What we learned as 49ers survive Lions' furious late rally


DETROIT — The 49ers survived a fourth-quarter scare in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, opening the regular season with a 41-33 victory Sunday at Ford Field.

The score was a lot closer than the rest of the game indicated, with the 49ers leading 41-17 with less than two minutes to go before the Lions scored 16 unanswered points to make things a little too close to comfort for the 49ers.

The game was also soured by a potential serious knee injury to Jason Verrett, who was helped off the field and seemed to be in a lot of pain.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo started and played quite efficiently, as the 49ers took control with their run game. He completed 17 of 25 pass attempts for 314 and one touchdown.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel posted a career-high 189 receiving yards on nine receptions, but had a key fourth-quarter fumble that gave the Lions life with a little over a minute remaining.

But before that turnover, Samuel played quite well. He made an adjustment on a deep pass from Garoppolo, made the grab, then cut back and sprinted into the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 38-10 in the third quarter.

Here are some other takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 1 performance:

Full-fledged combo QBs

Coach Kyle Shanahan did not mess around.

On the first drive in which the 49ers strung together some plays, rookie quarterback Trey Lance was mixed into the action and ended up throwing the 49ers’ first touchdown pass of the season.

Jimmy Garoppolo started and helped move the 49ers into the red zone. Lance entered for one play, kept for a 1-yard gain and exited.

After Garoppolo converted on a third-and-6 from the Detroit 12, Lance entered again.

With the Lions wary of another run play, Lance faked a handoff and delivered an on-target pass to wide receiver Trent Sherfield for a 5-yard touchdown.

Lance became the first rookie in 49ers history to throw a touchdown pass in the season opener.

The first quarter of the first game provided a clear indication that Shanahan will not be shy about mixing Lance into the action. That is something that will certainly occupy defensive coordinators who must prepare to face the 49ers in the coming weeks.

Other than the TD, Lance’s first NFL stat line leaves plenty of room for improvement. He carried three times for 2 yards.

Ford revs it up in the Motor City

Through most of the offseason, the 49ers were not sure if they would get anything from edge rusher Dee Ford due to a back injury that sidelined him for the final 15 games last season.

But Ford worked hard to get back on the field, and he looked just fine in the season opener.

Ford did not play much, but he provided a major lift for the 49ers’ pass rush with his work against Lions right tackle Matt Nelson, who was forced into the starting lineup due to Taylor Decker’s finger injury.

Ford got pressure on Lions quarterback Jared Goff, which contributed to a poor throw (or poor decision) that linebacker Dre Greenlaw intercepted. Greenlaw returned it 39 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.

On the next possession, Ford blew past Nelson for a sack. Then, on third down, Nelson was called for holding against Ford. The 49ers declined the penalty to set up a punt.

Late-round rookies make contributions

The 49ers turned to fifth-round pick Deommodore Lenoir to start at left cornerback in place of Emmanuel Moseley. And when starting running back Raheem Mostert exited after the first quarter with a knee injury, it was sixth-round draft pick Elijah Mitchell who took over.
Lenoir had a strong training camp and out-performed third-round pick Ambry Thomas.

Mitchell took his spot as No. 2 on the depth chart ahead of Trey Sermon, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Sermon was not active for the game, as the 49ers went with Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty as the backups.

Mitchell entered as the main back when Mostert was injured. On his third rushing attempt, Mitchell blasted through an opening on the right side and dashed 38 yards for a touchdown. The play gave the 49ers a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Lenoir and Mitchell played major roles in the opener. Lenoir was part of a defensive effort that put the clamps on Goff and the Lions’ passing game. Mitchell carried 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown.

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