Kansas City Star, That’s What He Are

At the beginning of the season, nearly everyone figured the 49ers’ record after two games would be 1-1. There were a couple of guys who felt differently, but they have now clunked to the bottom of the “Prognostications” list, where they will remain somewhat ignominiously until September of 2019.

So, here we are at 1-1, but not in the manner most expected. 1-1 was supposed to be achieved despite the heroic efforts of our QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Instead, 1-1 has been achieved despite the less than heroic efforts of JG10.

This is both good news and bad news. The good news is Jimmy will undoubtedly improve. The bad news is maybe he won’t.

This week the Niners travel to Kansas City, which looked like a toss up game at the beginning of the year, but not so much now. It was expectable that their QB Patrick Mahomes would have some growing pains in his inaugural year, and he no doubt will eventually have some, but it might not occur this week and he has had a meteoric first two games. Of course, we all know what happens to meteors in the end — burnt out, cynical and drunk, boring someone in a dark cafe.

We’ve come to expect good offense from KC HC Andy Reid, who’s been wearing out secondaries for many years. Reid’s clock management and defenses, though, have always caused his teams to come up short. His defenses tend to play well in the first half, then collapse in the second half. And his end game clock management boo-boos have achieved an almost legendary status.

Last year, the Chiefs won their first five games, then lost six out of seven, before closing out the season on a four game winning streak, then blowing a 21-0 lead to the Titans in a first round playoff exit.

Reid is almost unbeatable coming off a bye week or an offseason, but neither of those conditions apply to this week’s game. Instead, we have two offensive guru HCs and an old fashioned young guns shootout in store for us. Never mind that the final score will turn out to be 9-6, with all of us shaking our heads and going WTF!

After all, we’re still in the window of early season weirdness games and anything’s possible come Sunday.

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49ers 30, Lions 27

As expected, the 49ers rebounded from their loss in Minnesota to easily barely handle the toothless scrappy Detroit Lions.

After controlling the game for three quarters, the Niners held a 17 point lead with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and looked to be cruising to victory. But it took a punt return TD nullified by an illegal block and an ugly interception redeemed by an opposite field holding call for the Niners to finally stop Detroit from tying or winning in the final minute of play.

Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked six times and had a modest day at the helm throwing for 200 yards and two TDs, but RB Matt Breida went nuts, rolling up 138 yards on 11 carries, including a 66 yard TD run. It remains to be seen whether this was a breakout game for Breida or just a one time fluke.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon had the opposite kind of day. In the fourth quarter, he was benched, reinserted, then benched again. It could have been a lot worse if Detroit QB Matthew Stafford hadn’t overthrown wide open receivers four times. Replacing Witherspoon was Jimmie Ward, who is not playing much at all these days. He’s lost his FS job and his nickle back job and his CB job.

The defense should get a boost this week with the return of suspended LB Reuben Foster. It could use a boost after giving up 427 yards to the Lions. Especially heading to Kansas City next week, a team going a bit ape on offense the first two games.

After two games, the defense looks little more than average, but the most concerning issue is the entirely mortal play of Garoppolo. He looks nothing like the quick release wunderkind from last season’s year end five game winning streak.

Lastly, without there being a firstly, or a secondly for that matter, two games into the season and we already have two ties in the two North divisions of the two Conferences. Too odd to not bear a mention.

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Here, Kitty, Kitty

The 49ers catch a break this week, as the awful Detroit Lions come to town, fresh off a week one 48-17 thrashing by the New York Jets. A rather inauspicious debut for Lions’ HC Matt Patricia, who begins his post-Belichick career with a resounding thud.

The Niners should win this game easily, even if Robbie Gould has to kick 10 field goals. The defense is stout enough to handle the one-pronged attack of the Lions and the Detroit defense does not seem to exist. If fact, this game could be a laugher, somewhat of a rare occurrence for the Niners in recent years. The only thing going for the Lions is Patricia’s familiarity with Jimmy Garoppolo from their three years together in New England.

The Rams were the only NFC West team to win on opening weekend, but the Cardinals were the only one of the losers to get their butts kicked. It seems safe to say that at least the 49ers will be relinquishing their grip on last place in the division this coming season and Arizona will be replacing them.

Of course, it’s probably also fair to point out that the first three weeks of the season are always a bit unconventional, so we might be back here next week singing somewhat of a different tune.

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Vikings 24, 49ers 16

Jimmy Garoppolo is human after all. His NFL unbeaten record came to a crashing halt Sunday in Minnesota, as the Vikings handed Jimmy his first taste of professional defeat after seven consecutive wins.

Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins played the kind of game he was known for in Washington. Close to brilliant for three quarters, putting up 24 points, then a fourth quarter disappearing act that allowed the Niners chance after chance to pull off an upset. Cousins was 7-11 on third down conversions through three quarters and 0-6, with zero points, in the fourth.

But Garoppolo was not up to the task, either. His three interceptions punctuated the game, but three trips to the Red Zone, with two goal-to-goal situations, produced only two Robbie Gould field goals and a lost fumble at the one yard line by RB Alfred Morris. The Niners’ only TD was a 22 yard pass to Dante Pettis.

On the bright side, DeForest Buckner had 2.5 sacks, the second round rookie Pettis caught two long passes, one for the 49ers’ only TD, and TE George Kittle led all receivers with five catches for 90 yards.

Marquise Goodwin missed most of the game with some sort of quad injury and both right guards went down with foot injuries, which forced right tackle Mike McGlinchey to move to guard with Gary Gilliam playing RT. It didn’t affect this game too much, but does not bode well for the future.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad showing for a west coast team playing an early game in the east against one of the premier teams in the league. The Vikings controlled the game for three quarters, but could not put the scrappy 49ers away.

Still, Garoppolo’s three interceptions, the last one an ugly, game ending effort into triple coverage, have to be a concern. And the continued ineptitude in the Red Zone. The Vikings had 3 TDs and 1 FG, while the Niners had the opposite — 3 FGs and 1 TD. The team can’t go far this year without cleaning up these two critical areas.

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Opening Bell

It’s one week until the gates open on the 2018 NFL season. Which means it’s time to throw our brains on the table and cough up our annual predictions of what the 49ers’ record will be this year. As usual, predictions will be accepted until next Saturday at midnight.

Some of you might be revising early estimations in light of the season ending injury to RB Jerick McKinnon at the tail end of Saturday’s practice. Jerick was the prize free agent acquisition this year, a guy who would make the Niner’s offense more explosive with his open field quickness. The team had avoided any major injuries all the way through training camp and the exhibition season until the last play of the last practice on Saturday.

This is the second consecutive season the 49ers have lost their prize FA signing to season ending IR. The previous year, it was LB Malcolm Smith. Smith was an overpriced, non-elite talent who was easily replaced by draft pick Reuben Foster. But McKinnon’s skills can’t be duplicated by any player on the roster. The recent signing of Alfred Morris will give the running game punch, but will not enhance the downfield passing game.

So, unless Dante Pettis goes wild somewhere along the way, we’ve got pretty much the same offense this year as the one that went on a five game roll at the end of last season. We’ll soon see whether that was a mirage or real.

And we won’t have to wait long because right out of the box the team travels to Minnesota for what Maiocco likes to call a GPS game. A game that measures where the team is in relation to the contending teams in the league. The Vikings are legitimate Super Bowl contenders; the Niners are merely a team expected to rise up the ladder this year.

The Vikings have a good defense, especially when they play at home, which will be good test for Jimmy Garoppolo and the rebuilt offensive line. Their offense is expected to improve with the addition of the extremely expensive QB Kirk Cousins. Personally, I’m not sold on Cousins. He piles up good stats, but not correspondingly good wins. I’ll be surprised if he does much better than last year’s Vikings’ QB, Case Keenum, who’s now playing for the Broncos and at a much more affordable cost. Cousins is the QB Kyle Shanahan wanted and Garoppolo is the one John Lynch brought in. A Garoppolo win here would be a mighty big feather in Lynch’s GM portfolio.

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2018 Schedule
9-9, L: Vikings 24, 49ers 16
9-16, W: 49ers 30, Lions 27

9-23: @ Chiefs, 10:00 am, Sun.
9-30: @ Chargers, 1:25 pm, Sun.
10-7: vs. Cardinals, 1:25 pm, Sun.
10-15: @ Packers, 5:15 pm, Mon.
10-21: vs. Rams, 5:20 pm, Sun.
10-28: @ Cardinals, 1:25 pm, Sun.
11-1: vs. Raiders, 5:20 pm, Thur.
11-12: vs. Giants, 5:15 pm, Mon.
11-25: @ Tampa, 10:00 am, Sun.
12-2: @ Seattle, 5:20 pm, Sun.
12-9: vs. Broncos, 1:25 pm, Sun.
12-16: vs. Seattle, 1:25 pm, Sun.
12-23: vs. Bears, 1:05 pm, Sun.
12-30: @ Rams, 1:25 pm, Sun.
2018 Draft Class
1. OT Mike McGlinchey
2. WR Dante Pettis
3. LB Fred Warner
3. DB Tarvarius Moore
4. DE Kentavius Street
5. CB D.J. Reed
6. S Marcell Harris
7. DT Jullian Taylor
7. WR Richie James
2018 Prognostications
Bakkentom: 8-8
Bullit: 9-7
Grumpy: 8-8
Mr Fletch: 7-9
NJ49er: 9-7
Skeebers: 10-6
Winder: 8-8

Spitblood: 0-16
Rob!!!: 16-0