San Francisco Chronicle
Defense, special teams calmly waited for offense to show up.
Better late than never, guys. They went from woeful (14 yards on first three drives) to workmanlike as they strung together two gritty TD drives of 90plus yards. Jimmy Garoppolo was so erratic early that Trey Lance might have briefly started trending on Twitter. But Garoppolo settled in with a game-manager performance heavy on screens and crucial QB sneaks to lead an offense that didn’t commit a turnover or allow a sack. The play-calling is a reason Garoppolo took just two hits against a ferocious front, but the offensive line should take a bow. The run game grinded out 117 yards and averaged 3.1 yards a carry, with only one run of more than 10 yards. Deebo Samuel was stellar again while Brandon Aiyuk (one catch), again, was largely invisible.
Their goal-line stand late in the second quarter was the turning point, as they capped the stop by making “Philly Special” look silly. The fill-in cornerbacks, rookie Deommodore Lenoir and recently signed Josh Norman, combined for two passinterference penalties (by Norman) and allowed a 91-yard completion, but were otherwise excellent. Massive DT Javon Kinlaw made his 2021 season debut and was a reason the Eagles’ RBs averaged 3.6 yards on 19 carries. They didn’t force a turnover and they did a poor job of hemming in QB Jalen Hurts (10 carries, 82 yards). Is Nick Bosa (two sacks) really all the way back from a severe knee injury?
Mitch Wishnowsky was brilliant, pinning the Eagles inside their 20yard line on three punts — including at the 3- and 7yard lines. Kinlaw got his hands on a 47-yard attempt in the second quarter that was the 49ers’ first blocked field goal since 2016. Ever heard of Trenton Cannon? The just-arrived running back had the tackle, at the 20, on the Eagles’ only kickoff return, downed Wishnowsky’s punt at the 3 and drew an illegal-block penalty on punt coverage. Robbie Gould drilled his only attempt, a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Screens, screens and more screens. Kyle Shanahan had a smart game plan against a vaunted defensive line that wanted to pin its ears back and get upfield. The clock management on the methodical 97-yard drive at the end of the first half was excellent. Shanahan made sure they were well beyond the shadow of their goal line before he began calling timeouts (the first was taken with 25 seconds left). Maybe defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans will make everyone forget about Robert Saleh. The defense didn’t allow a TD for the first 56 minutes after an uneven season-opening performance.
That was about as pretty as graffiti, but it was a hardearned win at the end of a 10-day road trip. In a very hostile environment. Against an opponent that figures to be far superior to last year’s 4-11-1 edition. By this time last year, the 49ers already had lost Garoppolo and Bosa, players at the NFL’s most important positions. They’ve already been hit hard by injuries, but Sunday’s win suggested they can overcome the early attrition if their biggest names stay upright.