Richard Sherman said it best in his post-game press conference – “We didn’t play perfect, but our record’s perfect.” It was ugly, but the San Francisco 49ers got the job done in the 24-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Much credit to San Francisco’s defense who made several key stops all the way down to the final minutes of the contest. San Francisco now heads into their Week 4 Bye with a perfect record to start the season – their first 3-0 start since 1998. Here are 10 takeaways from Sunday’s victory:
1. Costly mistakes marred the 49ers first half. San Francisco committed four turnovers in the first 18 minutes of Sunday’s game. Here’s a breakdown of the 49ers rough start.
- During San Francisco’s opening possession, Matt Breida bobbled a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo that landed in the arms of Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt.
- On the ensuing drive, Raheem Mostert dropped a pitch from Garoppolo that was recovered by the offense.
- On the following drive, Garoppolo’s pass intended for Dante Pettis bounced out of his hands and into the waiting arms of Steelers newly acquired defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
- At the top of the second quarter, Mostert fumbled the ball at the Steelers 10-yard line.
- On the next drive, the 49ers drove down the field to the Steelers 7-yard line until a fumbled snap caused yet another turnover for San Francisco.
It’s worth noting the 49ers defense managed to hold Pittsburgh to just two field goals, despite their four turnovers in the first half.
“I thought we played extremely well at some times and played extremely bad at some times,” Kyle Shanahan said postgame. “Anytime you have five turnovers in a game, that means you didn’t play that well. But, you take those away, and every aspect of the game decides that. I thought the guys did very well. It reminded me a lot of the Arizona game we had last year, we had a game versus Arizona where it was like 30 first downs to 10, and like 500 yards to 200, but we ended up losing the game because we had all those turnovers. Today was very similar, so it looked like we were going down that same (road), but the defense, they stepped it up big.”
2. Dee Ford recorded his second sack as a member of the 49ers. On 3rd-and-4 at the 49ers 36-yard line, Ford chased Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph out of the pocket to force a Pittsburgh punt ahead of the first half two-minute warning.
4. Williams' interception set up the 49ers first touchdown of the contest. Garoppolo led the 49ers down the field on an 8-play 38-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard Jeff Wilson Jr. touchdown. Wilson went on to score again in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run.
5. Kyle Juszczyk proved (yet again) why Shanahan refers to him as San Francisco’s offensive weapon. Juszczyk came down with two deep passes from Garoppolo – the first, a diving catch to pick up 27 yards. His second, and most noteworthy, was a 22-yard grab where the fullback threw his defender (see below) to pick up 11 yards after the catch.
“(Juszczyk) finally got past (Steelers linebacker Mark) Barron and that was one of the most impressive catches I’ve seen,” Shanahan said. “It took a while to get there, so Jimmy had to let it go, especially with that safety in his face. That was huge.”
Juszczyk finished the game catching all three of his targets for 51 yards.
6. Ahkello Witherspoon was carted off the field at the top of the fourth quarter with a foot injury. According to Shanahan, the injury doesn’t appear too serious. However, the cornerback will undergo an MRI on his foot on Monday.
7. San Francisco’s fifth turnover came in the fourth quarter as Richie James Jr. ran into the direct snap on an end around that was recovered by Watt. The 49ers caught a huge break as the Steelers weren’t able to capitalize off of the turnover. On 1st-and-10 at Pittsburgh’s own 24, Armstead knocked the ball out of the arms of running back James Conner’s arms which was immediately recovered by DeForest Buckner. Buckner finished the game with a team-high eight total tackles and a sack on Sunday.
8. Buckner’s fumble recovery set the 49ers up with their game-winning drive, headlined by Pettis. Garoppolo made back-to-back passes to George Kittle and James Jr. to move the 49ers to inside the Steelers 14. On 2nd-and-4, Garoppolo found Pettis on a contested goal line catch to regain the 49ers lead with just over a minute in the contest. Garoppolo finished the night 23-of-32 passing for 277 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
“From what I saw, it was huge,” Shanahan said of Pettis’ game-winning touchdown. “Because it’s not like it was a play that got him wide open or anything. He ran a real good route, but they had two guys fall back in and just to have the aggressive hands like that in that situation was, looked like that’s why we scored.”
9. It’s worth noting the 49ers defense managed to limit the Steelers offense to 239 yards on Sunday. Pittsburgh totaled just 11 first downs, converted on 3-of-12 third downs and averaged 4.7 yards per play. The 49ers defense's two second-half turnovers resulted in 14 points for San Francisco.
10. The 49ers, who dealt with a number of injuries to start the season, will get a chance to heal up ahead of their Week 5 primetime matchup against the Cleveland Browns. According to Shanahan, the team hopes to benefit from the extra practices leading up to the “Monday Night Football” contest.
“I know bye weeks are not fun after a loss,” Shanahan said. “So to win one that way, we’ll get two good days here in with practice. We’ll get away for a little bit. Bring the guys in. We’ll get a couple extra practices in since we’re going on Monday night. Give us a chance to heal up, but can’t wait to get right back.”