The 2017 season has begun, and the San Francisco 49ers unsuccessfully attempted to lose the lingering taste of a 2-14 record last season with an afternoon home loss, 23-3, against the Carolina Panthers who, two years ago, represented the NFC in the Super Bowl while limping to a 6-10 campaign last season. Niner’s Live kicked off the week with a Pre-Game look at Marquee Matchups and Story Lines, followed that up with a Game Summary, and now we breakdown the quarterback’, running back’ and offensive line’ performances from the game.
The Faithful got their first look at what new Head Coach Kyle Shanahan has been cooking this off-season. When the team served up its first course of the season, the Faithful left feeling starved. Brian Hoyer is locked in as the executive chef, and Carlos Hyde is his sous-chef. The offensive line is set doing the dirty work as the bussing crew. Let’s take a good look at this plate and an even closer look at the ingredients of the meal.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out the kitchen.”
Hoyer took his first trip behind the frying pan and showed the heat isn’t too much for him, finishing the game 24-35, 193 yards passing, with zero touchdowns and one interception, while being sacked four times for 27 yards. His passer rating was a cool 70.3. The heat he felt from the Panthers front seven had to feel like it was pre-heated to 450 degrees.
Hoyer played as well as his line allowed him to. He made mostly good reads and delivered strong, accurate throws, except for a deep ball that was left a few yards short of leading the speedy Marquise Goodwin and a quick touchdown, even when not given time. That heat from the Carolina front seven resulted in a first quarter sack fumble, and kept Hoyer from getting the ball out his hands quickly. But Hoyer looked good doing it. The one time he held the ball too long, he was sacked on one of the four fourth down attempts. Hoyer and the offense were 2-11 on third down attempts. Hoyer came out in the second half and threw an early interception on his first drive after having another defender in his face.
Hoyer missed some throws, but should be given an incomplete grade because his play was directly impacted by an offensive line that immediately needs to be addressed. More on them later.
Hyde came into this game and this season with a point to prove. First, he is in a contract year. Second, many people outside the organization were adding a lot of salt to his game, saying he wouldn’t fit the style of Shanahan’s offense. Sunday was his first chance to get started showing his flavor, while making his case for an extension come seasons’ end.
Opening the game with a well-seasoned blend of speed and power, Hyde hit the hole for multiple runs of over 10 yards. Decisive running helped Hyde show a physicality on offense that made up for the lackluster blocking up front. Hyde was somewhat phased out of the game as a runner once the Panthers were up by multiple scores. For the game, he ran for 45 yards on nine carries.
Hyde was asked to execute a bubble screen from inside the Carolina five-yard line that he totally misread and looked out of place running. He cut inside and back into the defense when the wideouts gave him an open running lane to the corner pylon. The passing game was kind to Hyde and he took in six catches on six targets.
Kyle Juszczyk was an active participant in the game plan as we would expect from the Offensive Weapon. Targeted four times for passes, with two grabs for 17 yards, and a drop. One rushing attempt that came on a fourth and one counter run that was stopped for no gain.
See: Line, Offensive. He was also a very effective lead blocker for Hyde.
Matt Breida saw action spelling Hyde throughout the game. He looks ready to handle the load if something happens to Hyde, finishing with four carries and 11 yards.
The pre-season sample the offensive line gave The Faithful tasted so sweet when it came to pass blocking, but looked like it needed more time in the oven in respect to the run game. This game left us asking, “Where’s The Beef?”
Mental errors again showed their ugly head. Penalties in the first quarter and a double infraction play on the second play of the quarter seemed to be the order of the day for this line.
Pass protection was not served like it was in the pre-season, so Hoyer was under constant pressure in the game. Every time the unit was asked to pass protect, we saw Hoyer either deliver quickly or be forced to slide through the pocket to find a clearing to throw from. On the strip sack, Zane Beadles was beaten easily with a club move that left him looking for the man he was blocking, Hoyer was rocked, and the ball was sent up in the air.
As the game went on, nothing improved.
Something needs to be addressed immediately on the left side of the line because it is amazing that Hyde could do anything running that way. There is no push being generated by either Beadles or Joe Staley. Beadles was also treated like a turn-style in pass protection.
The right side did its best imitation of the left side of the line run blocking on a fourth and one late in the second quarter, allowing one man to beat the double team block of Trent Brown and Brandon Fusco to drop Juszczyk for no gain and a turnover on downs.
The team finished with only 51 total yards rushing to go along with four sacks.
What to Expect against the Seahawks:
Game two of Shanahan’s career will give us an up-close look at what the 49ers aspire to be on defense while putting the offense on the field against the class of the division. A true litmus test if there ever was one. Hoyer is going to have to be sharp, and the line is going to need to be physical. All this while dealing with the historic crowd noise provided by Seattle’s 12th man.
Once the Seattle game is complete we will have a true baseline for where this team is. The week 12 meeting with Seattle at home will give us a progress report. Look for Shanahan to start to establish his run game early to help deal with the crowd noise, and enable Hoyer to make his checks once it is time to open up the passing game. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Sheldon Richardson will require the offensive line to play their A Game. Let’s just hope they have been studying and are ready for this test.
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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, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims