Guards Aaron Banks, Spencer Burford show progress in 49ers-Bears opener

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Young guards Banks, Burford show progress in 49ers' opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

On the inventory of things that went wrong for the 49ers on Sunday, the play of their unproven interior offensive linemen was far down on the list.

“I thought they did a real good job," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday, one day after the team's 19-10 loss to the Chicago Bears.

"I thought they did good in pass protection. I thought it was a real good, positive first game for those three. By no means were they perfect, but I thought they did a real good job for their first time.”

Rookie right guard Spencer Burford did not allow any quarterback pressures in his NFL debut, and left guard Aaron Banks also graded out well as a run-blocker and in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus. Banks allowed two quarterbacks pressures.

The 49ers committed 12 penalties for 99 yards. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel had a costly fumble early in the game, and quarterback Trey Lance threw an interception in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers came up with just 10 points on three trips inside the red zone.

“We were prepared up front,” Burford said. “We just didn’t capitalize on certain things, as far as technique, as far as assignment. Whenever you have 100 yards in penalties, whether that’s offense or defense, it’s going to be hard to win a game. We have to clean that up.

“Somebody did something that affected the game.”

Burford and left tackle Trent Williams were both called for false start penalties, and Lance was sacked two times. The 49ers gained 115 yards on 18 rushing attempts in the first half for a 6.4-yard average.

As the field conditions worsened in a downpour, the 49ers managed just 61 yards on 19 rushing attempts in the second half.

"It got rainy as hell out there, and it got hard to move when it’s 3 inches of rain and you’re trying to move guys off the ball and you’re slipping and sliding," Banks said.

There is a lot of attention on the team’s pair of young offensive guards this season.

Banks was a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He moved into the starting lineup after Laken Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets as a free agent. Burford is a fourth-round pick from Texas-San Antonio.

“I know what they expect out of me and Spencer, and the goal is to be the best guards we can be for this team and this offense and do everything they ask of us,” Banks said.

“We know we have a spotlight on us, but we knew that was going to happen. We’re excited to keep rolling, keep getting better.”

Banks and Burford said they felt more comfortable in the regular-season opener than during the preseason. The club had a 17-day gap from the final preseason game to Week 1 of the regular season.

“We were practicing the entire time, so I tried to hone in on my technique and try get better over that time and take a step from the preseason games to the first game and come up better,” Banks said.

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Burford said he had a few moments before the game in which he got emotional, thinking about the journey he took to get to this point.

“I started getting more comfortable as I started playing throughout the first series, and started finding my groove now that it’s the regular season,” Burford said.

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