SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to shaky starts to the season too often under coach Kyle Shanahan.
After a training camp dominated by a lengthy contract holdout from the team's best defensive player Nick Bosa, the trading away of the former future franchise quarterback Trey Lance and the rehabilitation of the starting QB Brock Purdy, there were questions about whether that could change this season.
Considered those answered.
The Niners opened the season in dominating fashion, going on the road to overwhelm the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-7 on Sunday in a performance that showed why San Francisco is once again considered one of the leading contenders in the NFC.
“It was exactly how we wanted to come out,” All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said. “It was an emphasis on, you know, past seasons, us coming out with slow starts. We knew that we needed to come in and set the tone right from the jump.”
The 49ers (1-0) led 20-0 before allowing the Steelers to generate a single first down on offense and didn't let up much after that.
Purdy answered any questions about the health of his throwing elbow by throwing two TD passes to Brandon Aiyuk six months to the day after undergoing surgery.
Bosa showed few signs of rust following his holdout and led the way for a defense that made Kenny Pickett uncomfortable all game.
Even rookie kicker Jake Moody got into the act after a shaky preseason, making all three field goals and extra points.
It all added up to San Francisco's most lopsided road win in Week 1 since 1986 when they won 31-7 at Tampa Bay.
“My goal for the team was to play with the right intent,” Shanahan said. “How hard we went from the first play to the last play, I was really proud of our team in that way. The defense shut them down those first three plays, three and out, to really set the tone.”
Purdy completed 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards and became the first QB in NFL history to win his first six regular-season starts, while throwing at least two TD passes in each game. His connection with Aiyuk was particularly sharp, as he completed all eight passes he threw him for 129 yards and two TDs. Aiyuk became the first Niners receiver to have at least 100 yards receiving and two TDs in the opener since J.J. Stokes in 1998.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
End of first half. It's a stretch to find much that went wrong for the Niners outside of the final two minutes of the first half. They threw three straight incompletions after getting to the Steelers 37. Then after a punt, they allowed Pittsburgh to drive 95 yards in 1:25 for the longest regular-season TD drive against San Francisco in 10 years.
DE Drake Jackson. Relegated to the bench late in his rookie season, Jackson emerged in Week 1 as a viable pass rushing threat opposite of Bosa. Jackson's three sacks matched his total from all of last season. He joined Bryant Young (2005) and Jeff Stover (1986) for the most sacks in an opener in franchise history.
RT Colton McKivitz. The biggest question on offense headed into the season was how McKivitz would handle a starting role after Mike McGlinchey left in free agency. The results in Week 1 weren't great as he allowed five pressures and three sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The one caveat is that McKivitz won't have to face a pass rusher as tough as T.J. Watt most weeks.
“He had the toughest matchup on the field,” Shanahan said. “There were definitely a number of plays where Watt got him, a couple of situations we could have helped him with chips and stuff.”
The Niners came out of the game healthy as CB Ambry Thomas cleared concussion protocol during the game and again on Monday.
152. Christian McCaffrey ran for 152 yards on 22 carries for the third-best Week 1 rushing performance in franchise history. McCaffrey scored on a 65-yard run to give him a touchdown in 10 straight games, including the playoffs. That's two shy of Jerry Rice's franchise record set in 1987.
Visit the Los Angeles Rams (1-0) on Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Josh Dubow, The Associated Press