View from the other side: Lions vs. 49ers
LIONS VS. 49ERS
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:05 p.m., Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
TV/radio: Fox/WJR 760
Line: 49ers by 5
View from the other side
Cam Inman, who covers the San Francisco 49ers for the Bay Area News Group, breaks down the matchup for The Detroit News, answering five questions heading into Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter at @CamInman.
1. It’s easy to overanalyze Week 1, but what was your biggest takeaway from the season-opening loss to the Vikings?
Inman: Not only is Jimmy Garoppolo mortal (he was 7-0 as a career starter before this "L") but he still needs a more reliable supporting cast. The 49ers blew golden opportunities to Silence The Skol.
Alfred Morris fumbled on the goal line. A young receiver (Kendrick Bourne) ran the wrong route for a Vikings pick-six. Injuries at right guard had a ripple effect. And tight end George Kittle can't be crowned Gronkittle yet, not after dropping a bomb at midfield that could have been a potential 80-yard TD.
Simply put, the 49ers are 0-1 because they're not yet ready to morph into the 10-6 team some (me) envisioned.
2. Jerick McKinnon was a big part of the offseason plan. How is the backfield rotation shaking out without him?
Inman: McKinnon's ACL tear a week before the season is devastating. He was coach Kyle Shanahan's dual-threat dream. So now they're stuck with Morris (70 career starts) evenly splitting time with speedy Matt Breida (0 starts). That duo combined for one catch in the opener (a 5-yarder by Breida). If this continues, so will 49ers fans' desperate pleas for Le'Veon Bell.
3. Richard Sherman played all 71 snaps against Minnesota. How did he look and was the performance enough to alleviate lingering concerns coming off last year’s Achilles injury?
Inman: Sherman was a bright spot, and he has been since arriving as their former arch enemy from Seattle. He gave up an early, 18-yard catch on a double move but successfully defended the other pass that came his way. So Kirk Cousins didn't test him much.
Sherman did recover a fumble and what he did after was neat: He ran over to the sideline with it and handed it to Garoppolo, who took that turnover and led the 49ers on a second-quarter drive to the Vikings 1 (where Morris fumbled).
4. George Kittle had a quietly productive rookie year that picked up steam after Jimmy Garoppolo was inserted into the lineup. After racking up 90 yards in the opener, are we looking at the start of a breakout season?
Inman: Kittle had a mixed debut. Yes, he delivered big plays with receptions of 36, 18, 14 and 13 yards. But he also dropped a beautiful bomb at midfield, and Garoppolo overthrew him in the end zone later. He's a work in project. But he looks like a 2017 fifth-round steal.
5. Speaking of Garoppolo, he and Lions coach Matt Patricia know each other well from their time in New England. Do you see that familiarity benefiting either one more heading into this matchup?
Inman: Whatever tendencies Patricia is scribbling down with his pencil are no secret to other coaches by now: Garoppolo will stay in the pocket, he will be reckless a time or two with interception-potential throws, he will struggle in the red zone, he will inspire teammates and he will benefit from Shanahan's play calling.
Score prediction: 49ers 23, Lions 10
49ers to watch
■ Jimmy Garoppolo, QB: The 49ers starting quarterback's impressive undefeated run came to a crashing halt last week against Minnesota. The young signal-caller is an accurate pocket passer, so if the Lions want to come away with a win, they'll need to find a way to generate some pressure.
■ George Kittle, TE: He's not Rob Gronkowski, but Kittle has emerged as one of the top's receiving threats in the 49ers offense, recording 190 yards between last year's finale and this year's opener. Detroit has had trouble covering tight ends in recent years, so Kittle provides an intriguing early season test.
■ Richard Sherman, CB: Long known as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL, Sherman had an impressive debut in San Francisco, returning from a devastating Achilles injury. He'll likely split time covering Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay on Sunday.