© Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
That was… definitive. The 49ers made the Bengals’ home opener almost as unenjoyable as the Miami Dolphins’ 59-10 loss was last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Kyle Shanahan ran near immaculate game plan in the 41-17 win, Robert Saleh’s defense attacked a weak Bengals offensive line, and the 49ers had an as good a game as they could have hoped for, winning a pair of road games to open the season for the first time since the 1989 season. There was, however, one caveat…
Joe Staley carted off in third quarter
This was the one thing that went wrong for the 49ers on Sunday, and the only positive is that it does not appear to be a season-ender. On an outside run play to the left, Raheem Mostert’s legs got tangled up with Joe Staley, causing him to leave the field on a cart. The replay does not inspire confidence, as Staley appeared unable to put weight on his left leg. Below is the play and the aftermath:
The aftermath, looks like he couldn’t put weight on it, hence the cart: pic.twitter.com/SRAnvPLBMI
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) September 15, 2019
Staley was replaced by rookie tackle Justin Skule from Vanderbilt University (sixth-round draft pick this year). The only other current option at tackle is Daniel Brunskill, who was inactive on Sunday, however, the 49ers do have undrafted rookie tackle Ryan Pope on the practice squad.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch, Joe Staley has a broken fibula and is expected to be out for less than eight weeks.
#49ers Joe Staley has a broken fibula; Kyle Shanahan said he expects him to return within eight weeks so he won’t go on short-term IR.
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) September 15, 2019
According to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports, Staley said he expects to be out for six-to-eight weeks:
Joe Staley says he’ll likely be out 6 to 8 weeks with a broken leg fibula.
— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) September 15, 2019
Shanahan’s game plan runs Cincinnati into the ground
It’s not surprising to see Kyle Shanahan run a good game plan. It is surprising, though, when it works to near perfection, even when Jimmy Garoppolo throws a bad interception (and without Tevin Coleman and still without Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor).
It worked because the running game was absolutely immense. The opening offensive play set the tone; a five-yard run by Matt Breida. It was unspectacular, but set up the play action pass which was so deadly for the full duration of the game. Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. formed a trident of unique rushing (Breida as the clear No. 1, capable of going inside and out, Mostert running successful outside zone plays and constantly avoiding tackles, and Wilson punching the ball in the end zone with power). Here’s how the stat sheet looked:
Matt Breida: 12 carries, 121 yards
Raheem Mostert: 13 carries, 83 yards
Jeff Wilson Jr.: 10 carries, 34 yards, 2 TDs
Even with Garoppolo’s putrid interception into quadruple coverage, he had an impressive game. He hit passes (not incredibly difficult, but important deep balls) which he struggled to connect on last week. The 49ers’ 569 total yards were the team’s sixth-highest total yards in team history, according to Pro Football Reference.
He finished 17-for-25 with 297 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT and a 131.2 passer rating. Aside from that interception, he read the defense well and made intelligent decisions, generally throwing the ball away when a pass wasn’t there. His execution set up big receiving days from Deebo Samuel (who looks like the clear No. 2 receiver over Dante Pettis), Marquise Goodwin, Mostert and George Kittle. Shanahan even threw in the wrinkle of a screen to Pettis, who threw the ball back across the field to Mostert for another screen. Here’s what the receiving days looked like:
Deebo Samuel: 5 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD
Marquise Goodwin: 3 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD
Raheem Mostert: 3 receptions, 68 yards, 1 TD
George Kittle: 3 receptions, 54 yards
Defense provided Bengals with an unending migraine
It didn’t matter who was in for the 49ers’ defensive line on Sunday. The backup line of Solomon Thomas, D.J. Jones, Jullian Taylor and Ronald Blair III did just as much damage as the starters did. There was nothing the Bengals, especially with a backup left tackle, could do to ease the pressure. It saw veteran left tackle Andre Smith benched for John Jerry; Smith was in due to a concussion to starting tackle Cordy Glenn.
Both Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander were immense defensively. Warner had seven tackles, including one for a loss, while Alexander had six and three pass deflections. This was in addition to the defensive line, where Ronald Blair III had arguably the best day on a day where there weren’t any bad days.
Blair had five tackles, one sack and three tackles for a loss along with a QB hit. There were also sacks by Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner. That pressure helped the secondary, though it wasn’t clear the secondary needed help. Richard Sherman was fantastic and avoided the penalties that plagued him last week, and Ahkello Witherspoon remained equally good.
There was one busted coverage with K’Waun Williams, who had the only notably bad day. Outside of that, the four sacks and assault on the Bengals’ ground game, which mustered a meager 25 yards, reaffirmed what looked to be the case in the preseason; this defense has taken a quantum leap forward.