This week, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Detroit Lions in their first home game of the season. Both teams feel they underwhelmed in Week 1, and are looking to rebound against one another.
Week 2 may be the most polarizing week of the season, even more so than Week 1. Despite all the overreactions that stem from the first week, game two is even worse. When a team people that have dubbed as good or bad doesn’t meet their preconceived notions, all hell breaks loose and people are dumbfounded that the team they thought was going to go 0-16 won a game.
With that in mind, the upcoming 49ers/Lions game has an extra dimension to it. Both teams were expected to compete for their divisions, and going 0-2 is going to spawn some fiery hot takes.
[INJURY REPORT: 49ers vs. Lions]
The age old question that fans ask each other is: Would you rather get blown out, or stay in a close game just to lose at the end? In this game, we have teams from both sides of that question.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ coaches are smart enough to know that the Lions aren’t as bad as they played last week. Matt Stafford might have had the worst game of his career, and literally every other facet of their team broke down. You can’t expect that kind of meltdown two weeks in a row.
However, the Lions still definitely showed some weaknesses. If the 49ers want to be considered a good team, they have to exploit those weaknesses and win the game. That’s just what good teams do. They win the games they should. And playing at home against a team coming off a short week that lost their previous game by 31 points at home is definitely a game they should win.
Now don’t get me wrong, the 49ers definitely weren’t blameless in their Week 1 loss to the Vikings. There are a whole lot of things that they need to clean up if they want to win.
When you reach the red zone, you need to score touchdowns. Kicking field goals all game just isn’t going to cut it, and the Niners figured that out last Sunday.
San Francisco entered the red zone four times against the Vikings, and came away with three field goals and a turnover. If they convert just two of those into touchdowns, they could have won that game. No one really looked great in the red zone. Jimmy Garoppolo was missing throws, the offensive line couldn’t get any push, Alfred Morris fumbled the ball, and the receivers dropped a pass or two in the end zone. That’s something the team needs to fix.
Despite getting absolutely destroyed in just about every facet of the game, the Lions put up a good fight in the end zone on Monday. They only allowed one red-zone touchdown in four attempts. The 49ers with Shanahan and Garoppolo have never had any problems moving the ball in between the 20s, but they need to convert those red zone trips into touchdowns if they want to win football games.
Quite frankly, you can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to win games. And that’s exactly what the 49ers did in Week 1. Three interceptions and one fumble, each more costly than the next. The Vikings have a great defense, but the 49ers gifted them at least three of their turnovers.
Down 10-3 with the ball inside the 5-yard line, Morris fumbled while fighting to get it across the goal line. This was a great play by the Vikings’ defense. That just can’t happen. It might be why we didn’t see much of Morris for the remainder of the game. Garoppolo threw three extremely costly interceptions. One was a pick-six that Kendrick Bourne admitted to running the wrong route.
There’s not really much you can do about that, but it still counts as shooting yourself in the foot.
Another one was Garoppolo badly missing Dante Pettis on a slant route, that All-Pro Xavier Rhodes just happened to get a hand on, and then got a lucky bounce into his chest. Garoppolo needs to be able to make this throw. The last one that ended the game for the 49ers was just bad. Garoppolo stared down his receiver the entire route and threw right into the waiting arms of safety Harrison Smith.
The Lions forced two turnovers against the Jets, but one of them was gifted to them by rookie Sam Darnold on the first play of the game. As long as Garoppolo doesn’t break the cardinal rule of quarterbacking and throw across the field, that shouldn’t happen again.
Just like with the last two points, this one is avoidable. And definitely the most avoidable. The receivers need to be able to catch the ball. The typically sure-handed Pierre Garçon had a rough game where he even dropped a few passes, including one in the end zone.
Tight end George Kittle also dropped a wide open pass that possibly could’ve gone for a touchdown. And on the very next play, Garoppolo throws a pick-six. Although not really a drop, Dante Pettis had a pass in his hands in the end zone, but had it ripped out at the last second.
That’s three potential touchdowns missed because of drops. Even though there was a couple great plays by the defense, if you get both hands on the ball, you need to come down with it.
Absolutely no one can criticize the team for this, but the 49ers need to find a way to stay healthy. Losing Marquise Goodwin at the beginning of the game definitely threw a wrench into an already-suffering game plan after Jerick McKinnon went down.
Then losing two right guards, and making your rookie right tackle — who had never played right guard before in his life — fill in that spot in the line is just extraordinarily bad luck.
I’m not sure what needs to happen, but the 49ers are dropping like flies and they need to find a way to stay on the field. Remember, good teams find ways to win. If the 49ers lose this game, not only will they be starting off at 0-2 and losing ground on the Rams, but it might just be a sneak peek into exactly what kind of season this is going to be.
Media courtesy USA Today Sports Images, Bay Area News Group, AP Images