Week One Recap: Here’s What We Learned

September 12, 2022
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The San Francisco 49ers disappointingly opened their season with a loss against the Chicago Bears on the road. The final score was 19-10 in a game where the Bears scored all 19 points unanswered. Here are some takeaways from the loss.

The 49ers Lack Discipline, So Far

Ever since the middle of the preseason, this 49er team has been struggling with penalties during games. Unfortunately, this trend carried into the regular season in Chicago. The 49ers this Sunday won in nearly every statistical category, but the 12 penalties giving up 99 yards was not one of them and it was too much to overcome for the 49ers.

The Bears accumulated 15 first-downs in the rainy contest. Five of those first-downs were granted by 49er penalties. This pattern cannot continue if the Niners hope to make a deep playoff run this season. San Francisco has too talented of a roster to be self-destructing against inferior teams who are rebuilding.

In the Niners’ second preseason game, they committed ten penalties and gave up 65 yards in Minnesota. The following week against the Texans, the Niners committed 11 penalties and gave up 104 yards in their preseason finale. That being said, those preseason games were mostly featuring backups. However, if this pattern continues into the next few weeks of the season we can officially call this lack of discipline a pattern.

It’s one game so it’s not the end of the world, but this is something to monitor moving into the next few weeks of the season.

The 49ers Seem To Have A Formidable Safety In Talanoa Hufanga

Talanoa Hufanga is assuming the starting role at strong safety which previously belonged to Jaquiski Tartt. The second-year safety has shown good instincts since joining the team, but many have been skeptical of his coverage ability and lack of speed. Although it was one game, the former USC Trojan put a lot of that to rest in Chicago.

Hufanga flashed and was arguably the best player on the field for the 49ers in Week One. He seemed to be all over the place and always finding the ball in what was easily the best game of his young career. Hufanga finished the game with six run stops on 11 total tackles, two tackles-for-loss and his first career interception.

The first-year starter was also Pro Football Focus’ highest graded 49er defensive player of the game with a grade of 90.8. So far so good from Hufanga. It will be great to see how the defense looks when he is in the secondary with free safety Jimmie Ward once he returns from his hamstring injury.

The 49ers’ Offense May Take Time To Come Together

The Niners left many points on the board. On the first possession of the game, all-pro wideout Deebo Samuel fumbled the ball in the red zone which gave the possession to Chicago. On another drive, first-year starting quarterback Trey Lance overthrew Tyler Kroft on play-action down the left side of the field who was open for a probable touchdown off a tight-end drag wheel route.

Lance also seemed to not be on the same page with Deebo Samuel at times in the passing game. Samuel who was in the midst of a complicated contract negotiation during the off-season didn’t join Brandon Aiyuk in working out with Lance over the summer. It seems as if some of the issues we saw on the offensive side of the ball will just take time for everyone to get acclimated to one another.

One huge factor to the offensive struggles was that starting running back Elijah Mitchell, unfortunately, suffered an MCL sprain which is expected to keep him out for two months per Adam Schefter. Mitchell was averaging 6.8 yards per carry when he exited the game and Jeff Wilson Jr. who came in to replace him averaged only 2.4 yards per carry for the day. Wilson’s lack of explosiveness and production also took away the threat of play-action which seemed to play a huge factor in the offense stalling during the second half.

It also doesn’t help that the 49ers were without their starting tight-end George Kittle who would’ve been perfect to have on Sunday. During the physical rainy matchup, the absence of Kittle’s playmaking and blocking ability was surely felt. Luckily, Lance was able to fight through the adversity and keep the chains moving when he could even if it meant by scampering for yards. Lance was able to spread the ball around to numerous pass catchers connecting on passes outside the numbers and down the field in bad weather conditions.

With the good flashes, we know this team has the talent and ability to be great. If the Niners can address some of the self-inflicted wounds and have a few players step up for injured starters, the only thing that seems to be keeping the team from their full potential this season is time. Surely we will learn more when the 49ers face off against the Seattle Seahawks in Week Two at home, which feels like a must-win game already this early in the season.