San Francisco Chronicle
Perfect 49ers record hides growing number of holes in need of repair.
It’s too early in the season to give out awards and honors, but the 49ers might be in line for this one:
Shakiest 2-0 start ever. After Sunday’s 17-11 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia, the 49ers are undefeated, untied, undecided and overrated.
Most football coaches, even after the most convincing of wins, like to say, “We’ve got some things to clean up.” Kyle Shanahan, if he was on the supermarket PA system right now, would be saying, “Cleanup on aisle 1 ... and aisle 2 ... and aisle 3 ... and aisle 4 ... ”
The 49ers return from their two-week trek to the Eastern time zone with a perfect record, a quarterback quandary, a sickening injury list, and a ton of ammo for the armchair quarterbacks and secondguessers.
But if there are no moral victories for losing teams, there are no moral losses for winning teams, so give it up for the 2-0 49ers.
And give them this: The 49ers may not be playing the most exciting brand of football, but they are wildly unpredictable, a high-wire act in a hurricane. Must-see TV.
Week 1, the 49ers almost blew a 28-point lead to one of the worst teams in pro football. Week 2, they opened with what might be the worst quarter of football you’ll see all season. Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t hit his open mouth with a cheesesteak. Shanahan may have been trying to quiet the quarterback controversy by committing 100% to Garoppolo in this game, and that did pay off in the end, as Garoppolo rose to the level of competency in crunch time.
But the Eagles featured a new-school mobile quarterback who is very green (sixth NFL start) and maybe not super good, but who could do at least two things Garoppolo could not: run the ball and throw deep.
Jalen Hurts almost ruined the 49ers’ day in the second quarter with his 91-yard pass from his own 3-yard line. The 49ers’ defense held, and on the 49ers’ ensuing series, starting at their own 3, Garoppolo handed off for a 2-yard run. See the difference?
Still, Garoppolo was 7-for-7 passing in that drive, dinking and dunking to the game’s first and most important touchdown.
There were several moments that seemed ripe for Shanahan to bring in his wild card, No. 2 quarterback Trey Lance, but Shanahan resisted. Like on the 49ers’ second series, 3rd-and-11 from their own 19 and Garoppolo looking not good.
Nope, stick with Garoppolo, who on that play airmailed an open Mohamed Sanu by 5 feet, a true head-slapper.
Maybe Lance has regressed in practices. A lot of mysterious stuff is going down in those practices, it seems. Brandon Aiyuk and Trey Sermon practiced their way into the doghouse, and now, maybe, Lance?
At least the 49ers don’t have a quarterback controversy on defense. Linebacker Fred Warner is locked into that role. He finally got some love last season, being named All-Pro, but he’s still under-noticed and underrated. Nick Bosa had two big sacks Sunday, giving him three for the season, and he’s the defense’s poster guy, but Warner is the rock, a very mobile and hard-hitting rock. He led the team with seven tackles and helped plug the running lanes that were so dangerously leaky the previous Sunday.
The 49ers’ defense took a nice step forward in Philly. Despite Hurts rushing for 82 yards, they did a good job containing him (only 190 yards passing), and the patchwork defensive backfield did a very nice job. Deommodore Lenoir did get burned on that monster 91-yard pass play, when he slipped and lost two steps, but was solid the rest of the day, including a big cover late in the third quarter to help kill an Eagles’ drive.
The D made big plays. Opening the second quarter, with the 49ers reeling and down 3-0, nose tackle D.J. Jones made a big stop on 3rd-and-1, which he does a lot, then Javon Kinlaw blocked a field-goal attempt. Those two plays turned the game around.
So the day wasn’t a total disaster, but the 49ers will go into their Week 3 prime-time game against the Packers looking to find their groove, if they have one.
The running-back situation is dire. Guys like to joke about their welcome-to-the-NFL moment, but Sermon might not remember his, a vicious head shot on his first carry. If he has to go into concussion protocol, the 49ers will be holding open tryouts to find another running back or two.
The 49ers have some plugging and patching to do, and they have to find out if they have an offense that can put people like George Kittle (four receptions, 17 yards) and Aiyuk (one reception, 6 yards) into play, just in case the team’s promising defense ever gives up more than one touchdown.
The TV announcers did give the 49ers credit for spending last week back East, practicing in the heat and learning to hydrate. So they’ve got that going for them.
Well hydrated and undefeated, the 49ers are in preseason form.