The San Francisco 49ers opened their 2021 season with a 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions, however an injury to one of their best defensive backs put a damper on the win and may have a long-term effect on their season.
With a 24-point lead and less than eight minutes left to go in the game, Jason Verrett went down with an injury to his right knee. The 49ers fear that Verrett tore his ACL, an injury that would sideline their best cornerback for the season. This would be a crushing blow to San Francisco’s pass defense.
After the injury to Verrett, the 49ers defense would allow Detroit to score 16 unanswered points to climb back into the game. With under one minute remaining in the game Deebo Samuel would look to be on his way to a game clinching first down only to have the ball knocked out of his hands to set up one last chance to Detroit to steal the victory.
Detroit would drive the ball down to the 49ers 25-yard line, but the 49ers defense would step up with Samson Ebukam pressuring Jared Goff into an incompletion to end the drive and secure the win.
Let’s take a look at the answers to the burning questions that I asked on Friday.
1. Can Kyle Shanahan figure out week 1? YES
The 34 points scored by the 49ers offense was by far the best output during Shanahan’s tenure. San Francisco’s offense was very good throughout the game, averaging eight yards per play and the 49ers were able to start with a win for only the second time in the last five years.
2. Can Jimmy Garoppolo figure out week 1? YES
Just 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 one touchdown. This was the first 300-yard game for Garoppolo since a week 14 victory over New Orleans in 2019.
Garoppolo’s top target on the 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 of keeping him in check until late in the fourth quarter.
Goff’s struggles when pressured were detailed prior to the game, and this played out late in the second quarter. Facing third and eight, Goff dropped back to pass and Dee Ford was able to get pressure on the Lions quarterback forcing a bad throw that would be intercepted and returned for a touchdown by linebacker Dre Greenlaw to give the 49ers a 28-10 halftime lead.
Pressure on Goff would lead to the end of Detroit’s final possession as well. Facing fourth and nine at the San Francisco 24 yard line, Samson Ebukam would get through and force Goff to throw incomplete to seal the 49ers win.
4. Will Kyle Shanahan commit to the running game? YES
Shanahan did a very good job keeping the 49ers offense balanced throughout the game. San Francisco had 55 offensive snaps against Detroit, 29 called passes and 26 runs.
The 49ers were able to maintain this balance despite losing Raheem Mostert for the game with a knee injury after only two carries. With Mostert out, rookie Elijah Mitchell stepped in to fill the void. On his third carry of the game Mitchell would take a toss sweep 38 yards for a touchdown, running through the grasp of Lions defenders on his way to the endzone. Mitchell would gain 104 yards on 16 carries in his first NFL regular season game.
5. How will the defense fill the gaps? Kentavius Street and Deommodore Lenoir
Kentavius Street started in place of Javon Kinlaw and rookie Deommodore Lenoir replaced Emmanuel Moseley in the starting lineup. Both made their presence felt throughout the game.
Street would record the first sack of his NFL career when he took down Goff during the first quarter. Street also recorded two quarterback hits, three total tackles and one tackle for loss.
Making his first NFL start, Lenoir would allow only one reception for three yards on four throws into his coverage. A pretty good day considering Jared Goff dropped back to pass 55 times on the day.