The San Francisco 49ers open their 2021 campaign 1-0 following a 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions on the road. It was a stout showing on all sides of the ball for more than two-thirds of the contest. Detroit managed to put up two scores in the final two minutes of the contest, threatening the 49ers lead.
All in all, the 49ers put up the third-most points in a season opener in franchise history in Sunday's victory.
Here are five takeaways from the contest:
1. (Almost) Perfect Offensive First Half
Beyond a fumbled snap on the first offensive play of the game, San Francisco's offense was rolling in the first half, putting up 24 points on offense. San Francisco scored on the rest of their four offensive drives, including touchdowns by Trent Sherfield, Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty.
Following the opening possession, Jimmy Garoppolo was perfect, moving the ball and connecting with his receivers, with his first incompletion not occurring until the final minute the half. The quarterback was 9-of-12 for 136 yards and a 111.8 passer rating. San Francisco's offense put up 232 total net yards and averaged 9.9 yards per play in the first half.
The 49ers 31 points in the first two quarters was the highest scoring first half the 49ers have ever had under Kyle Shanahan.
San Francisco's 21-point halftime lead is their third-largest on the road in a season opener in franchise history.
2. Defensive Standouts
The Lions opened the game with two big first downs, the first, a 10-yard run up the middle by running back Jamaal Williams followed by a 22-yard pickup from tight end T.J. Hockenson to move Detroit into 49ers territory. Four plays later, on 4th-and-2 at the 49ers 35, the Lions went for the 2-yard pickup before a run stop for a loss of yards by Jaquiski Tartt forced a turnover on downs.
The 49ers appear in good hands with their linebacking corps. Azeez Al-Shaair notched a tackle for a loss of 8 yards on 2nd down that helped lead to a missed field goal by Detroit. He was also integral to the 49ers slowing down Detroit's comeback, breaking up a first down intended for Hockenson. He finished the game second behind Fred Warner with seven total tackles.
During the Lions two-minute drive, Dee Ford brought pressure off the edge on 3rd-and-eight which led to a Dre Greenlaw interception. The linebacker undercut Hockenson for the pick and returned it 39 yards for a defensive score.
On the Lions ensuing drive, Ford brought pressure off the right side of the line and got his first sack of the season.
3. Offensive Standouts
Deebo Samuel was back to doing Deebo Samuel things, being used in a multitude of ways on offense and fighting for extra yards after the catch. Arguably, the play of the game by way of the wideout. On 3rd-and-8 on Detroit's 21 yard line, under pressure, Garoppolo threw a dime to Samuel up the right sideline who reversed field to the end zone for a 79-yard score. Samuel left behind a trio of Lions defenders en route to the end zone.
The receiver finished out the contest leading all 49ers receivers with a career-high 189 yards on 12 receptions and one touchdown.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell posted the first 100-yard game of his first-career NFL. He finished the day with 104 yards on 19 carries and a score.
"For a rookie to come in and play like that, it was awesome," Garoppolo said of the running back. "He's only going to get better going forward."
Garoppolo finished the day 17-of-25 passing for 314 yards and one touchdown for a 124.5 passer rating. His 304 yards were the most thrown by the quarterback since Week 14 of the 2019 season when he tossed 26 passes for 349 yards against the New Orleans Saints.
4. Game of Firsts
Trey Lance made his NFL debut in the first quarter on a QB designed run for a 1-yard pickup. Three plays later, the rookie was back in the lineup on 1st-and-5 from Detroit's 5 yard line. Off play action, the rookie connected with a wide-open Trent Sherfield who waltzed into the end zone for six, and his first score as a member of the 49ers.
Kentavius Street notched his first-career sack against Jared Goff. On 1st-and-10 in the first quarter, Street got to the outside of the left guard and pushed his way to swallow up Goff for the 10-yard sack. His sack was the first of the season and the first of three total on the day.
Mitchell found the end zone for his first score of his career. In the second quarter, Garoppolo pitched the ball to the rookie running back who hit a hole in between his blockers George Kittle and Daniel Brunskill to the end zone. Mitchell's 38-yard score helped cap off a 4-play, 78-yard drive. Garoppolo was 4-of-4 for 67 yards during that drive.
5. Odds and Ends
Rookie corner Deommodore Lenoir opened the contest at cornerback in the absence of Emmanuel Moseley (knee). Shanahan said he "believes there's a chance" Moseley could be back by the 49ers Week 2 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Raheem Mostert suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. He was key in the 49ers first scoring drive of the day, posting two gains of 11 and 9 yards, respectively, to move the 49ers into Lions territory. Mostert is slated to receive an MRI tonight. Fortunately, the 49ers training staff do not believe it's an ACL injury.
Greenlaw left the contest at the top of the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return.
Jason Verrett went down with a non-contact knee injury in the fourth quarter. After being down for awhile, the conerback walked off the field under his own power. He will receive an MRI on Sunday as the 49ers fear an ACL for the Pro Bowl corner.