It was going to take a flawless game, and though it began that way, turnovers and sloppy play were too much for the injury-ravaged San Francisco 49ers to overcome, as they lost, 27-13, to the New Orleans Saints and fall to 4-6.
“I think if we took care of the ball better, we had a very good chance to be in that game,” 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But we didn’t and blew an opportunity.”
On the plus side, the bye week is upon them and it’s possible that a team has never needed it more.
“This is as much of needed rest of any team I’ve been on,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers had the ball for 13:39 of the first quarter, starting the game with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The defense, who played well all day (the score is misleading, but we’ll get to that), kept Drew Brees and Co. off the field, and the upset looked feasible. Until it didn’t.
“If we could have sustained the type of play that we started out with, I think we had this game,” said left tackle Trent Williams.
Unfortunately, they could not.
The second quarter brought a very, very, very questionable roughing the passer call on 49ers’ defensive end Kentavius Street – a hit that would ultimately take Saints’ QB Drew Brees out of the game – on which the Saints capitalized. Towards the end of the quarter, the 49ers turned the ball over on downs which led to another Saints touchdown and it was 17-10 New Orleans at halftime. Even with Brees out for the second half, the 49ers couldn’t get it done.
They committed four turnovers (three in the second half), including two Nick Mullens’ interceptions.
“I thought our guys were fighting their asses off,” Shanahan said. “…It really came down to turnovers. That’s what’s most disheartening.”
At one point, Mullens was replaced by C.J. Beathard for a third and long play, but it was due to Mullens having the wind knocked out of him. Mullens finished the day 24-of-38 for 247 yards, one touchdown, the two aforementioned interceptions and he was sacked twice.
“They did a good job of just shutting us down,” Mullens said of the New Orleans defense.
The 49ers’ run game could never really get, well, running. They ran the ball 21 times for 41 yards. Jerick McKinnon had 18 carries for 33 yards. Yes, you read that right. JaMycal Hasty had three carries for 13 yards before leaving the game with a broken collarbone.
“We knew it would be a challenge running the ball today,” Shanahan said. “I was trying to stay balanced as well as I could so we didn’t become one-dimensional and make it tough on our quarterback and O-line.”
Special teams also had a very tough day, to the tune of two muffed punts and allowing a 75-yard kickoff return. The turnovers led to 14 points.
“In order to win game, especially against a great team like that, you’ve got make sure we’re not beating ourselves,” said linebacker Fred Warner.
With no disrespect to the Saints, the 49ers did very much beat themselves, but, as Shanahan said, they played their “asses” off. So there’s that
Shanahan said he is hopeful that running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman will return after the bye. The 49ers also hope to have Richard Sherman and Deebo Samuel back. Fingers crossed.
The Bright Spots
- Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk looks like a star in the making. He had four receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown today, but he looks comfortable and dynamic and as the team gets more of their offensive weapons back, it will be exciting to see what he can do.
- Rookie defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw recorded his first sack today and finished the day with 1.5 sacks and three tackles.
- Kerry Hyder continued his strong season, recording a sack, which brings his total to a team-high 5.5. He had five total tackles and two solo.
- Tight end Jordan Reed had five receptions for 62 yards and one of those catches was a pretty spectacular one-handed grab.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 15, 2020
And with that, a “frustrated” (their word) 49ers team heads into the bye in the hopes that time heals everything, especially the men who wear red and gold.