The Week 7 ugly went beyond a simple 29-point loss for the 49ers.
While most likely saw this result coming against one of the best teams in the NFL, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the turnovers, of which San Francisco relinquished four, will be a problem regardless of who his team plays:
“I’m aware that they don’t have the same record as the teams that we’ve been playing. But I also know, if we don’t take care of the ball better it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You can’t go three games with 13 turnovers and zero takeaways. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the best team in the NFL or the worst team in the NFL.”
Turnovers have been the glaring issue for the 49ers (1-6) so far this season — on both sides of the ball.
With 18 turnovers and just three takeaways through seven games, the 49ers hold the worst differential in football at minus-15.
Shanahan said it’s an area that receives focus every week:
“It’s something I preach. We usually have one coach get up each week and talk about turnovers. Our DB [defensive backs] coach Jeff Hafley usually does it. We had [inside linebackers coach] DeMeco [Ryans] do it last week. So, we usually dedicate someone to [do] that about 15 minutes in the meeting every Thursday, to emphasize them.”
When it comes down to it, no matter how much coaching they get, the players have to start taking care of the football.
The 49ers also got hit with another significant injury during the loss, with Adrian Colbert suffering a high-ankle sprain in the third quarter that forced him to go on injured reserve. When asked of the likelihood of Colbert’s return this season, Shanahan said “Probably not.”
Shanahan did say that the injury interrupted great progress that Colbert was showing:
“I thought in that game [versus Los Angeles] he was having one of his better games. We had a challenge here in the last few weeks. I thought in this game he had covered sideline to sideline very well, just running and hitting, and made a real good play on the play he got hurt on, also.”
With Richard Sherman dealing with a lingering calf issue, the 49ers are now down two of four starters in the secondary — though Sherman will likely return within the next couple weeks. Rookie D.J. Reed, Jimmie Ward and Greg Mabin will have to take advantage of the extra playing time.
One positive from this past Sunday’s game was the play of Raheem Mostert. He had half as many carries as Matt Breida and Alfred Morris combined, seven compared to 14, but out-rushed the duo, 59 yards to 40.
Mostert’s quickness was far more effective against the Rams front seven than the pounding style of Breida and Morris. Every one of his carries seemed to go for significant yardage. Combine this production with his 12 carry, 87-yard performance in Week 6 versus Green Bay, along with Breida’s recent injuries, and Mostert looks very deserving of a bigger role in the offense.
Another reason for optimism was George Kittle. The second-year tight end had his second-best game of the season, catching five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Kittle powered the only meaningful drive for San Francisco against the Rams, with 68 yards and the lone touchdown right before halftime. He’s now had less than 70 receiving yards just twice through seven games.
Shanahan said Kittle is starting to perform the way they expect him to:
“I think we had a lot higher expectations for George going into last year than a lot of people realize. I think George learned through the first year, he knew he could play in the league but I think he learned how hard it is to stay healthy throughout a year. I think he’s taken better care of his body throughout this offseason, what he does day in and day out, how physical he plays throughout a game, what he does Monday through Saturday just to get his body back ready to play on Sunday.”