Now that we’ve had a day to let our feelings cool let’s talk about the winners and losers from the 49ers Week 1 matchup against the Cardinals. As frustrating as the loss was, the Niners made a plethora of mistakes and still were in a position to win the game. As talented as the team is, even they can’t overcome blunders in all three phases of the game. Missed throws, blown coverages, and a blocked punt are all recipes for disaster.
The offensive line
Jimmy Garoppolo dropped back to pass 38 times on Sunday, and the offensive line only allowed three QB hits, one sack, and had zero penalties. I thought they were fine as a run-blocking unit as well. Overall, the Niners averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 25 rushes. Six of those went for first downs, and three of them went for over 10 yards. The running backs only avoided two missed tackles, and the play-calling on the ground was questionable. Neither of those is the fault of the five guys blocking upfront. If the offensive line performs as they did during Week 1 for the remainder of the season, knowing they’ll improve, the 49ers offense is in good shape.
Kwon Alexander received some flack, and rightfully so as he had a few head-scratching plays, but Alexander forced multiple fumbles. PFF didn’t give him credit for any, but I saw a couple, and Kyle Shanahan said he saw three. The defense didn’t recover any, but that doesn’t mean Kwon shouldn’t get the credit. The odds you force three fumbles and don’t recover any are slim. I also liked Alexander getting through as a pass rusher as well as making three stops.
Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw were opportunistic when the ball came their way in coverage. Both players broke up a pass and combined to give up 16 yards on six targets. That’s superb. I was harsh on gameday, wondering why the 49ers were running their base defense so much against Arizona, but Robert Saleh made the correct choice as this gave the defense a better chance to get stops. Unfortunately, they didn’t execute. The linebacking corps is in a good spot moving forward.
The two big-money defensive linemen
Fair or not, the 49ers are relying on Dee Ford and Arik Armstead to take advantage of their 1-on-1 battles and create havoc. I recall Armstead bowling over a tackle and forcing Kyler Murray out of the pocket. Other than that, I’m not sure if he or Ford won another matchup all day. This goes back to me, ranting about “pressures.” The 49ers need someone impactful opposite of Nick Bosa, who came to play. If both the combo of Ford and Armstead is going to have an off-game against the pass, then they better show up against the run. They combined for one tackle. I recall Ford running too far upfield a couple of times, allowing Arizona to run for a first down underneath him. Gap integrity was a problem, as well.
I spent all offseason hyping up Moseley, and for a good reason. He showed on Sunday that he’s a competitor and will not back down from a challenge. I think Moseley played better than his stat line reads: Allowing nine receptions on 13 targets for 82 yards. The issue was Moseley gave up five first downs and didn’t get his hands on a pass. Furthermore, he took too long to get out of his breaks against Hopkins. That ground made it easy on Hopkins. My issue is Moseley doesn’t look like he trusts his speed. He’s fast. There is no denying that, but Moseley has to play fast to be effective, or else the top wideouts will continue to have success. Last year, Moseley’s issue was getting out of his breaks and allowing space on routes coming back to the quarterback. Those issues continued on Sunday.
If we are going to claim that Garoppolo is a top-10ish quarterback, then we can’t complain about his surroundings when they aren’t perfect. The last day and a half have been the talk about the Niners offensive line play, which was good, or the lack of wideouts, who did not play well. The best quarterbacks elevate talent around them. So far, we haven’t seen Jimmy do that. He looked flustered and out of rhythm on Sunday. Garoppolo’s throws weren’t just off; he didn’t see the field. The missed throws to open receivers were driving me nuts, and I rarely get emotional during games. It was to the point where Jimmy was missing guys on consecutive plays. I’ve seen fans reference Garoppolo’s box score, ignoring that both of his touchdowns were underneath throws to running backs, and 63% of Garoppolo’s yards came after the catch. Context, friends.
The play-calling on dropback routes was fine. Kyle Shanahan did a poor job of getting Garoppolo easy throws. You can’t drop back 37 times and only have 12 dropbacks as play-action. That’s not Shanahan’s offense, and it has never been. Why change now? Something tells me we’ll see Jimmy G using play-action closer to 50% of the time moving forward to make life easier on him.
McKinnon only finished with 20 receiving yards and had a drop, so this may not go over well with some. The drop likely cost the 49ers a long field goal attempt, but there is no doubt Jet looked like his old self through the air. Two of his three receptions went for first downs, and 18 of his 20 yards came after the catch. He wasn’t open on the wheel route down the sideline, but that’s a throw the 49ers never attempted during 2019 to a running back. McKinnon gives the Niners a threat out of the backfield down the field, which will come in handy later.
I had my doubts about McKinnon as a runner during training camp, but he had a nice 16-yard scamper where you could see sharp cuts. McKinnon also had six yards after contact.
I appreciate relentless players. Bosa didn’t have a sack, though he did have one QB hit. You could see Bosa seemingly on every drive chasing Kyler Murray down or making a play behind or at the line of scrimmage. Bosa finished with five stops and would have had a sack on any quarterback that doesn’t run a 4.3 40-yard dash. Even as Bosa became visibly tired, he did not let up. He’s the best player on a defense that has a ton of talent. Yeah, he missed a tackle, but Bosa also forced a fumble. When the edge rusher on the opposite side of Bosa comes to play, Nick will have a field day.