much speculation swirled around the return options that proved uninspiring. Aiyuk had a 7-yard punt return and Mohamed Sanu an 11-yarder. Thomas, rather than a running back, averaged 17.5 yards on four kickoff returns. Kittle botched an onside-kick recovery that he called “trash.”


San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan watches against the Detroit Lions in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Imagine the wrath DeMeco Ryans would face if he let a 28-point lead evaporate in his first game as a defensive coordinator, even if that nearly happened with a cast of second-stringers. Kyle Shanahan dialed up a great start offensively, to which Garoppolo said, “He was on fire and we were rolling pretty good.”

Contributed by local news sources

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