The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Niners steamrolled a reeling Panthers team on Sunday but took some losses to key players in the process. Here are some notes on the good, the bad and the ugly from yesterday’s game.

The Good: Feeding George Kittle

Instead of cake on his 29th birthday, Kittle was force-fed the football. The first play of the day was a designed pass to the birthday boy, and one play later Kittle boxed out an overmatched safety for a 20-yard catch and a Niners first down. Within 3 plays Kittle already had more receiving yards than last week against the Rams, and by the end of the game his 5 catches for 47 yards nearly matched his season totals in both categories. 

Despite his fumble in the first quarter, it’s nice to see Kittle getting more involved. He nearly scored a touchdown early in the second quarter when he caught a pass at the 10-yard line and carried several Panther defenders to the goal line. The play was negated by penalty, but Jimmy Garrapolo went right back to Kittle on the next play. The pass fell incomplete, but it’s clear that Coach Shanahan is trying to get his star tight end the ball by any means necessary. 

The Bad: Gould Sacrifices his Body

Coming into the 2022 season, veteran kicker Robbie Gould had recorded 13 tackles in 18 NFL seasons. Yesterday in Carolina he was forced to make two awkward touchdown-saving solo takedowns. Special teams were the only glaring Niners weakness in an otherwise dominant performance.

Unsurprisingly, the 39-year-old Gould got a bit dinged up. They don’t pay him $4 million a year to make tackles. Gould sat out the remainder of the game with what the team is calling a left knee contusion. We’ll get more information on Gould soon, but suffice to say that special teams will be a major point of emphasis this week. Gould also had a field goal blocked in the first half. 

The Ugly: Jimmie Ward (Briefly) Returns, Bosa and Moseley Exit

The Niners’ league-leading defense welcomed back pro-bowler Jimmie Ward in the secondary – for one play. The safety broke his hand and will be out for an extended period. In a brutal bookend to the game, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley suffered a torn ACL on a meaningless play late in the 4th quarter, leaving this defense with a patchwork secondary going into Atlanta next week. 

If that isn’t bad enough, they may have to do without Defensive Player of the Year candidate Nick Bosa on the line. Bosa suffered a groin injury midway through Sunday’s contest. There is no timetable for his return, but it is assumed that this is not a major injury for the Niners’ best player. 

Random Note: Tevin Coleman Loves Playing Carolina

The last time the Niners faced the Carolina Panthers in 2019, running back Tevin Coleman scored four touchdowns en route to a dominant 51-13 win in Santa Clara. After that career-best game, the eight-year veteran did not record a single score for three seasons. Yesterday in Charlotte, he found the end zone twice, and made a nice catch along the sideline for a big gain in the first quarter. 

Elevated from the practice squad only a week ago, fans should expect Coleman to provide some depth in the backfield. If he could play the Panthers every week, he might be an All-Pro candidate. He’ll be in familiar surroundings next week against the Falcons, as he was drafted by Atlanta in 2015.