So they almost blew a massive lead. So they were playing a horrible Lions team. So they suffered a key injury.
Let’s put that all on the shelf and see what’s what. The 49ers jumped out front and pummeled Detroit on the road Sunday, holding off a late rally to hold on for a 41-33 win on Week 1 of the NFL season. It’s all good.
Unless your name is Jason Verrett. The 49ers’ No. 1 cornerback went down with a soul-crushing knee injury with about seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and it looks like his season is over. The Niners had taken the foot off the gas pedal at that point, and the injury gave the Lions a weakness to exploit. Head coach Kyle Shanahan copped to the late-game letdown, and basically promised to not let it happen again.
“Any time you give a team the chance to get back in the game like that… What you gotta do to win is play every single down,” said Shanahan. “Fortunately, we were able to pull it out.”
Fortunately, indeed. The team travels to Philadelphia in Week 2, before returning to Santa Clara where they’ll host the visiting Green Packers on Sept. 26. In the meantime, the Niners plan to stay in the Eastern time zone, practicing in West Virginia.
Here’s what they’ll see when they roll back the tape. And here’s what you need to know.
Jimmy G triggered
If anyone believes the 49ers’ No. 1 QB is fine with all the speculation about first-round draft pick Trey Lance, then you don’t know jack about Jimmy.
You don’t get this far without a world-class competetive drive, and Garoppolo has that DNA to burn. He’s not ready to turn over the job to his presumptive understudy and you could see it on Sunday. Other than a fumble on the first snap of the day, Jimmy played at a high-level, connecting on 17 of 25 passes for 314 yards, while throwing for a touchdown and registering a 124.2 passer rating.
Those numbers are amazing. By comparison, Lance threw one pass on the day, connecting for five yards. It just happened to be a TD, making him the first 49er rookie to throw a touchdown on his first career attempt since the Falcons’ Matt Ryan did so back in 2008. Nice debut, kid. But Jimmy’s not going anywhere just yet.
Football is a brutal game. It literally kills some of its participants, if you take the long-term view. But the short-term look is not so pretty, either. It was heart-breaking to see Verrett go down, knowing he’d battled back from both ACL and achilles injuries in the past. This time, it’s another ACL and he’s done for the year. How much can a guy take?
“It’s awful. It definitely knocks the wind out of your sails,” said tight end George Kittle, after the game. ” “He’s a leader on this team.” Shanahan echoed the sentiment: “It’s crushing. You know the bad luck he’s had. We have a lotta love for JV.”
Beyond the personal tragedy at hand, this is really bad news for the 49ers. It’s no surprise that Jarred Goff, the Lions QB by way of Marin County and Cal, picked apart the Niners’ secondary after the team’s best cornerback went down. San Francisco has to find a way to fill in that gaping hole, and it won’t be easy. Top-shelf cornerbacks rank up there with QBs and left tackles at the top of the NFL food chain.
Deebo showed up
Deebo Samuel broke out with a huge game against Detroit, laying claim to top-dog status among the 49ers’ wide receiver. He snagged 8 balls, for 189 yards and a 21-yard average per catch. That was bumped up quite a bit by a third-quarter, 79-yard catch and scamper that seemed to put the game away. Samuel fumbled later on, helping Detroit regroup, but his adjustment on that catch, followed by the long run, should cement him as Jimmy G’s go-to guy, when he’s not targeting Kittle. “At the end, we just go to finish the game,” said Samuel. “I’m glad we got the win.”
So’s everyone else, Deebo. Week 1 went well for the Niners. Defensive sack master Nick Bosa returned with a vengeance. So did his defensive line-mate Dee Ford. Top running back Raheem Mostert left with an injury of his own, but he came back and his third-string understudy, Elijah Mitchell, showed he could tote the rock, picking up 104 yards on 19 carries.
Take the win and scamper out of town, 49ers. A win is a win is a win.