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Is San Francisco’s Week 1 win a sign the tide is changing?

© Kim Klement | 2019 Sep 8

Just how bad have the road woes been for the San Francisco 49ers?

From 2015-2018, the Niners had lost 27 of 32 contests away from home, and hadn’t won a game in the Eastern Time Zone since 2014. Under current head coach Kyle Shanahan, the team’s posted a 3-13 record on the road, including an 0-8 mark last season.

With how poorly things have gone away from Levi’s Stadium, it’s easy to see how there would be some skepticism about the 49ers getting off to a fast start in 2019, considering each of their first two games are away and on the East Coast. But a funny thing happened in Week 1. San Francisco actually won.

It wasn’t pretty, and there were times when it seemed like they were trying to give it all away, but in the end the 49ers held on. This is a significant development because this was the type of game that the team surely would have found a way to lose in recent years.

Maybe the tide is changing.

It’s safe to say the Week 1 reversal of fortunes has a lot to do with a defense that added two game-changing players this past offseason in Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Each of the new additions recorded a sack in Week 1, and brought the pressure that led to Ahkello Witherspoon’s game clinching pick-six.

And how about that much maligned secondary?

After recording an NFL record low two interceptions last season, the Niners picked off Jameis Winston three times, returning two of them for touchdowns. These were type of game-changing plays that have been sorely missing since the days of Jim Harbaugh, and a big reason why wins, especially on the road, have been so hard to come by.

Now, it wasn’t all red and gold roses. Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pick-six of his own, and looked rusty, specifically with his accuracy. When he was on target, he had a hard time finding any receiver to hook up with other than George Kittle, as San Francisco’s five active wide outs combined for just seven catches.

The running game, which was a strength for much of last season, was bottled up, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Overall, the 49ers managed just 4.3 yards per play, and were unable to score touchdowns on three red zone tries.

Part of the reason for the inability to finish was because of self-inflicted wounds, including 11 penalties. Some of those penalties were more costly than others, as the 49ers had multiple touchdowns called back because of them.

Still, despite these issues, the reasons for hope won out. This was Garopplo’s first game in almost a year, and it had to be expected that the offensive attack would sputter a bit. You’d have to assume it will improve as the year goes on, and if the defense can continue to be disruptive, the 49ers just might surprise some people after all in 2019.


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