There will always be overreactions week to week in the NFL, but perhaps none bigger than the first week of the season. In the case of the 49ers, you could overreact to each quarter.
It took one snap on offense for some fans to call for Trey Lance. If you missed the game, you’d think DeMeco Ryans should be out of a job since the defense allowed 33 points to one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
Let’s use some nuance and discuss some overreactions from Sunday’s 49er win.
Brandon Aiyuk is in the doghouse like Dante Pettis!
The 49ers traded up for Aiyuk during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. After an impressive rookie season and a strong start to training camp, Aiyuk seemed as though he’d have 100 yards against the Lions and breakout on the national scene.
What flew under the radar during the preseason were the drops and inconsistencies from Aiyuk. Missing a week of practice with a hamstring strain didn’t help, which led to Kyle Shanahan saying the team wanted to be careful with Aiyuk. However, Shanahan also acknowledged that Trent Sherfield had earned playing time.
Aiyuk could have a career-high next week against the Eagles, and this will all be moot. There’s no doubt that this was Shanahan sending a message to the second-year wideout not only to be consistent but to “bring it” each practice.
Based on Aiyuk’s lone punt return, I don’t think he was fully recovered from his hamstring injury. There wasn’t that extra gear we’re used to seeing from Aiyuk when the ball is in his hands.
Aiyuk will be fine, and by the end of the season, we’ll be laughing at how many yards he has based on not being targeted in Week 1.
The Lions came out and ran the ball well while moving the ball relatively easy against the 49ers' defense to start the game. There were too many big plays and yards in general that we shouldn’t overlook. Based on how the game started, ended, and how many points Detroit scored, it’s easy to come away thinking San Francisco’s defense was lousy on Sunday.
Jared Goff, including garbage time, finished with a negative EPA per play and a QB rating of 24.9 (Jimmy Garoppolo’s was 90, for comparison). The Lions had a success rate of 38% on third and fourth down and managed five yards per play, despite those early and late drives.
The 49ers will have to improve their open-field tackling, especially against the Eagles next week, and must force more than three punts on 14 drives. But, they sacked Goff three times, hit him on another six plays, and broke up four passes.
With how Ryans calls plays, the variance will be far greater than what we saw under Robert Saleh. This was his first game as a play-caller. There were always going to be growing pains. Give Ryans a chance before giving up on him.
Trey Sermon is a bust!
Aiyuk wasn’t the only youngster Shanahan sent a message to. Sermon, the running back the 49ers traded up for this past draft, was inactive. Shanahan said after the game that Sermon wasn’t one of the three best running backs in camp.
That was despite running exclusively with the starters.
Giving up on Sermon after one game seems silly. We’ll see what happens with Raheem Mostert’s injury, but if he has to miss time, you can bet that Sermon will play. JaMycal Hasty had one carry and was suspect in pass protection. If not for Jimmy Garoppolo’s mobility, we’d be talking about Hasty.
That’s where Sermon can come in and help, as the 49ers don’t have a true third-down back. Also, it’s ok to give other players credit. Did you see Elijah Mitchell carry the ball? He had 19 rushes for 104 yards and looked good. Like, really good. It doesn’t matter who gives the offense 100 yards.
Sermon should be a factor in this offense. My guess is through the air at first. But, again, with the space in this offense, it wouldn’t surprise if Sermon had a game similar to Mitchell’s sooner than later.
The 49ers won’t be able to close teams out
Sunday was one of the more bizarre games you’ll see. The score was 41-17 in the fourth quarter. We have to humanize the game. When you’re up that big, it’s natural to take your foot off the gas and think you have the game in hand.
The defense stopped the Lions on fourth down after the field goal that made it 41-17. Then, Jason Verrett’s injury happened, and the wind went out of the entire team’s sails.
After that, think about everything that transpired.
What felt like a garbage-time touchdown was followed with an onside kick that took a funny hop and bounced off George Kittle’s facemask. Instead, the Lions got the ball with a short field and then scored in 46 seconds. Within four minutes, the game went from 41-17 to 41-33.
From there, the 49ers converted a 3rd and long to seal the deal at least until Deebo Samuel was stripped by a Lions defender.
Martin Scorsese couldn’t script the final part of the fourth quarter. The probability that we see anything like this the rest of the season is slim. I’m more inclined to believe the 49ers needed this and will learn from letting up.