The San Francisco 49ers won't be at Levi's Stadium for their first official home game of the season until September 22, but the season officially started for them on Sunday in Tampa Bay — and they're OK so far.
It was a messy game, with 11 flags in the first half alone, but the Niners managed to eke out three touchdowns and defend their way to 31-17 victory — letting fans of the Buccaneers feel the sting this time of losing their season opener.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game, "We didn’t play our best ball today but the guys played very hard." And he added, per the Examiner, "We gave [Tampa Bay] a lot of free first downs off of penalties. Just a lot of self-inflicted wounds that we weren’t proud of."
After going 4-12 last season, the humiliated franchise couldn't afford not to win on Sunday, no matter how sloppily they got there.
Per the Chronicle, cornerback Richard Sherman was eager to brag to reporters in the locker room, "Hey, we’ve got three picks now."
And Tampa Bay All-Pro wide receiver Mike Evans was quick to tell the paper, of the Niners, "Their defense was definitely better than it was last year."
The defense was feastin ‘ & today you can feast on free Jumbo Jacks!— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 9, 2019
When the #49ers score 2 TDs, get a free Jumbo Jack at participating @JackBox locations with the purchase of a drink. pic.twitter.com/QsPEIivg0s
The 49ers have invested heavily in bolstering their defensive lineup, which so far appears to have paid off. Though coming back from an injury that sidelined him early in the last season, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gave what the Chron's Eric Branch calls "an erratic performance" in his first big game back, handing the Buccaneers a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.
Fan site NinerNoise gives cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon much of the credit for Sunday's win, saying he gave an absolute gem of a performance. "A year ago, Witherspoon would have been a liability in such a contest featuring Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and a prolific passing offense," they write. "Instead of emulating last season, though, Witherspoon was a massive asset, breaking up three passes over the course of the game and registering a game-sealing pick-six interception late in the fourth quarter."
First-round draft pick Nick Bosa scored his first career sacks in Sunday's game.
Incidentally, Sherman got called for pass interference early in the game, though the call was not initially made — and Sherman was obviously unhappy about it.
Initially not flagged, this play was reviewed and found to be pass interference on Richard Sherman. Another angle showed Sherman grabbing Mike Evans’ jersey. #49ers— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 8, 2019
On Sunday, September 15, the Niners will be in Cincinnati playing the Bengals, and they'll return home the following week to play the Steelers on the 22nd.