On a day that was hot and humid, and in a game that wasn’t pretty, the 49ers’ defense led the team to a 31-17 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s the first time the 49ers have started the season 1-0 under head coach Kyle Shanahan, and the win makes Shanahan a winning NFL coach.
“It’s fun to win, when you can be hard on the guys the next day,” said Shanahan. “There’s lots of stuff on that tape that could have cost us that game, in all three phases. Very rarely is it perfect, but I was disappointed with that. Still being able to pull out a win says a lot about the guys we’ve got in there…how hard they were fighting.”
Defense Wins Championships…And Week One Road Games
On a day when the 49ers’ offense struggled, the upgraded defense delivered the win, and that was without one of their stars for most of the game.
In his first game back in Tampa, linebacker Kwon Alexander was ejected late in the first quarter after leading with his helmet on a hit on Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston. Up to that point, Alexander had had three tackles and an almost interception.
“I was kind of surprised, because when I hit him, I thought he was still up…” Alexander said after the game. “I would never do that. I’m not a dirty player like that. I play the game right, so it was never intentional.”
After having two takeaways in all of 2018, the 49ers picked Winston off three times, with Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon each having a pick-6, and Mark Nzeocha getting the third.
It was Sherman’s first as a 49er uniform, and even though he had a couple of penalties today, it’s clear that he’s healthy and closer to Seattle Richard Sherman. But, as previously mentioned, it was hot.
“I’m not gonna lie, I was just tired,” said Sherman. “Today was one of the hottest games I’ve ever been a part of. That’s why you don’t have much for celebration, because your body’s in survival mode…But it felt good. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it more later one. But I’m just happy for our defense. I’m happy for our team. We played sloppy today, but it’s the first game. We’ve got to knock out some of the wrinkles.”
— Tracy Sandler (@49ersfangirl) September 9, 2019
The 49ers totaled three sacks: one from rookie Nick Bosa, one from Dee Ford (who also forced a fumble on his), and one from Arik Armstead. Team work makes the dream work.
Along with his pick-6, Witherspoon showcased his offseason progress with two tackles and great coverage generally, particularly on Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans.
“I’m real happy for him,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “…He came into this offseason, you could tell he’d done work on his own, battled through a couple injuries in the offseason, rehabbed very hard, worked his tail off. He’s had a great camp. We expect him to do better, because of just how consistent he’s been…I’m happy for him that he got to show everyone else and do it out there. He played a hell of a game.”
Jimmy Garoppolo and the Shaky Offense
Over on the offensive side of the ball, things were a little dicier, for both teams. Five touchdowns – yes, five – were called back due to penalties.
Jimmy Garoppolo had a very up and down day, finishing the day 18-of-27 for 166 yards, one TD, and an interception, which was a pick-6 and, frankly, a really poor decision.
“Don’t throw it,” Shanahan said. “You do a quick game to the field. A lot of times you expect a corner to just play off and look inside and not thinking you’re going to throw it to a back, but you have to see the throw. The corner is flat footed. He made a great break on the ball. That’s why it’s scary to throw to the field. Jimmy’s got the arm to do that, but that corner teed off on it and made a risky gamble and made us pay. That’s one you’ve got to learn from and it happens.”
It was Garoppolo’s first regular season game since last September when he tore his ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs. Quite a few of his throws were off-target, which is cause for concern for the 49ers, but it is Week One, so no need to panic yet.
“If receivers touch it, you expect them to catch it,” Shanahan said. You want the receivers to catch it any time they can touch it. We always challenge the quarterback to try to make it easier on them.”
One of Garoppolo’s better throws was a 39-yard touchdown pass to Richie James on the first drive of the third quarter, that put the Niners up 13-7. The Sherman pick-6 came on the next drive and the 49ers never gave up the lead.
“This whole game is complimentary football,” Garoppolo said. “Defense gets a turnover, what do we do with it? Them helping us and us helping them; special teams mixed in there. Everyone plays a role, so I think we did a good job of that today.”
Running back Tevin Coleman left the game with an ankle injury, and Shanahan said he is concerned about it. Coleman will have an MRI tomorrow, when the team is in Youngstown, Ohio.
All in all, the 49ers can be happy that they were able to finish the game and come away with a victory on the road. They’re going to have clean up the penalties and the offense, but for now, they’re on to Cincinnati.