49ers engineer collective effort in hard-fought Week 1 win vs. Lions

Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Dre Greenlaw #57 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

41. 42. 33. 50. Final

The 49ers used both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance in an impressive offensive performance for the Week 1 win over the Lions despite late scares.

Whatever the context might have been, the San Francisco 49ers needed to win their Week 1 regular-season road opener against the Detroit Lions in scary fashion.

Well, the Niners’ 41-33 win at Ford Field was about as too close as it possibly could be.

San Francisco got contributions from both sides of the ball in major ways, as head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense made relatively easy work of a suspect Detroit defense, generating 442 total yards over the game.

In a game where rookie running back Trey Sermon was a healthy scratch, and fellow rusher Raheem Mostert exited with a knee injury, it was good to see depth tailbacks Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty make a serious impact, both scoring touchdowns in the first half, too.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter who Shanahan fields in the offensive backfield. They’ll contribute.

In total, the 49ers managed 131 total rush yards on the ground and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Trey Lance tosses first touchdown pass with 49ers

The offense might have gotten off to an ominous start with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo fumbling an opening snap on the 49ers’ first possession, which Detroit recovered.

Yet Garoppolo and the offense bounced back nicely on their following possession, getting into the red zone before Shanahan did what’s likely a now-patented rotation to the rookie quarterback, Trey Lance, who found wide receiver Trent Sherfield for the first points of the game:

The 5-yard touchdown marked both the Niners’ first score of 2021 and Lance’s first score as a pro after being selected No. 3 overall in last April’s NFL Draft.

Not a bad first pass from Lance to go for the touchdown.

Lance finished the day with an 1-of-1 line for 5 yards, the touchdowns, yet Garoppolo was easily more impressive with an 17-of-25 mark for 314 yards, a touchdown, zero interceptions and a 124.2 passer rating.

And not to be outdone by Lance’s touchdown, Garoppolo found wide receiver Deebo Samuel for a back-breaking 79-yard touchdown in the third quarter:

Samuel finished the game with nine catches for 189 yards and the touchdown, although his last touch of the game surely created some heartburn.

49ers get defensive contributions vs. Lions early

Yes, San Francisco might have some questions to answer with regards to its interior run defense, although starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw was out with a knee injury. It was also tough for the 49ers to slow down Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, too.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw managed to pick off quarterback Jared Goff and returned it for a 39-yard touchdown late in the first half, which officially blew the game open:

Pass-rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa made successful returns from their respective serious injuries suffered last year, and both were regularly in the backfield pressuring Goff and engineering tackles for a loss.

49ers question marks still loom after Week 1

Mostert’s injury history didn’t go away with him being removed from the game with a knee setback, although it was refreshing to see both Mitchell and Hasty contribute.

But perhaps the biggest question mark was why Sermon, a third-round draft pick, was a healthy scratch after looking solid in training camp. That’ll likely be a key question Shanahan will answer in postgame press conferences, but it certainly raised some eyebrows.

And the same goes with another inactive 49ers player, second-round offensive guard Aaron Banks, who struggled during camp and missed the overwhelming majority of the preseason with a shoulder injury.

Related Story: Aaron Banks trending towards being 49ers’ next draft bust?

Outside of Lance, the Niners aren’t getting too much from their picks on days one and two of the draft. At least not yet.

Perhaps even more worrisome was starting cornerback Jason Verrett suffering an apparent knee injury in the fourth quarter. Verrett, who was healthy for almost all of 2020 despite a long list of injury problems over his career, is a big part of an otherwise thin and questionable cornerback room, so any developments with his knee will be nail-biting to monitor.

So was Samuel’s fumble after the 49ers could have sealed it late with his first-down catch and run.

Still, San Francisco’s collective group of starters and depth managed to overcome those worries over the first three quarters and despite Detroit’s desperate comeback attempts  in what turned into being on the right side of the win column to finish off Week 1.

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