San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) in the first quarterof an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) in the first quarterof an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Identity crisis: Who are the 49ers?

It’s too early to say the 49ers have a Cybil-like crisis on their hands, but two different teams have made an appearance to this point.

When the 49ers face the unbeaten Cardinals in Arizona today, coach Jim Tomsula figures to get a better handle on his team.

“I haven’t tried to fool anybody,” Tomsula said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve got guys that are willing to work and we’re working.”

In their first NFC West test, the 49ers may want to start with a heavy does of Carlos Hyde on offense. He set the tone against the Minnesota Vikings in the regular-season opener, and the rest fell into place in a 20-3 victory.

Last week, Hyde was limited to 43 rushing yards in a 43-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers before he left the game with a concussion and bruised quadriceps in the second half. He is expected to start today and run with his familiar abandon.

“I just don’t think you change a man’s DNA that way,” Tomsula said. “That’s him. That’s what he does. That’s what we love about him.”

Tomsula prefers to rotate backs, and the return of Reggie Bush will allow him to do it — though when that will happen remains an issue. The veteran strained his left calf early in the first game, and his status was doubtful Friday.

When healthy, the 30-year-old Bush can be a valuable contributor to the offense. He is particularly adept on screen and swing passes, which are an extension of the run game. The longer the offense controls the ball, the less a revamped defense that was gashed for 453 yards in only 23 minutes last weekend is required to be on the field.

In his first season as defense coordinator, Eric Mangini conceded a new system with so many new pieces has been a difficult challenge for the group.

“Yeah, there really is a growth that goes into any defense, because I’m learning about the guys, the coaches are learning about the guys, they are learning about us,” Mangini said. “We’re figuring out as we go, things we do really well, things we don’t do as well.”

Last weekend Mangini tried to mask defenses in an attempt to confuse Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but he seemed only to outsmart his players. On several occasions, defenders were out of position in the secondary, and the result was six plays of 28 yards or more. The longest of the Steelers’ six touchdowns took all of eight plays.

A feeble pass rush didn’t help matters, either. The defense failed to record a sack in 27 drop-backs.

Rather than make changes at this early stage, Tomsula prefers to err on the side of stability. He has no line-up changes planned at this time.

“Do I have faith in [the defense]? Yeah,” Tomsula said. “Am I excited about the guys we have? Absolutely. Do we have to continue to get better day to day, week to week? Yes.”

The secondary will have its hands full for the second consecutive week. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer have played some of their best ball lately, and in burner John Brown, the Cardinals have a longball threat.

“You know, it’s such a copycat league,” Mangini said. “It’s like anything else, whoever you get hit on something, they’re going to try to hit you again, and the next team will and team after that will. And you do the same thing defensively. If you see something that you think could be problematic, you say, ‘OK, is it fixed?’ And until you go out and show that’s it’s fixed. they’ll keep pressing.”


If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pelosi called for the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump a day after his supporters stormed the Capitol. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
Feds seeking woman whose ex says she stole Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during Capitol riot

Jeremy Roebuck The Philadelphia Inquirer Federal authorities have obtained an arrest warrant… Continue reading

Most Read