The Week 2 victory against the New York Jets was heartbreaking as the loss of Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Raheem Mostert is still difficult to accept. Bosa and Thomas are both confirmed to have season-ending ACL tears while Garoppolo and Mostert’s injuries may keep them down for a couple weeks or so. This really is the worst nightmare for the San Francisco 49ers and their faithful fanbase. Yet, this is not the end. The 31-13 blowout against the Jets was not a fluke and should inspire a lot of confidence that this team is the real deal and they have a strong chance to maintain momentum. For a second week in a row, there is still a lot to be optimistic about.
San Francisco 49ers Heroes Rise From the Deep
History repeats itself
While it may be hard to remember the 49ers were in this position before. Last year the defending NFC Champions had to contend with losing key players for an extended period of time including Joe Staley, Dee Ford, Kyle Juszczyk, Kwon Alexander, and George Kittle, among others. Some players like Alexander and Ford missed more than six weeks, while others missed under a month. It did not matter. The team found ways to continue winning and ended up playing in the Super Bowl. The only difference is that this season the injuries are happening at the beginning of the season. Aside from season-ending injuries, this could be a blessing in disguise.
49ers Heroes will rise from the deep
First up is Nick Mullens. It is unlikely that Kyle Shanahan will play Garoppolo even if he is cleared, considering the game against the New York Giants is on the same field which caused so many issues. While it has been a long time since Shanahan has had to rely on Mullens but his performance in the second half of Week 2 delivers a dose of confidence. Though Mullens was unable to produce a touchdown and threw an interception, he still completed 8 of 11 pass attempts for 71 yards and managed the ball well-enough to allow for a certain fourth-quarter third-down conversion. With some practice, prospects remain hopeful that Mullens will be able to keep the ship afloat until Garoppolo’s return.
Now about that third and 31 in the fourth quarter… what else is there to say? Jerick McKinnon is a serious baller. Week 1’s touchdown and three receptions for 24 yards pales in comparison to his accomplishments in Week 2. Three rushes for 77-yards and that 55-yard touchdown solidifies that McKinnon will be a real asset to this team going forward and he may be the best active running-back in the league right now.
Jordan Reed is another playmaker that simply had a phenomenal game and has connected well with Garoppolo. Reed more than made up in Kittle’s absence, which saw him force three missed tackles, catch seven passes for 50 yards, and record two touchdowns. The seven-year veteran was released by the Washington Football team last season but is proving to be a wonderful addition to the 49ers roster and is already making a name for himself in the Bay Area.
With Bosa out for the season, Kerry Hyder Jr. will be relied upon to help fill the void. So far, he has done an admirable job with the Murray sack in Week 1 and the tackle-for-loss in Week 2. With Dee Ford hopefully set to return this week, and the acquisition of Ziggy Ansah, the edge rush should be covered for the season. Not to mention Arik Armstead contributes every now and then, so that brings some comfort.
While Mohamed Sanu was not a target in Week 2, that will change next Sunday. Shanahan will need to rely on the veteran wide-receiver to hopefully produce receptions and yardage that is reminiscent of his Atlanta Falcon days. If Sanu and Mullens can develop a strong chemistry, the 49ers will be able to hold the fort until their core starters return.
A critical juncture
The scenario is not ideal in any way. The reality is that the 49ers have little time to care. Mourn the losses, hope for quick returns from those that are able, and get the next win. This part of the season is where every win counts. The schedule for the 49ers becomes infinitely harder from Week 6 onward as they face the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Bills, Cowboys, and Cardinals. Every name on this list has contender written all over them and many will relish on dishing out payback for their losses back in 2019.
Despite that, there is enough confidence that Shanahan and Robert Saleh will be ready to face the challenges ahead. The system that they have created will be tested and now is the time to adapt. Aside from Bosa and Thomas, they will get back each injured player, including Deebo Samuel, by the middle of the season at the latest. Their recent acquisitions will fortify their weak points and while they will not be the same team as 2019, they will be close enough to remain competitive. And that is enough to keep this season alive.