It’s Saturday, so while everyone is still eagerly awaiting the Sunday and Monday night match-ups in the NFL, there are still some important notes to go over following the thrilling Thursday Night shootout between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams.
First, this game showed with strong emphasis that Thursday night football is not dead. However, it definitely should be. It took an onside kick, some turnovers, and some big-time plays to make this game interesting. Even then, most people were not watching. The NFL has attempted to double down on Thursday Night Football. They transitioned from six or seven games per season to 13 games in the 2012 season. This was part of the effort to ensure that everyone played in a prime-time slotted game. The result has been that most teams that the league does not want to award a Sunday or Monday night game wind up playing on Thursday.
It can be said that a Sunday game tests two teams’ talent and game-plan. A Thursday night game, on the other hand, tests a team’s culture and their ability to win ugly, less disciplined football on a short week. And it is definitely ugly. Never mind that Thursday games end with margins of victory in the single digits less frequently than Sunday games and result in more blowouts. The TV ratings consistently demonstrate that even when the games are close, they are not the types of games people want to watch.
Second, is the two turnovers created by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and three touchdowns by running back Todd Gurley (in the first quarter, mind you). These would typically mean that a game is over in a hurry. The narrative could have been “Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff dominates with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and just under 300 yards on 78% passes completed.” In fact, it still is the narrative, because the 49ers defense that shined against the Seahawks failed to get to the quarterback once, and sustained no significant pass rush. This could be attributed some key injuries throughout the game. Jaquiski Tartt, Brock Coyle, and Tank Carradine were all casualties on the defensive side for the game. That said, 41 points is a tough pill to swallow. They will need every bit of the long week to get ready for Week 4.
Third, is the admirable effort the team put on in the second half of the game. Make no mistake, the second half brought new life to Kyle Shanahan and Co. Their 26 second-half points were the most by the team since December 23, 2013, against the Atlanta Falcons. Something the team lacked last season, and may need to make use of this season, is the ability to keep fighting despite an early deficit. With their record dropping to 0-3 on the season, the 49ers can be confident in Kyle Shanahan to keep his team collected moving forward.
Lastly, the performance by quarterback Brian Hoyer confirms a lingering suspicion in the back of 49ers fans’ heads. The team will win or lose on the basis of its play behind center. The early deficit can be easily pinpointed as starting with the bad interception to start the game. Meanwhile, Hoyer’s ability to find fullback Kyle Juszczyk for the seam, or wide receiver Pierre Garcon on some outside routes showed an ability to make good, smart plays. Even his run for a score to net the 49ers their first touchdown of the 2017 season showed his ability to helm the team on offense during this rebuilding phase for the team.
Unfortunately, the bad throw during the crucial 2-point conversion, and the sack that sealed the loss are indicators that Hoyer cannot be the solution going forward. With so many exciting prospects at QB in next year’s NFL draft, and rumors that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck could be moved by the end of the season, it’s tough to believe that Hoyer maintains his spot as starter in 2018.
As the NFL and head coach Kyle Shanahan look to move forward, Brian Hoyer and Thursday Night Football may solidify their place on the chopping block. Until then, Hoyer and the 49ers look to pick up their first win of the season in their Week 4 match-up against their division foes, the Arizona Cardinals. That game will be on Sunday, and kick-off is scheduled for 1:05pm PST.
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