San Francisco 49ers

49ers bailed out by defense in first half to negate four turnovers

The 49ers entered Sunday’s game as seven-point favorites against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they didn’t look like the decidedly better team in the early going.

The offense made five significant mistakes on its first five possessions, giving the Steelers life on the road with first-time starter Mason Rudolph under center. San Francisco hit halftime down 6-3.

But it could have been a lot worse.

It started when running back Matt Breida bobbled a screen pass that landed right in the hands of pass rusher T.J. Watt on Jimmy Garoppolo’s second pass of the game. San Francisco’s defense, which played well early, limited the Steelers to a field goal.

Then San Francisco avoided disaster when Raheem Mostert fumbled a pitch from Garoppolo, leading to an 18-yard loss. The 49ers punted later in the series.

Garoppolo on the next drive had a pass over the middle deflect off receiver Dante Pettis’ hands and right to Minkah Fitzpatrick, leading to another Pittsburgh field goal. It was a catchable pass that Pettis should have snagged, and was emblematic of his troubles throughout training camp.

San Francisco’s fourth series was lost by Mostert’s second fumble, when Fitzpatrick put his helmet on the ball at the Steelers’ 15-yard line, presumably taking points off the board.

The 49ers drove 55 yards and got four first downs the next series, but lost the ball on Pittsburgh’s 7-yard line when Garoppolo fumbled the snap from center Weston Richburg.

Fortunately, the 49ers’ defense allowed just 42 yards on the Steelers’ first 18 plays (2.3-yard average). And Pittsburgh’s lead was just 6-3 despite winning the turnover battle, 4-0.

San Francisco outgained the Steelers, 206-76. Garoppolo completed 14 of 19 passes for 165 yards. He was hit six times after taking just two shots over the first two weeks combined. George Kittle led the team with five receptions for 48 yards. Kyle Juszczyk had 49 yards on two impressive catches.

Rudolph completed 8 of 15 passes for 40 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He had a 59.0 passer rating.