As the rebuild continues, so does change and the struggles of the 49ers. In their first game without former All-Pro middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and their first game with rookie Reuben Foster back, the 49ers looked out of sorts and overmatched as they were blown out 40-10 by the Dallas Cowboys.
Presence, impact, and performance
In his first game back since week 1, as expected, Reuben Foster looked rusty and his numbers reflected it. Aside from a 1-yard impressive hit/tackle for a loss on running back Ezekiel Elliot, Foster’s numbers were unimpressive as he finished with only 5 tackles (2 solo) and some missed tackles. Early on, his presence seemed to give the defense and fans something to be excited about and look forward to. Unfortunately, he had minimal impact and his performance in his first action since week 1 wasn’t anything worth raving about. It’s unclear what the reason was for his lack of impact in the embarrassing loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but moving forward, until he’s back 100% healthy and in full control of this defense and the calls, expect to see more of the same from Foster and the defense.
In his defense, he is fresh from an extended absence and it shows. As of now, he is nowhere near as explosive and dominant as he was prior to the injury. Sadly, the unit didn’t play well as a whole, either, as they managed to generate little to no pressure on Dak Prescott, recorded no sacks on the day, and allowed 147 rushing yards by Ezekiel Elliot. The Dallas Cowboys had their way with Foster and the defense, and honestly, the offense as well. This was by far one of the worst games played by this young 49ers’ defense (via ESPN.com).
Important to note: Bowman, going into a new team (Oakland Raiders) and, on a short week, totaled 11 tackles, 6 being solo, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 QB hit with a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Foster has huge shoes to fill
As discussed in 49ers: The Mon5t3r Void in the Linebacking Core with Bowman Gone, it’s no secret they have an uphill battle as they attempt to replace the heart and soul of the 49ers defense since they moved on from Bowman. When a team loses a player like Bowman, they lose more than just production. The team also loses experience, leadership, and even that extra push a savvy veteran such as Bowman provides. It’s clear the 49ers are on a youth movement and have the future in mind, so the choice to move on from Bowman made sense in terms of their vision. One can’t help to ponder, with Bowman gone, who will Foster learn from and be mentored by? Yes, Bowman had lost a step or three after suffering multiple injuries to his knee and Achilles tendon, but just his presence and veteran leadership were invaluable.
Along with the question of can Foster eventually step up and step into the role Bowman once occupied at middle linebacker, is also the question, can he stay healthy? To add injury to the insult of being blown out at home, Foster left the game with a rib injury twice and did not return as the coaching staff felt it was best to keep him sidelined. There’s no question that Foster is an amazing talent and will someday be great on this 49ers’ defense. After playing only his second game and sustaining a second injury for which he had to seek medical attention, one cannot help but be concerned and question his durability.
The bottom line
Based upon his low tackle output, impact on the game, and the blowout loss, Foster’s presence, and impact was, in a sense, non-existent as the 49ers defense gave up 501 total yards to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Not the way he planned his return would go, I’m sure. Again, it’s not just Foster that needs to dig deep to find some competitive spirit and production, it’s the defense as a unit. Almost halfway through the season and sitting at 0-7 and in the cellar of the division, the 49ers need all the help they can get from whomever on the roster if they plan on even sniffing a win this season. This rough patch is all a part of the rebuilding process, and it will more than likely get worse before it gets better. But the 49ers and Foster must rally together, keep their eyes on the common goal of improving as a team, and continue to inspire one another if there’s a chance of putting a check in the win column. Up next, the Philadelphia Eagles on the road and another opportunity to try and get on track with their first win. Go Niners!
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.