It’s hard to imagine that even the most confident fan of the San Francisco 49ers could have predicted how one sided the team’s 20-3 Week 1 victory over the Minnesota Vikings would be. Only a few sloppy penalties kept it from being a complete blowout, as the the game seemed quite one-sided.
Life will get a little tougher in Week 2 however, as the 49ers will play the first of back-to-back road games when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s tough to imagine Steelers HC Mike Tomlin‘s squad starting out 0-2, so the 49ers will need their A-game come Sunday.
I’m sure we all remember that fateful Monday night back in 2011 when these two storied franchises brought the lights down…literally. A blown transformer killed the power at “The Stick” and caused a 20 minute delay before the game, and then another 15 minute stoppage in the second quarter.
When the teams were actually able to play, the Steelers probably wished someone had kidnapped OLB Aldon Smith while it was dark. The then rookie pass rusher was absolutely dominant, getting 2.5 sacks and endlessly harassing QB Ben Roethlisberger. The 49ers defense forced four turnovers overall, and kept the Steelers out of the endzone in the 20-3 victory.
The offense took a while to get going, but second half touchdowns by TE Vernon Davis and RB Frank Gore gave San Francisco a comfortable lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Players to Watch
TE Rob Gronkowski absolutely destroyed the Steelers’ defense to the tune of 94 yards and three touchdowns on the season’s opening night. It would be beneficial for the 49ers to get their own tight end involved, and target Davis early and often. Davis led the team in receiving with 47 yards in Week 1, and while that doesn’t sound like much, it was a good step for a player who didn’t reach that mark once in 2014. Seriously, let that sink in…Davis did not have more than 44 yards in any game last year.
The Steelers are undermanned on offense without RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant (both still serving suspensions) and C Maurkice Pouncey (out with an injury). That puts even more emphasis on WR Antonio Brown to carry the load in the passing game. Brown is coming off a huge game that saw him rack up 133 yards and a touchdown. Roethisberger tends to look his way a lot, as Brown was second in the NFL with 181 targets in 2014. The 49ers secondary has looked better than expected, but will have their hands full trying to keep Brown’s production at bay.
Game Changing Factor
The 49ers defense was dominant in every aspect in Week 1, and it was truly a group effort. Five different players recorded a sack, and the run defense held RB Adrian Peterson to only 31 yards, rendering him a non-factor. Roethisberger and RB DeAngelo Williams won’t has as much room to operate as they did against a shaky New England Patriots unit, and could find themselves having trouble moving the ball.
Stats to Know
RB Carlos Hyde‘s 168 yards was the most by a 49ers’ running back since RB Frank Gore had 207 against the Seattle Seahawks in 2009. He’s the first player since 1984 to rush for at least 150 yards & two TDs in his first NFL start in his team’s season opener. His 77 yards after contact were the most of any player in Week 1, and he currently leads the NFL in rushing.
The Steelers are a good team but a little undermanned right now. I wasn’t impressed by them at all in Week 1, and I just don’t think they have the weapons other than Brown at the moment. While it may be a tall order, I think the 49ers are going to surprise a lot of people and officially put the league on notice when they win this game.