Weather the Storm: 49ers must lean on coaching and depth as injuries look to derail season
"What the hell is going on?" I thought to myself, as defensive lineman Solomon Thomas held onto his knee at MetLife Stadium, after Nick Bosa had just done the same thing one minute earlier.
It was like watching a live replay of the same injury to two separate players. The injuries were so close together in time, the cart that takes the players back to the locker room didn't even make a pause in between the two ailments.
But, oh it didn't stop there. Soon after, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo rolled his ankle and couldn't finish the game with a high-ankle sprain. Running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert both did not see much action in the latter parts of the game with knee injuries.
San Francisco was already without stars George Kittle (knee), Richard Sherman (calf), Deebo Samuel (foot) and Dee Ford (neck) and the injury gods did not do them any favors on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. I hadn't seen a 49ers' team in my life that has dealt with so many injuries to starters in a short span of time.
A shortened off-season program, combined with a limited preseason and a sticky, brand-new turf at MetLife Stadium will be the reasons for the majority of the 49ers' core to be sidelined, likely watching the next handful of games as spectators.
As the injury gods rained down on the 49ers' attempt to return to the Super Bowl, the football scheduling gods seemed to have San Francisco in their hearts, because there's a chance Kyle Shanahan's squad can weather this storm and still be right in the playoff hunt.
While there's no official timelines on the majority of the injuries that the 49ers suffered on Sunday, the only two that may miss the entirety of the season are Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas.
The other ones: Kittle, Sherman, Ford, Garoppolo, Mostert, Coleman, Samuel are bound to return some time in the next month. Luckily, the 49ers have the easiest part of their schedule over the next three weeks.
Kyle Shanahan's team plays the Saquon Barkley-less New York Giants, an injury-plagued Philadelphia Eagles and Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Miami Dolphins over the next three weeks. While the season gets much tougher after that, with games against the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, Packers and Saints, the next three weeks look manageable.
While the 49ers might be discouraged with the number of injuries, they can take comfort in the fact that they can come out of this next stretch of three games with a 2-1 or 3-0 record with Nick Mullens starting at quarterback.
San Francisco will have the better coach and deeper roster (even with the injuries) in the next three games and will likely be favored to win all the games. If San Francisco can somehow weather this upcoming storm and get the majority of the offensive guys healthy and whole for the stretch run of the season, I'm not sure you can ask for much more.
The New York Giants have a brand new coach in Joe Judge and just lost their best player for the rest of the season. Their defensive talent is mediocre and Kyle Shanahan should have the edge with a week to prepare Nick Mullens for the start. Through two weeks, they are currently 26th in Total DVOA.
While the Eagles were originally going to be a bigger threat on paper, they blew a lead to the Washington Football Team and then quickly fell behind to the Los Angeles Rams. The Eagles currently are 32nd in Total DVOA at -43.2%. Quarterback Carson Wentz has not looked good and they'll have to travel cross-country for a Sunday Night Football showdown.
Brian Flores' Dolphins certainly have talent at various positions and compete hard, but they're 31st in Total DVOA at -36.0%. Their rush defense is currently ranked 29th and their pass defense is ranked 27th.
It's never ideal for a team to face this many injuries at a time, but the 49ers should be thankful that their schedule across the next three weeks bodes well for their success.
While Kyle Shanahan will update the media about the severity of these various injuries, I would imagine the 49ers get the majority of their roster outside of Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas at some point in the near future.
Till then, the combination of this coaching staff and depth that the 49ers have built up over the past three years will need to find a way to survive each week and weather the storm, while the starters get healthy.
It's a tough ask out of any group, but the 49ers' defensive line was able to consistently get pressure with Kentavius Street, Kevin Givens and Kerry Hyder on Sunday. Offensively, tight end Jordan Reed and Jerick McKinnon stepped up in the absence of Kittle and Mostert.
For the next few weeks, the quality of their play won't be judged as much. It's just about weathering the storm and finding a way to win games, till the team rounds back into shape.
(Cover Image: Sarah Stier, GETTY Images)