Just like head coach Kyle Shanahan said in the locker room post-game, “every win in the NFL is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.”
The 49ers took a 30-13 lead over the Lions into the 4th quarter and it seemed like they were cruising to a victory. Before you could set your drink down, San Francisco was a holding penalty away from the Lions having a chance to take the lead late in the game.
Regardless, San Francisco heads to Kansas City sitting at 1-1. Let’s take a look at some highlights — and lowlights — from the 49ers’ first win in 2018.
Rookie Dante Pettis’ 35-yard catch
With wide receiver Marquise Goodwin out with an injury, Shanahan promoted Pettis into the starting lineup, giving the rookie extra snaps after his impressive debut in Minnesota. Early in the first quarter, Pettis is matched up against Lions’ corner Teez Tabor and is able to easily gain separation for a big catch from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
WR Kendrick Bourne’s first career touchdown
After not getting many touches in his rookie season, second-year wideout Kendrick Bourne is finally seeing more time on the field. Lined up in the backfield, Shanahan draws up a beauty, clearing out the left side of the field. It allows Garoppolo to toss it up to Bourne for a walk-in touchdown.
LB Elijah Lee’s forced fumble
After having a rough game, reserve linebacker Elijah Lee came up with one of the game’s biggest plays, punching the ball out from Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford. Pass rusher Cassius Marsh falls on top and lets the 49ers’ offense take over.
49ers’ DeForest Buckner brings down Stafford
In his second year, Buckner had three sacks for the entire season. Two games into 2018, Buckner already has matched that number. San Francisco’s best defender continues to blow by opposing offensive lines to take down quarterbacks. Buckner teams up with Ronald Blair III to bring down Stafford in this play.
Rookie D.J. Reed almost ends the 49ers’ special teams’ touchdown streak
It’s been years since the 49ers’ have had a returner take a kick off back for a touchdown and many fans thought the streak ended today. Reed was able to take the kick off 92 yards, before he was called for a face-mask penalty that negated the touchdown.
It’s “Celek Time” in Santa Clara, CA
The 49ers’ red-zone struggles have been well-noted. Their best receivers inside the 20-yard line have been their tight ends, George Kittle and Garrett Celek. This was one of Garoppolo’s best throws of the day, faking the hand off and finding Celek down the middle of the field for the easy six.
Running back Matt Breida rips off huge touchdown run
With running back Jerick McKinnon out, the concern among most 49ers’ fans is who’s going to step up next for San Francisco. Breida stepped up in Sunday’s contest, adding 138 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown. This play was opened up with beautiful blocking from tackle Mike McGlinchey and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon gets fooled on Lions’ touchdown
On this play, Witherspoon bites on the Lions’ Kenny Golladay’s fake, allowing him to easily get past Witherspoon for an easy touchdown grab. There’s absolutely no reason for Witherspoon to fall for this, considering most of the defenders were close to the line of scrimmage. If Witherspoon is able to stay with the receiver, the 49ers don’t give up six on this play.
Garoppolo almost hands the game to the Lions on this near interception
With the 49ers needing a first down to ice the game, Shanahan and Garoppolo were running some questionable play calls, primarily passing the ball, when they should’ve been running it to burn the clock. On this play, Garoppolo stares down the receiver, allowing the Lions’ defender to jump the route and pick off the 49ers’ quarterback. However, a holding penalty on the opposite side of the field negated the interception and ended the Lions’ chances.
San Francisco should have won this game easily based on the way they played in the first three quarters, but had chances to blow the game in the final frame. They won’t be able to play that poorly against Kansas City and still come away with a victory.