The SF 49ers disappointing opening performance against the Cardinals offers insights about the team.
In their first attempt to repeat their success from last year, the SF 49ers fell woefully short as they ended up dropping their Week 1 bout against the visiting Arizona Cardinals. Though the final score was only 24-20, the offense was disjointed after the first five minutes, the defense slowly collapsed, and a special teams blunder early took what could have been a blowout and flipped it on its head.
The Niners still being in a position to win is both a testament to their talent and an indictment of just how poor their Week 1 performance was.
For a team with such lofty goals and ambitions, this was a crusher, not only because it puts San Francisco — a team went through the first half of its 2019 schedule undefeated — last in the NFC West division only a week in, but because of how similar the situation was to 49ers meltdowns in the past.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense got in a groove and picked up points early, only to then grind to a screeching halt. As the offense scuffled, the Cardinals slowly but surely chipped away at the defense, taking fantastic defensive possessions and making them worse and worse until the end of the game with two scoring drives for Arizona.
Once the score had flipped, the Niners tried to flip the switch but couldn’t generate the momentum, ending up with the loss. It was the story of the Super Bowl, the story of the trap-game loss against the Atlanta Falcons last season, and very similar to a lot of games the SF 49ers played that were only won at the very end.
In their defense, injuries put a third-string center as No. 1 and the two best receivers in the sidelines. That’s a lot of talent to not have, especially against an up-and-coming divisional opponent like the Cardinals.
However, there are no excuses. The Niners knew what their roster limitations were and it was up to them to execute.
This doesn’t mean that the SF 49ers are destined to utterly fall apart and lose every game the rest of the way; it doesn’t even that they aren’t the best team of the NFC. Early season performances can lead to massive overreactions, and Week 1 doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. However, there were signs of struggles with certain components of the team that can point to grander issues in the long term.
These lessons are about seeing what happened with the Cardinals, and what they might mean for the 49ers, long term. And when the defending NFC champs drop a divisional game they should have won, these lessons aren’t going to be fun.
3 things we learned from the Panthers’ loss at the Bucs
The dust has now settled on a second consecutive defeat to start the season for the Carolina Panthers.
Little was expected of the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium against the Buccaneers, who are aiming for big things in 2020 after a number of eye-catching acquisitions in free agency. A disappointing first half left them too much to do after the interval. But the number of mistakes made on both sides of the ball was also telling.
This is a work in progress for this young group. They didn’t have much time to adjust to one another prior to competitive action getting underway and this has really come across in their first two fixtures.
We have been saying for a while now that things might get worse before they get better in Carolina. Their expectations going into the campaign were at an all-time low. But if this concerning trend continues throughout the season then it might actually be even more problematic than first feared.
There is much work to be done before the Panthers make the long trip to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers next weekend. Anthony Lynn’s men looked hugely impressive against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs or Sunday. So it will be another stern test of Carolina’s credentials.
Let’s take a look at some of the big things we learned from the Panthers’ perspective during their 31-17 reverse at the Bucs.
Darnell Mooney ascends to second WR in Chicago Bears win
It took two games, but the Chicago Bears may have a new Wide Receiver Two
The ascension of Darnell Mooney has been exciting. If you have been reading our blog, you would know that we highlighted Mooney as a potential Taylor Gabriel replacement back before the NFL draft. Now that the Chicago bears have drafted him, the role is starting to come to fruition.
While we assumed that no offseason for a rookie would mean a slow start, Darnell Mooney has had anything but that.
Mooney has been targeted six times this year, hauling in all six passes. He has 74 receiving yards, and a touchdown. Not a bad start for the young rookie.
What is even more impressive is how quickly he ascended up the depth chart. In week one, he was behind Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn and even Javon Wims on the pecking order.
On Sunday, he was second amongst wide receivers in snaps. Yes, that means more than Anthony Miller, who many assumed was the number two wide receiver.
This has essentially turned into plug and play when it comes to replacing Gabriel. Gabriel has jumped out, and Mooney is slowly but surely taking all of the snaps from Gabriel last year.
After a performance with a touchdown, and a few key downfield blocks, the idea would be that Mooney will only see more snaps week three, not less. With that in mind, the cat seems to be out of the bag and it will be hard to put Mooney back in.
Looking at how Mooney has produced compared to Gabriel through two weeks, it is almost as if the Bears did not lose anything.
Rece Rece Rece Rk Player Rec Yds TD 1 Taylor Gabriel 3.8 41.6 0.2 2 Darnell Mooney 3.0 37.0 0.5
Expect Mooney to stay in the Gabriel and continue to be the Chicago Bears second outside receiver. This will keep Anthony Miller in the slot, and keep the Bears offense looking similar to what Matt Nagy had envisioned when he signed Gabriel.
How long can the Kansas City Chiefs get away with winning ugly?
The Chiefs need to get some things cleaned up if they want to keep rolling.
The Kansas City Chiefs pulled out a thrilling overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. It was a very ugly game, but the Chiefs managed to find enough magic late in the game, and Harrison Butker was as clutch as any kicker in history. That was enough to get the job done.
Last week I wrote that the NFL should be terrified of the Chiefs because they dominated the Houston Texans despite not having their “A” game. While being 2-0 is fantastic, and the way they pulled out the win on Sunday was thrilling, at some point the Chiefs are going to need to actually play up to their potential.
Don’t misunderstand me. I was on cloud nine after Butker made that third overtime field goal attempt. I was yelling and cheering and jumping around my living room. It was fantastic. It was much the same when Patrick Mahomes broke out the “Mahomes Magic” on an unbelievable 54-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill. This was certainly a much more exciting win than the win over the Texans, where they basically just cruised through the game.
The problem is that next week the Chiefs face arguably their toughest opponent of the 2020 regular season in the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have looked flat out dominant in their first two games, and if the Chiefs want to move on to 3-0, they are going to need to find a way to actually win by putting forth their best effort. They won’t be able to coast along on cruise control like they did against Houston, and they certainly won’t be able to play bad football for three quarters like they did against Los Angeles.
Now, it’s still a good thing that the Chiefs are such a talented team that they can be sitting at 2-0 despite not having played a really good game yet. It also shows a lot of determination to pull a game like Sunday’s out and have a quarterback and a kicker that are clutch enough to get the job done. However, there are three things that I believe the Chiefs absolutely must clean up if they want to beat the Ravens that were glaring issues against the Chargers.
First, the offensive line has to clean up the protection. Patrick Mahomes was harassed all game long, and for three plus quarters ,it really took the offense out of their rhythm. Mahomes was having to get rid of the ball so quickly that it felt like it took an eternity to complete a pass to a wide receiver.
While we’ve always known that the interior of the Chiefs line was a little susceptible to pressure, the tackles were exposed at times in this game as well. That is not something that we’ve come to expect in recent years.
Pressure can be a drive killer ,and if the Ravens are playing ball control offense, the Chiefs can’t afford protection problems to kill drives and put the ball right back in the Ravens’ hands.
Second, the costly penalties have to be cleaned up. The Chiefs are really lucky that the numerous penalties they had late in the Chargers game didn’t cost them the win. The Chiefs ended the game with 11 penalties for 90 yards and several of those came at awful times late in the game.
There was the roughing the passer penalty on Chris Jones that almost allowed the Chargers to get in the end zone in regulation. Then there were the two holding calls on the Chiefs final drive of regulation that likely prevented them from winning the game before overtime. There was also the false start on the game-winning field goal that made Butker have to kick two more 58-yard field goals. Overall, the Chiefs were very fortunate the penalties didn’t cost them the game.
Third, the defense simply must tackle better next week. Period. The Baltimore Ravens are a smash-mouth team that ran the ball 37 times for 230 yards on Sunday. The Chargers showed on Sunday that the strategy of extending long clock eating drives and keeping the Chiefs offense off-the-field is a good strategy to beat them, they just couldn’t quite pull it off.
The Ravens are a significantly better team than the Chargers, and if the Chiefs tackle as poorly against the Ravens as they did against the Chargers, the Ravens will dominate the time of possession. That will prevent the Chiefs offense from having enough opportunities to get the score high enough to make a Chiefs victory possible.
I don’t know on how many drives the defense allowed to be extended because of extra yards the Chargers picked up after a missed tackle on Sunday, but it was a significant amount. Nobody tackled well—not the defensive line, not the linebackers, not the secondary. It was a major issue that has to be better next week if the Chiefs want to assert themselves as the clear frontrunner in the AFC.
If they allow the Ravens to physically dominate them all game long and come away with a head-to-head win, it will be an uphill battle to reclaim the top spot in the AFC and the lone first round bye in the playoffs this season. A huge part of preventing that will be better tackling on defense.
The Chiefs pulled off an exciting comeback win on Sunday. Mahomes once again showed that he is the most amazing quarterback in the league and no lead is ever safe against him. Butker made a strong case for being the best kicker in the league. The bottom line is that the Chiefs are 2-0. That’s all that really matters today,
However, next Monday, when they line up against the Ravens for their first true test against a fellow NFL powerhouse, the time for “cruise control” and “ugly wins” is over. The Chiefs have had two weeks to knock off the rust and cobwebs. Next week they need to finally play like the dominant Super Bowl favorite that we all think they are—otherwise they run the risk of losing that title to the Ravens.
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