49ers vs. Lions: Breaking down San Francisco’s performance

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

The 49ers were off to a comfortable lead over the Lions in Week 1, but things nearly fell apart in disastrous fashion late. What happened?

After a long offseason, followed by an even longer preseason, regular-season football was back in full swing for opening weekend.

An overall good win with a lot to cheer about and a lot of concerns as well. The San Francisco 49ers versus the Detroit Lions, and I’ll be breaking down the game and looking ahead to the Niners’ Week 2 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

There were quite a few surprises in the 49ers’ opening-day win versus the Lions, and for the first order of business, I’d like to address the elephant in the room, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The fifth-year quarterback is coming into 2021 with a little extra pressure, which in turn, created additional motivation.

Garoppolo knows his time as the starting quarterback in San Francisco is running out. The Niners gave up a ton of draft capital to select rookie quarterback Trey Lance in this year’s draft. While Lance continues to learn the intricacies of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook and getting acclimated with life in the NFL, Garoppolo has a golden opportunity to seize the moment by producing solid outings on a weekly basis.

For the first game of the 2021 season, Garoppolo did just that.

He had a nice game from the standpoint of ball security (sort of, explanation forthcoming), decision making and quick releases. Jimmy G finished the day completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 314 yards, a touchdown and one sack.

However, the good statistical day did not begin that way (as I alluded to earlier).

On the Niners’ first offensive possession of the opening quarter, Garoppolo fumbled the exchange with veteran center Alex Mack. The Lions recovered the ball, and 49ers fans worldwide shared a collective feeling of “gut emptiness.” Many thought the ominous start would spill over into the game, but San Francisco displayed some strong resilience and responded quite well.

Looking ahead to the Week 2 matchup against the Eagles, San Francisco needs to finish games much stronger and close out opponents when it has the chance to do so.

Once again, a Shanahan-led team had a late lead and almost blew the game. For as many missed opportunities as Detroit had during the game, San Francisco had a flurry of miscues of its own in a much shorter time span. A botched onside recovery attempt, a fumble after picking up a game-sealing first down, and countless defensive breakdowns nearly cost the 49ers a game that should’ve been sealed by the final two-minute warning mark.

The Niners may have been exposed en route to their nail-biting win. The Lions found a huge amount of success as they consistently gashed the interior of San Francisco’s defensive line. Perhaps the absence of defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw may have contributed to Detroit’s new strategy. San Francisco surrendered 116 yards on 24 rush attempts with much of the damage happening right into the teeth of the defense.

I fully expect the Niners to make adjustments as they look to recapture that NFC Championship form, though.

The 49ers are in one of the league’s toughest divisions. In order to keep pace with their competitors, they need to be a lot more clean and sharp with their execution.

If not, the season can quickly get away from them in a short period of time, and that would be unfortunate.

4 Niners who let Kyle Shanahan down in Week 1. dark. Next