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3 things we learned following the 49ers win over the Lions (and 2 things I still think about)

Matt Breida, a shaky defense, and a QB willing to get creamed. Let’s look at what we learned from the 49ers first home game.

I don’t think I’ve been this angry with a win in a long time. The San Francisco 49ers should have had their win against the Detroit Lions put away by the end of the third quarter. Then came the muffed handoff to Pettis that made no sense. Whatever it was, it’s a lot of something they may not want to do or call again in that situation.

Not sure if calling it “cute” is accurate, but it seems like a play that could have been saved for later.

Regardless of that blunder, 49ers still got out with the win, but they showed they have a lot to work on on both sides of the ball. Here are three things we learned and two things I still think about following this win:

Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t play scared

Last week, the Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter said the 49ers quarterback was getting scared. Well, if getting scared against the Lions is Garoppolo tucking the ball and taking a hit instead of forcing it, then, all right. The Lions did a good job blanketing 49ers receivers and rather than try to force a ball for a stupid interception, Garoppolo tucked and either A: Threw it out of bounds or B: Took the sack. The latter happened far more frequently than anyone would have liked. Taking a look at the film later, the only thing Garoppolo should have done was try to run it up the middle and slide, but that’s neither here nor there.

Of course, I said all of this before Garoppolo threw what would be a horrible interception in the 4th quarter. The interception was nullified with a Lions holding penalty. 49ers got away with one there.

The 49ers pass rush is a huge issue

Say what you want about the Vikings defensive line, but the Lions line is worse. Far worse. The fumble is nice, and DeForest Buckner notching another sack is awesome, but that’s it? One of the more embarrassing moments was in the second half when the 49ers would send blitz after blitz and get nothing. Later on with a 3rd and six, the 49ers put three on the line to rush Stafford and everyone else in coverage. The play got blown dead by a time out, but it looked like there was no disguise—the 49ers were just putting three on Stafford. Get your pass rushers lined up for the draft, John Lynch.

Matt Breida is a very good running back

So Matt Breida breaks out a huge run against the Lions? Stop me if you haven’t heard that before, because you should have. He squeaked out against the Jacksonville Jaguars last year to seal the deal with a nice touchdown run that took up almost half the field. Right now him and Morris are splitting carries near the middle (Breida had 11 Sunday, Morris 14). In 2019, that number may be the same but with Jerick McKinnon in for Morris. I said Breida had a huge opportunity with the 49ers this year and he made the most of it Sunday. Let’s see what Breida can do throughout the season, but more of this and he’ll take a huge step in carrying the offense.

Oh yeah, and you have to see the run again, because it’s awesome.

and the things I think about:

Why did the 49ers call a Pettis handoff when up by 14 points into the fourth quarter?

A redzone trip with 12:07 to go in the fourth quarter was where things started unraveling. For whatever the reason, Jimmy Garoppolo did some sort of handoff to an in-motion Dante Pettis who botched the delivery. Pettis recovered the ensuing fumble, but the play was awful all around. It’s not quite on the level of the option pitch from a few years back (that play was plain dumb) as logic came with this one, but it has the makings of misdirection that isn’t necessary at that point. This is something we can all debate.

This was also the play that let the Lions back into the game. The 49ers settled for a field goal, and the near-collapse began. This should have been the drive to seal things. Instead, the 49ers have fans biting their nails until the end of the game. The play itself is drawn well. It’s just not something necessary at that point in the game.

Why does the NFL (and its owners by extension) insist on not reviewing personal fouls?

In the 4th quarter, Matthew Stafford took off down the sideline and got bumped by Elijah Lee out of bounds. Some may call it dirty, but the fact is Stafford is a runner and IN bounds. That means not only is the hit legal, but more concerning if Lee didn’t clock him. After the whistle, LeGarrette Blount bashed into Lee, getting himself ejected. The officials got the end-decision right, but for a good five minutes you saw striped shirts standing around, trying to figure out who to call for what.

All of this could be avoided if the NFL would review personal fouls. Even the NBA, which has its own officiating issues, knows to go huddle somewhere and review who instigated what to get it right.

Not like it mattered, one play latter after blatant holding, Stafford threw a deep throw to Golden Tate beginning the Lions comeback to a game that should have been put away.

Final Thoughts:

Remember, the 49ers are still rebuilding. It may be a bit accelerated with the arrival of some pieces like Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman, but they are still rebuilding. What they showed today should be expected, but there are still things they need to work on. What is interesting is how expectations have changed. The 49ers in 2017 would have been partying to have won this game in Week 8, in Week 2, everyone’s ticked off they didn’t blow the Lions out. Their game was maddening at certain points, but they showed a lot of improvement and the ending shows how much that locker room has changed since last year. It isn’t going to get any easier, they have Kansas City this week.