The San Francisco 49ers (2-1) were clearly the better team in Sunday’s 36-9 win over the New York Giants (0-3).
Down their starting quarterback, two running backs, two defensive ends, two cornerbacks, their star tight end, a center, a wide receiver, a defensive tackle, and a linebacker, the 49ers still dominated.
They also lost another starting running back, cornerback and tight end in the game.
If anyone was seriously hoping for a tank job, you’re looking at the wrong team. Even with all the injuries, the 49ers have the depth and talent to compete with anybody.
Here are three thoughts from the victory:
Aiyuk and Deebo will be interchangeably electric
After missing Week 1, first-round rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had a rather pedestrian debut to his NFL career. He caught two of three targets for 21 yards against the Jets.
On Sunday, he got his feet wet with a couple carries on the first drive of the game.
After little success (three incompletions) with Nick Mullens in the second quarter, head coach Kyle Shanahan unleashed the playmaker, and the offense thrived.
Aiyuk led the team with five catches for 70 yards and had a 19-yard rushing touchdown as the 49ers outscored the Giants 20-3 in the second half.
If Aiyuk’s usage looked familiar, that’s because it was. Deebo Samuel often fueled the offense with big catches, or runs, from the wide receiver position.
Including the playoffs, Samuel totaled 67 catches for 929 yards and 20 rushes for 261 yards in his rookie 2019 season.
With Samuel, who has been on Injured Reserve due to an offseason foot injury, eligible to be activated, the 49ers could have two versatile weapons at their disposal in the coming weeks.
This defense is still really good
The Giants might be worse than a lot of people thought. Quarterback Daniel Jones was a popular pick to take a “leap” this season.
Due to a mixture of injuries and play-calling (GOAT Terrell Owens picks the latter), that talk will likely take a year’s hiatus.
But the Giants’ inefficiencies don’t mean the 49ers’ defense wasn’t excellent.
Fred Warner, Arik Armstead and Jaquiski Tartt had solid games while a variety of role players stepped up in big ways.
Dion Jordan and Kerry Hyder Jr. both had impressive success on the line.
Hyder took the team lead with his second sack and third tackle-for-loss of the season. He also had three QB hits.
Jordan, who was elevated from the practice squad after last week’s injuries, got his first sack of the season, recovered a fumble and had two QB hits.
The most surprising efforts came from the cornerbacks.
The 49ers entered the game without the injured Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Nine snaps in, Emmanuel Moseley exited with a concussion.
This left Jason Verrett, who has played two games since 2016, and special teamer Dontae Johnson as the only outside cornerbacks.
Both played very well. They effectively eliminated Darius Slayton, the Giants’ best playmaker, from the game.
Slayton had just three catches for 53 yards, but on his late 22-yard catch, Johnson forced a fumble and Tarvarius Moore recovered to stop the drive.
Sherman is out at least one more week. Witherspoon and Moseley’s status are up in the air for Week 4. Verrett and Johnson might be the starters next week against the Eagles.
Despite being down to their third- and fifth-string cornerbacks, the 49ers might hold an advantage over a battered Philadelphia receiving corp.
The UDFAs reign supreme
The 49ers started five undrafted free agents on offense (Mullens, Kendrick Bourne, Ross Dwelley, Ben Garland and Daniel Brunskill), and three more on defense (K’Waun Williams, Moseley and Hyder) on Sunday.
Five more recorded at least 15 snaps (Jeff Wilson Jr., Jamycal Hasty, Kevin Givens, Azeez Al-Shaair and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles).
Some of those guys were not originally signed by San Francisco (Garland, Williams and Hyder) and arrived as veteran free agents. But that doesn’t take away from the weird success the 49ers have at building depth.
Mullens outplayed Jones, the sixth pick a year ago, and looked like a future starter (team TBD), throwing for 343 yards and a touchdown.
He dealt with the pressure very well, made the right reads and was second in the NFL this week in passing yards.
Wilson (15 touches for 69 yards and a touchdown), Bourne (four catches, 63 yards) and Dwelley (four catches, 49 yards) all made an impact.
Givens, Hyder and Williams have been, and will continue to be, three of the most important 49ers going forward.
For as much as the 49ers have missed on draft picks, they’ve made up for it with high-value middle-to-late rounders and surprising UDFAs.
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