Well, well, well. Don’t look now, but the San Francisco 49ers are 2-0 and not just any 2-0. That’s 2-0 on the road to start the season.
After a commanding 41-17 (it really wasn’t that close) win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Niners head back home to take on the 0-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, they’ll be without starting LT Joe Staley, who broke his fibula in today’s game.
“It’s tough,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “I just head about the news, especially with the situation we were in – the game is kind of out of hand at that point – Joe goes down and it sucks…We’ll be in good spirits, but it’s tough.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan believes Staley will be back in under eight weeks, so it’s most likely not an IR situation.
Here are Fangirl Takeaways from today’s win.
As well as the defense played last week in Tampa Bay, there was concern all week about Garoppolo and the 49ers’ offense. Today should lessen that.
Despite one very ugly interception, Garoppolo looked worlds better than last week. He was more confident, more accurate, and he showed that his knee is indeed fine with a nice scramble. The 49ers’ QB1 finished the day 17-of-25 for 297 yards, three touchdowns, the one INT, and a rating of 131.2. The offense as a whole had 572 yards, which is the sixth most in franchise history.
“Everyone knows the ability Jimmy has and he’s shown — it’s not just felt. A guy with talent — a guy who’s played in games and shown everyone he can play at a high level — the more he’s out there…the better he’s going to get, even when he makes mistakes, as long as he learns from them. I know it really helped him out today just having a run game. It really helps you be balanced and takes the pressure off of him, takes a little pressure off the whole line in the pass game and it gets you some cleaner looks. I thought, as a team, they did a lot better, and Jimmy did too.”
The tone was set early when the Bengals went four and out on their opening drive and the 49ers capitalized with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to a wide open Marquise Goodwin.
“We’ve been working on it a little bit,” Garoppolo said. “Those are the little details of execution. If Marquise does it perfectly like he did, he’s going to be wide open, and we knew that. It’s a credit to him and everyone who saw it run, and makes for an easy touchdown.”
Sometimes the easiest plays are the most stressful.
“…[I]t’s just nerve-wracking, because you’re like, ‘If I miss this one, I’ll be on SportsCenter Not Top-10,'” Garoppolo joked. “…Marquise is so fast, I think I could’ve thrown it anywhere and he would’ve gotten it.”
Rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who is quickly becoming a key facet of the offense, had five receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s like having a running back at receiver once he gets the ball in his hands, but he can run routes at the same time,” said Garoppolo. “It’s very unique. I love having him, and he’s so raw and still has a long way to go. That’s the exciting part.”
Born to Run
The 49ers’ ran for 259 yards, with the top two runners being Matt Breida with 121 yards and Raheem Mostert with 83.
“I was just playing football,” Breida said. “The offensive line had a great day. I was able to make some plays.”
With Tevin Coleman out, the 49ers promoted Jeff Wilson, Jr. from the practice squad, which was a good move, as he had two touchdowns today.
“We’ve got a good group and everyone blocked really well,” said Shanahan. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that can run ball. We’re very happy that we were able to keep Jeff around here. We knew it was just a matter of time before we were going to need him. You’re never hoping that it’s this early, but we knew it was going to be a matter of time. We went through four backs last year, and we’ve already had to do it this year. The guys stepped up huge. (Matt) Breida, we took care of him in the second half and tried take away some of the wear and tear on him.”
On the Defensive
The 49ers’ defense showed up and showed up early.
Arik Armstead, who also had two tackles for loss, started by sacking Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton on the first play of the Bengals’ first drive. Ronald Blair had a sacks and three TFLs, while Solomon Thomas and Deforest Buckner also recorded sacks.
The Niners definitely appreciated having linebacker Kwon Alexander, his interception, and his three solo tackles for the whole game this week.
After the aforementioned Garoppolo interception, the Bengals took over the San Francisco 45-yard line, but the defense held. Randy Bullock missed a 52-yard FG and the 49ers took over on down.
In the secondary, Ahkello Witherspoon continues his redemption season – granted, that’s dramatic but let’s go with it – with three solo tackles and two pass break ups.
“…He’s playing fantastic football, and he deserves everything that comes his way,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “With a much negative attention as you guys have been giving him…some of it was merited, some of it in my opinion wasn’t, but he deserves all the positive attention he’s been getting…I think he learned to be self-aware and self-motivated, and that’s going to benefit him down the road. You can’t ride the roller coaster of how they treat you when you’re playing well, and then when you’re not, they’re ready to throw you away. So you can’t ride that emotional roller coaster, and I think he’s learning and staying within himself. He’s having a great time out there. It’s fun to see.”
On to Pittsburgh
All in all, this was the most dominant and complete win of the Kyle Shanahan era.
“In all three phases…I think it’s the most decisive win that we’ve had,” Shanahan said. “I thought we had a pretty good one against Oakland last year on a Thursday night. But overall, as a whole team, I thought it was really good. We haven’t had too many games that we felt that comfortable with the last 45 minutes.”
After being on the road for almost two weeks, the 49ers go home to prepare for their Levi’s Stadium opener against the Steelers. Then it’s the bye. Then it’s the Browns on Monday Night Football.
Cornerback Richard Sherman had good advice for the fans: “I know everybody’s out there probably going crazy at the bar and having a good time [but] everybody just stay humble. This is a franchise that’s won five championship. We’re trying to get back to that.”
Remember that Quest for Six? Looks like it’s back on.