In a game that was truly a tale of two halves, the 49ers fell 19-10 in their season opener after surrendering 19 unanswered points to the Chicago Bears. There was a borderline monsoon on the field, but the product the 49ers put on it in the second half was far sloppier than the field itself. Here are the five biggest takeaways I had after watching this meltdown.
1. Relax, it's only Week 1
It was an ugly loss, and I will go more in-depth about it, but I started with this one for a reason. It's a 17-game season, and I can promise you that no matter how extreme you feel about something right now, there is a good chance that things will smooth out in the coming weeks.
Yes, it was a tough loss, and no the 49ers do not deserve a pass simply because it is week one. Just keep in mind that it is a marathon, not a sprint, and there is plenty of room to turn things around in the 17 weeks remaining in the regular season. I would echo this doubly for Trey Lance and whatever conclusions have been drawn.
You will see controversial takes from every corner of the internet; sports radio will be on fire this week talking about a quarterback change, how this team isn't a contender, etc. Just remember it's game one of 17, and many of those hot takes will likely end up aging like spoiled milk soon. R-E-L-A-X
2. Inexcusable lack of discipline
This was the classic "it's not that they lost, it's how they lost" kind of performance. The 49ers finished this game with 12 penalties for 99 yards, and those self-inflicted mistakes were the primary reason they lost this football game.
The 49er's defense gave the Bears offense a fresh set of downs via penalty on three separate third downs that would have otherwise stalled out, with all three coming on a drive that ultimately ended in a Bears touchdown.
The most egregious of which was easily a facemask penalty called on Dre Greenlaw with 6:54 remaining in the third quarter. On 3rd & 4 from their 34-yard line, the Bears offense attempted to run to the left side with David Montgomery. The 49ers' defense sto
Before this play, the 49ers' defense had shut out the Bears' offense, and Chicago had only managed to scrape together 74 yards on 33 plays for an average of 2.24 yards per play. The first six drives of the game for the Bears' offense resulted in either a punt or an interception. After this play, the Bears rattled off 19 unanswered points.
On top of the penalties, the 49ers' offense also committed costly turnovers at critical junctures in this game. Most notably, a fumble by Deebo Samuel on the Bears' 12-yard line on the game's opening drive almost assuredly took points off the board.
This one was pretty straightforward. The 49ers were sloppy on both sides of the football, and it cost them this game. They beat themselves, and they did so in grand fashion with an epic collapse over the last twenty minutes of this football game.
3. Air yards!
While the 49ers' offense is far from a finished product, a few explosive plays in this game were highly encouraging. Lance demonstrated an ability to push the ball downfield in a way that we haven't seen during Shanahan's tenure in San Francisco.
Lance had three completions of over 20 yards in this game, including a 45-yard pass to Jauan Jennings on a slot fade on 3rd down. Lance also had a couple of other excellent completions to Brandon Aiyuk and Ray-Ray McCloud, hitting both on a deep crosser downfield.
Being able to hit these throws will stress defenses going forward and provide a level of vertical spacing that will lighten the box and make life easier on the 49ers' ground game as well. Beyond the schematic benefits, watching explosive plays downfield in the pass game at the most fundamental level of being entertained is enjoyable.
4. The defense looks to be championship caliber
A couple of boneheaded mistakes completely shifted the narrative about the 49ers' defense over the next week. For the first two-thirds of this football game, the Bears' offense could not get anything going.
Talanoa Hufanga was all over the field making plays, finishing this game with 11 tackles and an interception. Javon Kinlaw flashed early, wreaking havoc in the middle of the line. Nick Bosa logged his first snap on his quest for the sack record, and the starting cornerback duo looked great in coverage for the majority of this contest.
The result is ultimately what matters, and the 49ers lost, but if we are talking projections with future performance, it's easy to envision a scenario where the flashes shown for large stretches in this game give confidence that the 49ers will finish this season with a top-five defense for the fourth straight season.
5. The wide back lives on
While it was a roller coaster offseason for the 49ers and their star wide receiver, one thing that appeared to be blown way out of proportion were the reports of Samuel being discontent with being utilized in his "wide back" role.
After hearing for months about how Samuel was adamant about not being used as an extension of the run game, he ended up recording the only touchdown of the game for the 49ers on a carry in the red zone.
Samuel finished this game with eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown, for an average of 6.5 yards per carry and a long of 27 yards.