In a 41-17 drubbing of the host Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers offense looked about as good as Kyle Shanahan could have hoped.
Armed with a confident and efficient Jimmy Garoppolo shaking off the rust from his year on the shelf, San Francisco racked up 572 yards in their best offensive showing in eight years to move to 2-0 for the first time in eight years.
Whether or not the 49ers can continue to advance the offense will be a major question, however, over the next eight weeks. That’s how long a broken leg will sideline All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley.
“We’ll find out more tomorrow but it should be less than eight weeks,” Shanahan said.”I don’t think he’ll be an [injured reserve] candidate.”
Staley was chopped down late in the third quarter after running back Raheem Mostert was swung into his leg while the 13-year veteran set a run block.
Up until that point, Staley had helped the 49ers amass 259 rushing yards, their largest total since Dec. 20, 2014 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Unable to put much pressure on the compromised leg, Staley was carted to the 49ers locker room. Shanahan then opted to insert rookie swing tackle Justin Skule, who started all 13 games last season for Vanderbilt, in his place.
According to Shanahn, the idea of moving starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey to the left side of the line was considered.
“I don’t see much of a difference,” Shanahan said. “You don’t want to have to change two postions when you only have to change one.”
Staley’s exit from the game, and perhaps for the majority of the season, cast a shadow over an otherwise perfect afternoon for the 49ers.
Coming off of a 31-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, the 49ers were unhappy with their sloppy and undisciplined play, which yielded 11 penalties. Those infractions wiped away three touchdowns for San Francisco, ultimately keeping Tampa Bay in the game until their final possession.
On Sunday, the 49ers came out looking like the crisp, buttoned-up team that Shanahan has been looking for during his three years at the helm.
After forcing a three-and-out on Cincinnati’s opening drive, the 49ers marched 51 yards in four plays.
Shanahan dialed up a play-action pass on first-and-10, which schematically freed up wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Left alone 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage, Goodwin trotted into the end zone without a defender in his vicinity.
The score gave San Francisco a 7-0 lead with just over 11 minutes to play in the first quarter.
“You get the right looks sometimes but it’s always hard for 11 guys to do it exactly right,” Shanahan said. “We made the blocks, eliminated the penalties and usually when that happens you get a big play.”
The 49ers went on to score 24 first-half points.
Leading the charge was Garoppolo, who was treated with kid gloves a week ago in his first start since tearing his ACL in Week 3 of last season.
With 297 yards on 17-of-25 passing for three touchdowns, Garoppolo diced up a Cincinnati defense, which held Seattle to just 232 total yards at CenturyLink Field in Week 1.
In fact, the 49ers surpassed that total by halftime.
Garoppolo’s one hiccup came during the 49ers’ first offensive series of the second quarter. Throwing a ball to Richie James Jr. 40 yards down field, Garoppolo was picked off by Cincinnati cornerback William Jackson III, who sat in quadruple coverage near mid-field.
But San Francisco’ defense, which allowed just 25 rushing yards all afternoon, held the Bengals to a field goal attempt that missed wide left.
“It just gives you so much confidence in those guys,” Garoppolo said. “They play their asses off and it’s incredible.”
While Cincinnati’s running game was nearly non-existent, the 49ers dominated the ground with their own rushing attack, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, with Matt Breida rushing for 121 yards on just 12 attempts.
“We have that mindset from the get-go that we want to go in there and just dominate teams,” Breida said. “You want to keep that mindset throughout the whole game. There’s no letting up.”
With 259 total yards on the ground despite the loss of Staley, the 49ers also punched in a pair of touchdowns courtesy of third-string back Jeff Wilson Jr., who was called up from San Francisco’s practice squad this week after Tevin Coleman was ruled out with an ankle injury.
San Francisco’s potent rushing attack was made possible by their offensive line, who controlled the line of scrimmage from the early stages of Sunday’s game.
“The o-line, they got after them early and they got after them often,” Garoppolo said. “It makes everything a lot easier when they dominate the line of scrimmage like that. In the pass game, the run game, everything, those guys dominated up front.”
The 49ers defense proceeded to shut the Bengals down in the fourth quarter, holding them to just seven points. By scoring 41 of their own, San Francisco scored at least 40 points in a road game for the first time since 2012. It’s also the first time since 2012 the 49ers have started a season 2-0.
“We haven’t gotten off to a very good start in the two years that I’ve been here,” Shanahan said. “To start out 2-0, especially with two games on the road, we know we have some tough games ahead of us… I’m really proud of the guys.”