Are the San Francisco 49ers back?
For the first time since the Jim Harbaugh, early 2010’s era, the San Francisco 49ers are 2-0 (2012). Head coach Kyle Shanahan has spearheaded dominant performances for both sides of the ball within the first two weeks.
In Week 1, the 49ers defense shined as Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon returned two Jamies Winston passes for pick-sixes as the 49ers handled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a final score of 31-17. In Week 2, Jimmy Garoppolo bounced back from a subpar performance with three passing touchdowns in a 41-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
So to return to the headline’s question of whether or not the 49ers are back, they definitely are trending in that direction.
The last two seasons have been marred by inconsistency and disappointment. While there have been high’s (Jimmy G post-trade in 2017), there have also been lows, too (Jimmy G’s ACL injury last season, bad defensive play). All of these factors accumulated to the 49ers going 10-22 during Shanahan’s first two seasons.
But Jimmy G is back and the 49ers appear to have everything clicking the way they intended when they traded for him. In order to expound upon his talents, the 49ers needed to surround him with the necessary pieces in order to compete. So far, adding on Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Kwon Alexander have helped bolster their defensive front seven. Through their first two games, the 49ers defense accumulated seven sacks. That’s almost a fifth of last years total (37.) Last season, they were dead last in the NFL in interceptions with only two the entire season. So far, they already have four interceptions, with two going to the house in Sunday’s victory over the Bengals.
The offensive line, according to this Sporting News article, has also given Garoppolo the protection he needs to succeed. In two games, he’s only been sacked twice. Against the Bengals, the offensive line powered their way to lead the game with 259 yards on the ground. While it’s easy to take into account that the 49ers are playing two teams who finished with an 11-21 record last season, it’s important to see the correlation that the 49ers are making gradual steps from last season. If they can execute now, they have the ability to execute in the same fashion against more formidable opponents.
In the end, the 49ers are certainly on the right track as far as team direction. Jimmy G has shown he can be the star NFL quarterback that the 49ers acquired him to be. The offensive line is showing they can pass and run block efficiently. And of course, the defense is displaying it has the equity to be dominant.
However, time will tell whether or not the 49ers are legit or not. Too many times teams have been crowned early, only to fluster by the end of the first half of the season. What could separate the 49ers from history, though, is the coaching tactics of Shanahan and the play of Garoppolo.
If the coaching-quarterback dynamic is at its best, then the 49ers have the opportunity to go far. Until then, we as spectators can be glad there is a glimmer of hope out in San Francisco.