The San Francisco 49ers dropped their season opener, 23-3, to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Levi's® Stadium. Not much went right for the 49ers all game long, beginning with a worrisome injury in the first quarter.
Here are the top takeaways from Week 1.
1. Reuben Foster sustained a right leg injury in the first quarter and did not return to the game. Foster was down for quite some time and was ultimately carted off the field. The linebacker returned to the field to support his team from the sideline. For what looked like a serious injury at first glance, the 49ers may have dodged a major bullet.
It's a shame that Foster got hurt because the rookie was all over the place to begin the game. He had three tackles and a pass breakup in less than a quarters work. Foster wasted no time showing that he is a special talent. San Francisco needs to cross its fingers that the linebacker won't be out long.
2.** The offense struggled throughout. It appeared that the 49ers had momentum early, but Marquise Goodwin dropped a deep pass down the right sideline on their opening possession. The play would have set up a 1st-and-goal. San Francisco got shut out into the second half, and Pierre Garçon was sacked four times over the first two quarters. Twice Kyle Shanahan rolled the dice and went for it on fourth down. The first try ended in a sack, and Kyle Juszczyk got stuffed on the second.
Hoyer was intercepted on the opening drive of the second half by Luke Kuechly which set up another Panthers touchdown. San Francisco didn't get on the board until late in the third quarter with a 44-yard field goal from Robbie Gould. The 49ers turned the ball over on downs for a third time during the fourth quarter when Pierre Garçon was stuffed at the goal line.
Hoyer finished the game with 193 passing yards and one pick. Hyde ran the ball nine times for 45 yards and caught six passes for 32 yards. Pierre Garçon was the 49ers leading receiver with six catches for 81 yards.
3. Penalties and offensive line play will be the biggest areas of concern going forward. Hoyer took several big hits and was sacked four times on Sunday. The Panthers talented defensive front got consistent pressure throughout the game. San Francisco had 10 penalties for 74 yards on the day, many of which were procedural infractions against the offense.
Check out pregame photos from the Week 1 matchup between San Francisco and Carolina.
4.** Speaking of pass-rush, the 49ers was non-existent on Sunday. San Francisco was shutout in the sack department. Elvis Dumervil had the 49ers only near-sack against the Panthers as Cam Newton had loads of time to throw in the pocket.
5. San Francisco's defense held up for much of the first half but wore down as the game went on. The group kept the 49ers within two scores at halftime (13-0). A 40-yard touchdown pass to Russell Shepard was the Panthers biggest play of the day. Most of the Panthers scoring drives were set up by great field position. Two turnovers and two failed fourth-down attempts put the 49ers defense in difficult spots.
The 49ers run defense was certainly a point of improvement. San Francisco limited Jonathan Stewart to 65 yards on 18 carries and Christian McCaffrey to 47 yards on 13 carries. Much of that production came on the Panthers final drive to close the game. Newton completed 14-of-25 passes for 171 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He missed another would-be touchdown when he overthew Ed Dickson wide open in the end zone. Shepard led Panthers receivers with two catches for 53 yards and the score.
6. Jaquiski Tartt provided the 49ers with their first of two takeaways on the day and did so in highlight-reel fashion. Newton tried a deep ball for Kelvin Benjamin, but Tartt made a leaping one-handed interception at the goal line. He ran it back all the way to the Panthers 38-yard line. Tartt also led 49ers defenders with seven tackles. In the second half, Rashard Robinson forced a fumble of McCaffrey and recovered the loose ball himself.
7. Some lineup notes: Laken Tomlinson was inactive which meant Zane Beadles got the start at left guard. Tartt started at free safety in place of the injured Jimmie Ward.