The 49ers are 2-0, with both of those wins coming on the road. Now, San Francisco has its home opener against what feels like a divisional opponent at this point in the Green Bay Packers.
Aaron Rodgers got the best of the Niners last year, but we saw what happened in 2019 when the 49ers were healthy. So here's what we want to see from San Francisco Sunday night for them to come out on top.
Open up and let it fly
Kyle Shanahan has been keeping things "close to the vest" through two weeks of the season. You're on the road and looking to get out of there with a win. That seemed like the case last Sunday against the Eagles as the 49ers looked to run, throw quick passes, and move the chains. It was as vanilla as it gets.
That changes in primetime. This is the game where you open up, challenge the Packers down the field, and give your fans something to cheer about on offense. I'd like to see Shanahan put more on Jimmy Garoppolo's plate by asking him to stretch the field.
That doesn't mean only calling deep passes each possession. Remember the first game in 2019 when George Kittle was wide open down the field? We haven't seen the offense dial up any shot plays like that so far.
Those aggressive passes down the field loosen up the defense, which will open up the running game. The 49ers have guys that can win down the field, and the Packers' cornerbacks are average outside of Jaire Alexander at best. Plus, they could be breaking in a rookie making his first start. Shanahan should take advantage of that.
Get Sermon rolling
This is the game to get your rookie running back rolling as Green Bay is 25th in defensive rushing success rate. That number tells you on a down-to-down basis that they struggle to stop the run. In addition, the Packers are 30th in adjusted line yards allowing a staggering 5.05 yards for running back carries.
Hello, Trey Sermon. By default, he may have to start as everyone else is banged up or was recently signed. However, Shanahan said he expects Sermon to be cleared from the concussion protocol.
Mitchell had 19 and 17 carries in his first two starts. If Sermon is over 15 carries, that's a sign that the team has confidence in him. If Sermon gets to 20 carries, then the 49ers' rushing attack is moving the ball at will.
Sunday night has a breakout game feel for Sermon, who could undoubtedly use this confidence boost after only having one carry through two games.
"Sharks gotta eat"
During any "Baldy Breakdown" when he's highlighting defensive lineman, Brian Baldinger says, "sharks gotta eat, sharks smell blood in the water."
Outside of turnovers, the best shot the Packers have is for Aaron Rodgers to go "god-mode." How do you combat this? You make Rodgers uncomfortable. Rodgers has only been hurried three times through two games. When defenses get pressure, they sack Rodgers. The Packers are 24th in adjusted sack rate.
Green Bay has devised a game plan during its last three meetings against San Francisco to quickly get the ball out of Rodgers' hands. This might be the best defensive line Rodgers sees all year.
Nick Bosa has three sacks. Arik Armstead is a wrecking ball. Dee Ford provides the necessary speed off the edge. But then, you have guys like D.J. Jones and Arden Key who don't get the credit they deserve. Early pressure in this game from the 49ers could affect the Packers' game plan and go a long way in winning this game.
Don't do it, Davante
In three games against the 49ers, Devante Adams has 27 receptions on 40 targets for 348 yards and four touchdowns. That's 116 yards per game, and Adams has had a big play in each game.
Adams is objectively one of the three best receivers in the game. When you pair him with a future Hall of Famer, you get 100 yards per game against elite defenses. What will the 49ers do to slow Adams down?
Deommodore Lenoir figures to have a target on his back. Josh Norman played well last week, but there were non-targeted plays where Devonta Smith got the best of each player on slants. I'd expect Green Bay to challenge both of them, especially on the downs they feel where the 49ers blitz.
Slowing down the duo of Rodgers and Adams is much easier said than done. Pressure helps. Sure tackling won't hurt. But, this won't come down to one of Norman or Lenoir. It'll take a team effort from the 49ers. This should be a game where you make any other Packers wideout beat you.
Leaning on Lance's legs
A home opener feels like the best time to unveil your rookie QB. If the 49ers can't get their ground game going for whatever reason, I'd expect to see Trey Lance enter the game. Perhaps he will when the 49ers move the ball anyway, but this is the defense to build some confidence for Lance.
The tricky part is finding the best time to get him on the field without potentially taking Jimmy G out of rhythm. The 49ers found a way to do this Week 1, but the opportunity didn't present itself against the Eagles.
Having to account for an extra guy means San Francisco would always be +1 with Lance in the running game. You could run packaged plays with Lance in the same way you do with Garoppolo to avoid being too predictable.
I'm not sure to what extent, but I'd bet we see an increased workload Sunday for Lance.