SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 23-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the opening week of the regular season on Sunday at Levi's Stadium:
1. The kid is all right
Things did not look good when 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster went down in obvious pain with a right leg injury during the first quarter.
Foster is a dynamic player. He might already be the best player on the team. And the 49ers' defense got off to a good start with Foster flashing his sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability.
Foster’s injury was reason for massive concern, as it prompted the 49ers’ medical staff to bring a cart onto the field to take him back to the locker room for further observation. Thankfully for the 49ers, X-rays were negative. Although Foster was finished for the day, he still walked back to the sideline and stood to watch the remainder of the game.
The early indications are that Foster’s injury could keep him out a week or two, but a long-term injury was avoided. Foster promised, "I'll be back soon. Very, very, very soon."
2. Help is on the way
The 49ers knew they needed help at the guard positions. On the day of the 49ers’ final exhibition game, general manager John Lynch completed a trade to acquire former first-round draft pick Laken Tomlinson from the Detroit Lions.
Left guard Zane Beadles has really struggled, beginning in training camp. On Sunday, he surrendered a sack-fumble against Panthers defensive lineman Wes Horton in the first half that led to Carolina's first touchdown. Let’s not put too much blame on Beadles, but it certainly looks as if it’s only a matter of time before Tomlinson replaces him.
Running back Carlos Hyde did OK with 45 yards on nine carries, but they fell behind by so much that they had to abandon the run game in the second half. The 49ers gave up four sacks and at least eight quarterback hits. And of all the places where the 49ers had issues on Sunday, the spot where they might have a more talented player currently behind a starter is at left guard.
3. It’s going to take time
Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system is proven, but it also might be too complex to expect this collection of players to get it mastered so early in his tenure. The 49ers had pre-snap penalties, issues with the play clock and more than a few physical errors, too.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer was largely accurate, completing 24 of 35 pass attempts (68.6 percent). Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin should have caught Hoyer’s first deep ball, which almost assuredly would have led to the 49ers taking a first-quarter lead. Other times, Hoyer seemed to hold the ball too long when passes should have come out sooner.
Hoyer’s third-quarter interception -- a play that basically eliminated the possibility of a 49ers comeback -- was a matter of a demanding play call coupled with Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly doing an outstanding job of baiting the quarterback. Hoyer turned his back entirely to the defense to sell a play fake. Kuechly had diagnosed exactly what was happening and got into position for the pick while Hoyer was not looking down the field. Kuechly stepped in front of 49ers tight end George Kittle for the interception.
Let's make one thing clear about the 49ers' quarterback situation: There is a significant gap between Hoyer and rookie backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, so there’s no reason to even be thinking along those lines at this point.