The 49ers started the season by handling their business, holding off a late surge from the Detroit Lions to finish week one with a win. I'm going to detail a few sets of numbers that I believe best tell the story of how this game resulted in a win for the 49ers.
1. 6/8, 200 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 136.0 passer rating
These were starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s numbers on balls thrown 10+ yards downfield against the Lions. Garoppolo consistently hit his receivers in the intermediate area over the middle, generating a handful of chunk plays downfield between the numbers as a result.
I thought Garoppolo looked as poised in the pocket as I’ve seen in years, having much better awareness while also displaying a certain confidence to buy time with his legs and utilize his mobility.
Garoppolo finished the day 17/25 for 314 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions while also posting awe-inspiring efficiency numbers of 0.820 EPA/Play (expected points added per play), which currently leads all quarterbacks in the league by a substantial margin.
Overall the play from Garoppolo was extremely encouraging, as he will look to carry this momentum into their week 2 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
2. Zero pressures allowed
The 49ers made it a point to address the offensive line this offseason, and the early returns were fantastic. Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, and Alex Mack all posted clean sheets on Sunday, meaning none of the three allowed a single pressure or sack in 27 pass-blocking snaps.
That kind of consistency up the middle and on the left side was huge for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who, as a result, had time to throw for over 300 yards from what were almost exclusively clean pockets over the course of the game.
Daniel Brunskill and Mike McGlinchey each allowed one pressure apiece but otherwise posted solid games. The offensive line as a whole was fantastic. It wasn’t just the pass protection as the unit dominated the trenches early and often opened up holes for huge chunk plays in the rushing game. Any game that maxes out your pressures allowed at one should be considered a major victory for any offensive line.
3. 31 pressures, 3 sacks, 6 QB hits, 22 hurries
The 49ers' defensive line remains the backbone of this team, and the unit as a whole dominated a sub-par Lions offensive line. Four different 49ers players logged at least 5 pressures (Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Kentavius Street). Armstead led the way with 9 pressures (was initially recorded as 10), and Bosa, Ford, and Street all logged one sack apiece.
Sunday’s game saw the 49ers bring wave after wave of pass rushers in, effectively disrupting the timing of the Lions' offense while also not creating too large of a workload on any of the first team players.
The looks used were extremely creative as well. For example, Samson Ebukam lined up in the 3 technique on the final defensive play of the game, sealing the win with a pressure generated off of a stunt he ran from the interior with Street.
4. 73 yards after contact
This was the amount of yardage picked up by rookie running back Elijah Mitchell after being contacted by Lions defenders yesterday. Mitchell was thrust into a big role early with Raheem Mostert having to leave the game and Trey Sermon being a healthy scratch, and Mitchell delivered with an impressive 104 yards on 19 carries.
I did a thread a couple of weeks ago discussing Mitchell's willingness to run north to south while not shying away from contact, something that was synonymous with his college tape from Louisiana as well.
While Mostert is unquestionably the 49ers RB1 when he is healthy, Mitchell gives them tremendous insurance as a guy who has very similar traits, which should allow the 49ers rushing game not to suffer a severe setback should Mostert’s injury keep him out for an extended amount of time.
49ers rookie RB Elijah Mitchell is extremely fast, & that speed should not be downplayed, but he is so much more than just a speed threat.— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) September 3, 2021
He runs north to south with a tremendous amount of physicality
Watch him put 54 on his back when the two collide in the hole on this play pic.twitter.com/Ap9CC7PTSA
5. 20.07 miles per hour
This was the top speed reached by Deebo Samuel on his 79-yard touchdown reception (per Next Gen Stats). Samuel had himself quite the day, posting 9 receptions for 189 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. I thought the top speed number was so important because it really highlights how dangerous Samuel is with the ball in his hands.
We have all witnessed how tough it is for opposing defenders to bring down Samuel, who is essentially a battering ram playing wide receiver, but he has always been faster than he gets credit for, and his ability to combine that raw power with that kind of top-end speed creates the ability to have an explosive play every time he touches the ball.