The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their 2021 campaign 1-0 following a 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions in Sunday's season opener. San Francisco got off to a hot start, putting up a 28-point lead before Detroit scored their final two touchdowns with under a minute left in the contest
Beyond a botched handoff in the opening drive, San Francisco's offense put together several impressive drives in the first half all resulting in points. Meanwhile, the defense managed to hold Detroit to just 10 points in the first two quarters.
Following the nail-biting finish in Week 1, several pundits assessed where the 49ers stand heading into Week 2 of the season, with San Francisco standing as high as a Top 3 team in the league and as low as 14 in some rankings. Here's where several national media sites have the 49ers standing coming on the heels of Week 1.
Previous Rank: 11
Think of the 49ers this way: They barely used Trey Lance, who is their most talented quarterback. Trey Sermon, a back everyone had high hopes for, was surprisingly inactive. Raheem Mostert got hurt early in the game. Brandon Aiyuk, perhaps because he's barely back from a hamstring injury, didn't get a target after playing so well last season. And the 49ers still put up 41 points on the road. All those aforementioned players are very good and will be factors as we go on. The 49ers are going to be really good.
Previous Rank: 6
They jumped all over the Lions, but had to hold on to win for dear life. The defense has to be better than what it showed against Detroit.
Previous Rank: 8
Too high? Just wait until the Trey Lance package begins to expand. I cannot overstate this point enough: Teams had a hard time as it was slowing down Kyle Shanahan's offense when everyone was healthy and Jimmy Garoppolo was under center. Now, they're prepping for two versions of the same offense each week.
Previous Rank: 10
It's early, but Lenoir looks the part of the Niners' next fifth-round diamond in the rough. With Emmanuel Moseley out because of a knee injury, Deommodore Lenoir started at outside corner opposite Jason Verrett. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Lenoir played 55 coverage snaps and was targeted four times, allowing one completion for three yards. Lenoir did have a pass interference penalty, but it was a solid debut for a player who is likely to step into an integral role on a more permanent basis following Verrett's right knee injury.
Previous Rank: 9
San Francisco had a 41-17 advantage over Detroit when cornerback Jason Verrett limped to the sideline with what was later diagnosed as a season-ending ACL injury. It's not a coincidence that the Lions began to eat into that lead as soon as the top cover man exited the picture. The 49ers survived Detroit's furious comeback attempt, and now they'll have to find a way to survive without an indispensable figure in their secondary. We know this team is capable of scoring points, but a healthy and effective defense will be necessary to fulfill those Super Bowl expectations. With Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray looming on the schedule, San Francisco must adapt in a hurry.
Previous Rank: 12
Think what you want about Jimmy Garoppolo as a QB, but the 49ers win regularly with him in the lineup. Rookie Trey Lance had his moment, too. The 49ers were dominant for most of the game in Detroit but seemed to lose interest and their edge to give the Lions an opportunity at the end.
Previous Rank: 9
Are they the team that led Detroit 38-10 through 2½ quarters, or the one that held on for a 41-33 win ... and is already dealing with another rash of injuries after losing CB Jason Verrett to a torn ACL while hoping RB Raheem Mostert (knee) can return by midseason?
Previous Rank: 10
For most of Sunday's win, the San Francisco 49ers outclassed the Detroit Lions in every way imaginable.
Jimmy Garoppolo was sharp throwing the ball, topping 300 passing yards. Rookie tailback Elijah Mitchell went for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in his first NFL game. The defense also made a number of big plays, including a pick-six from linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
However, Greenlaw injured his groin on that interception return. Mitchell was out there because veteran tailback Raheem Mostert injured his knee after two carries. And top cornerback Jason Verrett suffered a season-ending ACL-tear as well.
Those holes on the roster didn't matter in Week 1. They may not against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, either. But beginning in Week 3, the Niners play four games in five weeks against teams that made the playoffs in 2020. The lone one that didn't (Arizona) demolished the Titans on Sunday.
It's a daunting enough stretch at full strength. Short-handed, the Niners' season could go sideways quickly.