For one, it was a game that San Francisco was favored to win, and after the first two drives and a 10-0 lead, looked likely to win.
However, the offense lost momentum, the defense blew a few coverages and generally didn’t make enough of an impact, and now the 49ers are 0-1. To make matters worse, star tight end George Kittle went down with an injury in a scary moment for both the player and the team.
While Kittle did return out to the field in the second half, he saw very, very little action as the 49ers looked like they were making absolutely sure that the tight end wasn’t going to make matters worse.
Kittle did provide a boost though, coming out after the game and not just saying that he feels the injury is minor, but even going a step further.
“I feel fantastic. Fantastic. Not an issue at all.” George Kittle on his leg injury. #49ers
— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) September 14, 2020
It’s certainly encouraging to hear Kittle say that he’s feel good, but it remains to be seen exactly how minor or how major the injury is.
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Play That Kittle Got Injured
As the 49ers looked to add to their 10-7 lead late in the second half, head coach Kyle Shanahan drew up a routine bubble screen with Kittle on the receiving end.
But the play didn’t go to plan, primarily because quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo overthrew the tight end, which forced the former Iowa Hawkeye into the air and into an awkward situation when Cardinals safety Budda Baker met him at the line of scrimmage.
The bad pass by Jimmy Garoppolo that got George Kittle limping to the sidelines.pic.twitter.com/zp9CvUS4Qc
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 13, 2020
It is definitely not an ideal throw from Garoppolo, and Baker doesn’t look to make a dangerous hit by any means, but it is just an unfortunate occurrence when a player coming down from the air is met by a player rushing to make a play.
Where 49ers Go From Here
While Kittle is emphatic that he is doing just fine, the real update will come Monday, after San Francisco takes a proper look at Kittle’s leg and analyzes what exactly is up and the severity of the issue.
Obviously, the 49ers will hope that Kittle is able to return sooner rather than later, but it might be deeper than hope. With the lack of top receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, San Francisco looked way less lethal in the passing game than they did at any point last season.
Kittle doesn’t stretch the field quite like Aiyuk and Samuel, but his big-play capability is undeniable, and they have been integral to the team the past two seasons.
However, they can’t rush the tight end back either after one poor-looking divisional loss. The team elected to put Samuel on the IR due to a relatively soft start to the schedule with trips to New York for away matchups against the Giants and Jets, and they could do the same with a three-week break for Kittle.
But if they do, the team will need to find a way to adapt, because based on Week 1, San Francisco will need players to step up if they have similar aspirations to the 2019 season.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.