The San Francisco 49ers opened their 2021 season with a 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions, but an injury to one of their top defensive backs put the brakes on the victory and could have a long-term effect on their season.
With a 24-point lead and less than eight minutes to go, Jason Verrett injured his right knee. The 49ers fear Verrett could tear his ACL, an injury that would sideline their best cornerback of the season. It would be a blow to the San Francisco pass defense.
After Verrett’s injury, the 49ers defense would allow Detroit to score 16 unanswered points to get back into the game. With less than a minute to go, Deebo Samuel would appear to be on track for a game scoring the opening goal, but the ball will be snatched from his hands to give Detroit one last chance to steal the victory.
Detroit would lead the ball to the 49ers 25-yard line, but the 49ers defense would step up the pressure with Samson Ebukam pressuring Jared Goff to end the run and secure the win.
Let’s take a look at the answers to the burning questions I asked on Friday.
1. Can Kyle Shanahan understand week 1? YES
The 34 points scored by the 49ers offense was by far the best result of Shanahan’s tenure. San Francisco’s offense was very good throughout the game, averaging eight yards per game and the 49ers have only been able to start with a win for the second time in the past five years.
2. Can Jimmy Garoppolo understand week 1? YES
Much like the head coach, Jimmy Garoppolo had the best opening week performance of his time as the 49ers starting quarterback, finishing 17-25, 314 yards and a touchdown. It was the first 300-yard game for Garoppolo since a Week 14 win over New Orleans in 2019.
Garoppolo’s main target that day was Deebo Samuel. The two connected on nine of 12 targets for 189 yards highlighted by a 79-yard touchdown that would give San Francisco a 38-10 lead near the halfway point of the third quarter.
3. Can the 49ers defense continue to own Jared Goff? YES
While Goff’s final numbers look decent, 38-57, 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, the 49ers defense did a very good job keeping him in check until the end of the fourth quarter.
Goff’s struggles when under pressure were detailed ahead of the game, and it took place at the end of the second quarter. Facing third and eights, Goff came back to pass and Dee Ford was able to put pressure on the Lions quarterback, forcing a bad pitch that would be intercepted and returned for a touchdown by linebacker Dre Greenlaw to give the 49ers a lead of 28-10 at halftime.
Pressure on Goff would also result in the end of Detroit’s final possession. Facing fourth and nine yards on the San Francisco 24-yard line, Samson Ebukam would pass and force Goff to make an incomplete pitch to seal the 49ers’ victory.
4. Will Kyle Shanahan engage in the racing game? YES
Shanahan did a really good job keeping the 49ers’ offense balanced throughout the game. San Francisco had 55 offensive snaps against Detroit, 29 assists and 26 points.
The 49ers managed to maintain that balance despite losing Raheem Mostert for the game with a knee injury after just two races. With Mostert absent, rookie Elijah Mitchell stepped in to fill the void. In his third run of the game, Mitchell would sweep 38 yards for a touchdown, passing through the grip of Lions defensemen on his way to the end zone. Mitchell would gain 104 yards on 16 carries in his first regular-season game in the NFL.
5. How will defense fill in the gaps? Rue Kentavius and Deommodore Lenoir
Kentavius Street started in place of Javon Kinlaw and rookie Deommodore Lenoir replaced Emmanuel Moseley in the starting lineup. The two made their presence felt throughout the game.
Street would record the first sack of his NFL career when he knocked out Goff in the first quarter. Street also recorded two quarterback hits, three total tackles and one tackle for a loss.
Making his first start in the NFL, Lenoir would only allow a single three-yard-four-pitch reception in his cover. Pretty good day considering Jared Goff stepped back to pass 55 times during the day.
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