San Francisco

Mistake-Prone Niners Fall Hard in Opener to Panthers

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster knocked out early by injury, but it appears he should be able to get back on the field soon

If Game 1 is any indication, the 2017 season could be a tough one for the 49ers. In the team’s regular-season opener Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, the Niners were dominated by the Carolina Panthers in a 23-3 loss.

Though the 49ers -- with new head coach Kyle Shanahan, new offensive and defensive schemes and an enormous turnover of players from 2016's two-win season -- came into the season optimistic they could take some big steps this season, their first step didn't go well.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw an interception and lost a fumble, the running game could muster just 51 yards and San Francisco couldn’t get on the scoreboard – with a 44-yard field by Robbie Gould – until it was trailing 23-0 in the fourth quarter.

But, it could have been worse. Much worse.

In the first quarter, standout rookie linebacker Reuben Foster suffered an injury to his right ankle and had to be taken off the field in a cart. Just like that, Foster – who already had three tackles by that point – appeared possibly done for the season with a severe injury.

But later, Foster returned to the sideline, walking on his own power, with the initial diagnosis being a high ankle sprain according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. Foster could miss some time, but it’s likely he’ll be back on the field soon (unless further testst reveal something more serious).

The 49ers were plagued by mistakes on Sunday. They committed 10 penalties for 74 yards, lost the ball twice, gave up four sacks and converted just 2-of-11 third-down plays. The 49ers also gambled four times on fourth down and converted just once. On defense, the 49ers didn’t register a single sack. Safety Jacquiski Tartt had the highlight, an interception return of 37 yards, while also leading his team with seven tackles.

As a passer, Hoyer showed he could be an improvement over last year’s quarterbacks, completing 24-of 35 throws for 193 yards. But his average of just 8.04 yards per completion was disappointing. His main targets were wide receiver Pierre Garcon (six catches, 81 yards), running back Carlos Hyde (six for 32) and rookie tight end George Kittle (five for 27).

The 49ers had hoped to have a better running attack this season, but running behind a revamped offensive line, Hyde and rookie Matt Breida combined to gain 56 yards on just 13 carries.

The 49ers will try to turn things around this coming Sunday in Seattle against the Seahawks.

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