Beware the Curse of the Three

If the 49ers were a long established contender, this Sunday might be considered a “trap game.” But the current team is still trying to prove it belongs, so it’s unlikely they will be taking any team lightly this year. Every game is a chance to show the world they have arrived.

Still, the Steelers not having Ben Roethlisberger at QB this Sunday should probably be viewed as a fortuitous break. It’s possible that his replacement, Mason Rudolph, will unexpectedly dazzle the world in this game, but I doubt many believe that is going to happen.

Of course, what would really be nice would be to obliterate Pittsburgh offensively, making the matter of their QB a moot point.

It’s probably too early to worry about style points, I guess. We’re still in the “OMG! The 49ers win!” stage.

Not to jinx things, but according to one of the beat writers, it’s been twenty years since the Steelers last won a game in the Bay Area. That would put them clobbering the 1999 team that was helpless after Steve Young got knocked into retirement in the third game of the season.

This is also the third game of the season, which was the game number last year when Jimmy Garoppolo got knocked out for the season. He was also knocked out of the third game in 2015, while replacing the suspended Tom Brady.

Getting sweaty yet?

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49ers 41, Bengals 17

Juggernaut!

572 yards. 5 TDs. 27-14 edge in first downs. 259 yards rushing.

The 49ers torched the Bengals on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. They stuffed the Bengals running game (19 attempts for 25 yds), sacked Andy Dalton four times, and dominated the game from start to finish.

Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert are looking like a formidable rushing tandem. Breida had 121 yards on just 12 carries, then gave way to Mostert, who had 83 yards on 13 attempts. Both of them ran through the Bengals like they were stuck in quicksand. Breida is quietly becoming one of the best RBs in the league. Durability is the only thing that has held him back. If he can stay healthy this season, he’ll post some pretty big numbers.

WR Deebo Samuel might have a significantly goofy name, but the second round rookie is looking like the real deal so far. He’s passed by last year’s second rounder (Dante Pettis) and yesterday was the leading 49ers receiver. For the past two years that distinction has been owned almost exclusively by TE George Kittle, who had a tidy game (3 catches for 54 yards), but was not the only guy making the passing game go for a change.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this kind of game from the Niners. It’s possible, even likely, that the Bengals are just a lousy football team, but last week they took the Seahawks to the wire before losing. If Niner fans remain skeptical of their team, you can bet the Seattle boys have taken notice. They might not be quaking in their boots yet, but seriously concerned would not be a stretch.

Not many of us expected to start the season with two victories in the Eastern time zone. And nobody expected the team to hit the BYE week with a 3-0 record. A home game against Pittsburgh is the only thing that can prevent such a splendid beginning, though. The Steelers might have been prohibitive favorites when we looked at the schedule, but they don’t look that formidable now. And maybe the Niners do.

The only negative from the game was losing LT Joe Staley for eight weeks with a broken fibula. How the team copes during that time will go a long way toward determining their fate this year.

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Sustainable Growth?

When the 2019 schedule came out, it looked like the 49ers had a real shot at opening the season with three straight losses – maybe even five.

The first two games were in the Eastern time zone, where the team hadn’t won since Harbaugh was prowling the sideline. Then came home games against the Steelers and much hyped Browns, followed by a trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams.

So the victory over the Buccaneers was vital. The team still might lose the next four games, but there’s at least a reasonable hope that won’t happen.

The Steelers and Browns both looked like horse manure last Sunday, and if that’s a true indication, they’re both beatable. The Bengals were supposed to be the weakest team on the opening gambit, but they gave the Seahawks all they could handle up in Seattle, before losing by one point. Maybe they’re not as bad as most people thought they would be.

Then again, using the first game of the season as an indicator of what’s to come is a proven way to be laughed out of court four games later.

The Bengals are still a bit of a mystery this year. Which is surely fine with their fans after sixteen years of Marvin Lewis‘s good-but-no-cigar teams that made the playoffs seven years and lost the first game each and every time. His .518 winning percentage over that time is the very definition of slightly better than mediocre. Of course, having Mike Brown, the stingiest owner in the NFL, pinching out the player paychecks probably doesn’t help an HC’s recruiting ability.

The new HC is Zac Taylor, formerly with the Rams. Cincinnati is hoping he brought some of Sean McVay‘s magic dust and not McVay’s vanishing act in last year’s SB. We’ll be hoping for the latter this week.

 

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49ers 31, Buccaneers 17

They came, they saw, they conquered. With a grain of salt on the “conquer.” Survived might be closer.

Grumpy did a nice post-game write-up Sunday night, so we’ll let him carry the ball here:

The defense looked very good at times, especially the pass rush. The run defense wore down in the 4th quarter and if not for Winston’s boners might have come up short. The offense was very streaky too. WAY too many penalties and bonehead mistakes. How the Hell can you line in the Neutral Zone multiple times? The fricking ball is RIGHT THERE next to you!

Hopefully a lot of this is rust getting knocked off and by Game 3 we’ll look more solid.

Witherspoon has got his mojo back. He looked like the promising rookie instead of the Lost Guy from last year. Moore made one major impact play. Dickhead is still getting by mugging people and I’m not sure the league will keep letting him get away with it this year.

Most concerned about the O-line interior. Tomlinson got absolutely rag dolled on the 4th down play, Richburg still isn’t healthy, and Person is a journeyman doing his best.

Still: It’s a Road Win, and an East Coast one at that. And a game where we looked pretty ugly at times, but found a way to win anyway. Been a few years since one of those.

A few more observations:

Someone should have warned Tevin Coleman about the 49ers injury jinx before he signed up last offseason. A guy known for durability promptly injured his ankle in this game and watched it from the bench. And the running game wasn’t much to watch, either. 32 attempts for 98 yards and 3.1 piddly yards per carry. The passing game wasn’t much better. Jimmy Garoppolo was 18 for 27 and 166 yards, with a passer rating of 80.2.

FA LB offseason acquisition Kwon Alexander got a game ball afterwards. Not sure what the message for that was. He dropped an interception that hit him in the hands and got tossed out of the contest in the first quarter. Maybe it was for beating the FA jinx by playing a game without tearing his ACL like the first two year’s FA guys have done.

The team had 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, and four takeaways. That was the first game since the Harbaugh era with that combination of defensive prowess and already eclipses last year’s historic ineptitude of 2 ints all season and minus a whole bunch in the t.o. department. We head to the second game plus 2 in turnovers.

All in all, this was a game the 49ers needed to win if they want to start getting some respect. And they did. Baby steps.

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Let’s See What We Got

The 2019 NFL season is at last upon us.

The 49ers did a good (or lucky) job of negotiating the roster cut down weekend, not losing anybody they wanted. Of course, it helped that nobody else wanted any of the players the team cut.

Which is a sad comment on the quality of the bottom end of the roster. Especially since four of them were in the starting lineup toward the end of last season (S Marcell Harris, LB Elijah Lee, RB Jeff Wilson Jr., and S Antone Exum). And the team brought all four of them back, three to the practice squad and one to the active roster. If any of them are again starters late in the year, we’ll know which direction the season headed: south, dumpster, toilet – take your pick.

This feels a lot like last season. Weak secondary, weak o-line, injury prone players, and everything boiling down to Jimmy Garoppolo and a strong d-line. A d-line with a pass rush, though, which it didn’t have last year.

There’s also a greater sense of urgency this year. Time to get it done on the field and keep alive the notion that our current HC and GM have what it takes to produce a contender. They’ve been given a pass for the first two years, but that won’t be the case this year.

The Tampa Bucs are the first test of the year. If this were a home game, the 49ers would win easily. But it’s an east coast game, where they’ve done quite poorly the past few years. They catch a break with the game scheduled late instead of 10am PDT. But it’s not a good idea to underestimate Tampa’s HC Bruce Arians. This guy knows how to win games.

Most of you have already made your 2019 Season Prognostications, but for those who haven’t (or if you want to change your mind because Garoppolo breaks his leg in practice this week), the deadline for entries is midnight Saturday.

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2019 Schedule
9-8: W 49ers 31, Buccaneers 17
9-15: W 49ers 41,Bengals 17
9-22: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:25pm
9-29: BYE

10-7: vs. Cleveland Browns, 5:15pm
10-13: @ Los Angeles Rams, 1:05pm
10-20: @ Washington, 10am
10-27: vs. Carolina Panthers, 1:05pm
10-31: @ Arizona Cardinals, 5:20pm

11-11: vs. Seattle Seahawks, 5:15pm
11-17: vs. Arizona Cardinals, 1:05pm
11-24: vs. Green Bay Packers, 1:25pm

12-1: @ Baltimore Ravens, 10am
12-8: @ New Orleans Saints, 10am
12-15: vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1:25pm
12-21 or 12-22: vs. Los Angeles Rams
12-29: @ Seattle Seahawks, 1:25pm

2019 Draft Class
1. DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
2. WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
3. WR Jalen Hurd, Baylor
4. P Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
5. LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
6. TE Kaden Smith, Stanford
6. OT Justin Skule, Vanderbilt
6. DB Tim Harris, Virginia
 
2019 Prognostications
Bakkentom: 10-6
Bullit: 10-6
Grumpy: 9-7
Mr Fletch: 7-9
NJ49er: 7-9
Skeebers: 8-8
Winder: 7-9

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