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49ers-Rams recap: Winners & losers from Week 1

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It was a solid game on many levels, but there is room for improvement.

The San Francisco 49ers improved to 1-0 with a 28-0 shutdown of the Los Angeles Rams. There were plenty of positives and negatives to take from the game, but seeing the team jump out to a 1-0 record with a win over a division rival is always a plus. For this season, I thought each morning after we’d have a look at the winners and losers from the game. We did this in the preseason, and while roles are mostly established, there is still something to take away from it.

Winners

1. Pass rush

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but seeing the defensive pressure was a pleasant surprise. We saw Arik Armstead and Ahmad Brooks get pressure, but Jim O’Neil also dialed up a variety of blitzes. I am curious how much we’ll see the next three weeks, versus what the team will have in mind once Aaron Lynch returns. The Rams offensive line has some question marks, but it was nice to see a productive outing.

2. Cornerbacks

The 49ers were without Chris Davis and Keith Reaser, but the 49ers cornerbacks held things down well. O’Neil had eight men in the box regularly, leaving the corners on islands to a certain degree. We saw great coverage from both Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward. They’ll face much stronger offenses, but it’s nice to get some confidence early.

3. Carlos Hyde

Yep, he’s a bell cow back for sure. Hyde rushed 23 times for 88 yards, and it was a grinding night. He had some great runs where he eluded tacklers, and he had some great runs where he bulldozed tacklers. He also had his share of tough carries that netted two or three yards. But he was the offensive weapon the 49ers desperately needed on a night like this.

4. Offensive line

It’s one game, but it was night and day for the right side of the line compared to last season. Andrew Tiller and Trent Brown are light years ahead of Jordan Devey and Erik Pears. There is a lot of football left this season, but it was great seeing a line that showed actual competence with regularity.

5. Chip Kelly, coaching staff

It’s only one game, against a bad Rams team, but how can you not like what Chip Kelly and his coaching staff had dialed up on Monday? Jeff Fisher had seven months of his own and his team couldn’t get out of its own way. I’m not prepared to call Kelly the second coming of Bill Walsh, but I was really pleased with his first effort in the regular season.

Losers

1. Blaine Gabbert

The 49ers won, were effective in the red zone, and put up 28 points. And yet, it’s still hard to get overly enthused about Blaine Gabbert. I loved the scrambling, and think he did some good work in connecting with Jeremy Kerley. And considering how bad the offense has been in the recent past, all those first down conversions are a plus. And maybe with a regular season game under his belt, Gabbert can build on this with Kelly. But for the time being, he has a lot of work in front of him.

I suppose it might not be fair to leave Gabbert as the only offensive loser in this, but the offensive problems revolved in part around his work. He dealt with some drops, and Shaun Draughn lost a fumble on one drive. Add in some questionable play-calling with the 14-0 lead in the third quarter, and blame for some of the inconsistency can be spread round. But, Gabbert needs to show some significant improvement. I doubt he’s in danger of losing his job quiet yet, but if he doesn’t improve, that could change.

2. Kick return coverage

Chip Kelly mentioned it in the post-game press conference, but the kick coverage unit was inconsistent. They gave up 29.5 yards per return on a pair of kickoffs. The upside was that the team had to kick off a lot more than the Rams! And of course, the punt return coverage was mostly great.