The 49ers won a game by 20 points over a divisional rival in Week 2, and you’d have no idea based on the current discourse. Let’s look at some of the winners and losers from Sunday’s 27-7 victory over the Seahawks.
S - Talanoa Hufanga
One of the biggest question marks for the 49ers coming into the season was whether the safeties would hold up in coverage. Through two games, Talanoa Hufanga has gotten his hands on three passes. He’s nearly intercepted each one of them. Sunday, Hufanga jumped two routes, with one resulting in an interception by Tashaun Gipson. Hufanga made a tackle for loss early in the game. He’s constantly in the action, and his awareness and intensity have been a welcomed addition full-time to the 49ers defense. Hufanga appears to be the real deal.
Edge rusher - Nick Bosa
It shouldn’t come off as repetitive to see Bosa here. Dominating every game is what makes the best players who they are. Bosa had four solo tackles, including two sacks. He lived in Seattle’s backfield as he hit Geno Smith on three separate rushes. Bosa’s quest for his first Defensive Player of the Year award is off to a strong start.
Last week, in critical situations, the offensive line broke down. The line only allowed three QB hits on 24 combined dropbacks for the 49ers quarterbacks. There were a couple of breakdowns that led to tackles for loss, but that’s to be expected with the inexperience along the interior.
The 49ers carried the ball 45 times for 189 yards as a team. Jeff Wilson’s Next Gen Stats give the best context for how the run blocking performed. Wilson only gained ten more yards over expected. Ty Davis-Price was only five in the same stat. That tells me that the line paved the way for each runner.
The Seahawks struggled to do anything offensively. Per RBSDM, they had a below-average success rate, a negative EPA per play, and turned the ball over three times.
Seattle’s most significant advantages are Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. You pick your poison. Who are you going to stop? The Niners chose Metcalf, as he had 35 receptions for four yards. Lockett’s production was there with 107 receiving yards, but that was the gamble Ryans took.
The 49ers were sound and played good situational football. There was only one penalty on the team. They limited Geno Smith to a 28% third down conversion rate, and abolished Seattle’s running game. The Seahawks averaged 2.6 yards per carry on 14 attempts with a long of eight. For reference, Lance’s seven-yard carry would have been the second longest rush for the Seahawks.
The defense was two steps ahead all day and didn’t break when it decided to bend. So take a bow, DeMeco.
For a few minutes after his injury, everyone connected to this team felt some emotion. That emotion varied from sadness to lighting this place on fire. The candle of excitement for this season blew out when you saw the future of the franchise carted off with a look on his face that said he wasn’t coming back.
You can’t help but feel for Lance, as he’ll go yet another season without developing at the NFL level. Instead, he’ll spend the next half year rehabbing. This was a big year for Lance as he would have been afforded mistakes so long as the team kept its head above water.
I fear what we saw in the second half, the same offense that looked unimaginative down the stretch in 2021 will rear its ugly head with Jimmy G. under center again.
You’ll see reports that the team was never fully behind Lance and plenty of “I told you so” types of responses. After the game, to a man, each player seemed broken up about Lance’s injury. That’s where the focus should lie.
I was looking forward to watching Lance go through the process and seeing how he learned from his struggles this year. But, unfortunately, that’ll be on hold for the second season in a row.
I don’t blame Shanahan for running his 225-pound athletic quarterback. However, the decision to kick a field goal on the two-yard line twice, after your offensive line had shown to be the better unit on both drives, is mind-boggling to me.
Going for it on 4th & 8 were the type of decisions you want to see from Shanahan. You can afford to be aggressive on offense when you have an elite defense. Fresh off an interception, you had the momentum, and the flow of the game said to go for it. The offense didn’t get it, but nothing hurt as they stopped Seattle and forced a turnover on the ensuing drive.
One fourth-down decision came on the opening drive after the Niners had been on the field for nearly six minutes, mostly running the ball. The second came after a Jake Brendel butt fumble.
Two 20-yard field goal attempts with the talent on this side of the ball and how consistently the offense had moved up and down the field prove that Shanahan is stuck in his eyes. Both drives were an opportunity to set the tone for the game.
Instead, San Francisco punted on their next two drives before icing the game with a 7-minute, back-breaking score.
Garoppolo came out firing, aggressive, and looked to be a new quarterback during the first few drives. Then, the offense reverted back. Even the touchdown drive before the end of the was more of Deebo Samuel and Jeff Wilson doing the heavy-lifting after the catch.
If Jimmy is pushing the ball down the field (first two drives), not flinching in the face of pressure (2nd & 14 to Aiyuk), recognizing the correct coverage, and getting the ball out on time to move the chains (throw out wide to Wilson on 3rd & 2), this offense will be among the best in the league.
An 8-for-11, 106-yard start turned into a 5-for-10 for 48 yard finish after the Seahawks made adjustments at halftime. Will we get any consistency from Jimmy, or will this be another rollercoaster season where it varies by the opponent?
There’s a chance that Garoppolo could play as he did during the first couple of drives if he’s the one taking reps with the starters every day during the week. Still, we have multiple years of evidence, so why would it be different this time?
After the game, Garoppolo said it felt like 2017, “where you just go out throwing, make plays, that’s what I like to do.” We’ll talk more about that later today. Because if that’s what it takes to let Garoppolo play freely, then it’s on the head coach to allow it to happen.