Three overreactions from the 49ers’ escape in the home opener

Disaster averted, the man in the backfield, plus the good and bad of Sherman’s renaissance

John Dickinson
September 16, 2018 - 8:36 pm

The 49ers season was almost over before it even had a chance to really begin

It was almost all wiped away in less than two games.

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All the hope. All the hype. All the promise of what Jimmy Garoppolo could be and what the 49ers themselves might be in 2018.

The 49ers season flashed before their collective eyes Sunday when the Chosen One threw an inexplicable interception to Lions defensive back Tracy Walker only to have the pick negated by a defensive holding penalty completely away from the play on the other side of the field. The Lions had returned what initially looked like a pick-6 to the 49ers 7-yard line, immediately in position to tie the game with a field goal or win it with a touchdown.

If the 49ers had lost that game in that fashion because of that throw after leading 30-13 in with just over 11 minutes to go in the game not only would the 49ers have been 0-2 but they would have wiped away every shred of good will that had been built up since Garoppolo had been acquired last October.

Forget about the 5-0 to close 2017 or the competitive loss against a playoff team on the road to begin 2018. The conversation would have shifted from “can the 49ers make the playoffs this season?” to “can the 49ers win a game in September?”

The playoffs would already be completely off the table and the talk of Garoppolo being a franchise savior would turn to questioning if he can be trusted to not throw a crippling interception in the biggest moments a la Tony Romo or Brett Favre. It wouldn’t stop there, pundits would be questioning if the 49ers made a mistake in signing Garoppolo to a mega contract after only five starts at the end of last season.

The 49ers entire season was granted a mulligan Sunday thanks to a defensive holding call. Many of the hot takes have been quelled (for now). Let’s see if the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo can use that as an opportunity to continue down the road of progress in 2018.

The 49ers have their running back of the present and future

When Jerick McKinnon went down for the season many 49ers fans were screaming for the organization to go after Steelers holdout Le’Veon Bell.

Couple that with a Week 1 performance against the Vikings where the 49ers ran for 90 yards as a team and it looked as if running back could be a position of weakness all season. Enter Matt Breida and his 11 carries for 138 yards including a 66-yard touchdown run in a 49ers victory. Breida looked the part running both inside and out and showing the patience to wait for a series of blocks from WR Pierre Garçon down field to guide him into the endzone on his long TD.

Breida’s durability has been a concern but there’s no doubt Kyle Shanahan believes he can be a big time player in his system. Breida’s breakout game went a long way toward proving Shanahan right.

Richard Sherman is back… and that is good news and bad news

Matthew Stafford went full gunslinger after the Lions fell behind by 17 in the fourth quarter and when he did he almost exclusively attacked the left side of the field where 49ers second year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was lined up.

The Vikings targeted Sherman only a couple times in Week 1 and the Lions were hell bent on not challenging the former All-Pro on Sunday.

This is both a good and bad thing for the 49ers.

Yes, Sherman’s reputation can help take away 50% of the field but teams having so much success against Witherspoon will only mean that he will get a heavy dose of targets in the weeks to come. There isn’t a quarterback in the NFL playing better than the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes throughout the first two weeks and Philip Rivers will follow him in Week 4. It’s time for young Witherspoon to grow up fast opposite Uncle Sherm.

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