The San Francisco 49ers have played in some ugly games this season, but today’s, 41-33, loss to the Dallas Cowboys may have been the ugliest. With the loss and the Arizona Cardinals’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the 49ers have officially been eliminated from playoff contention.
To put it in perspective, late in the fourth quarter, and down, 34-27, the 49ers attempted an onside kick that Cowboys’ wide receiver CeeDee Lamb ended up running back for a touchdown. That was far from the plan.
Turnovers were, once again, the story of the game. The 49ers committed four. The Cowboys committed zero. That’s a hard differential to overcome.
“Offensively, it’s extremely tough to win when you’re out-leveraged in the turnover margin four to zero,” said 49ers left tackle Trent Williams. “The league might be undefeated with a four to zero turnover ratio, so that’s where it starts, and that’s where it stops. We put our defense in a bad position four times and we were still in the game at the end of the game, still a one-score game. We’ve just got to be better, man. We can’t expect to win games turning the ball over.”
All in all, the Cowboys scored 24 points off of those turnovers. Early in the game, the 49ers had two turnovers in two possessions. The first was a Richie James fumble on a punt return, and the second was from quarterback Nick Mullens as he was sacked. The latter was recovered by Cowboys’ defensive end and former-49er Aldon Smith.
The 49ers bounced back though and played well enough to win until the fourth-quarter, when Mullens committed two interceptions and that was that.
“…I really wanted the guys to come out and play good football and I think offensively, defensively and special teams guys did a lot of good things,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “When you have four turnovers, it doesn’t matter what you do, especially when you got zero. When it’s four to zero and they get 24 points, I believe they had off turnovers, regardless of what you do on the field, in any aspect, it gives you very little chance to win.
“I was real disappointed with the first turnover, with the special teams. Thought [Cowboys’ defensive end DeMarcus] Lawrence made a hell of a play on the strip. The protection was good. We were in the pocket. He got around there. We were pushing it by and he got his arm on it as Nick was throwing, but that was an unbelievable play by him. Besides the muffed punt, I thought we were doing a much better job until the fourth quarter. And then we had it back-to-back drives, which ended the game.”
The 49ers have had a difficult season which was made more difficult with their abrupt move from Santa Clara to Glendale, Arizona, but the 49ers will not point to that as an excuse.
“I don’t care about what the situation is, because I know it’s going to end at some point, I know we’re not going to have to stay in Arizona for our entire lives,” said 49ers linebacker Fred Warner. “We literally have, or back to when we came to Arizona, we had just a designated time period of us being in Arizona and then the season’s going to end and we go back home. That’s the deal. And so we needed to take care of business while we were in Arizona. The team has done a great job of giving us everything that we need, and guys just have to do their job…
“And yeah, we can talk about COVID, we can talk about injuries and all that stuff has a factor in it, it means something, but we just got to play complementary football. And that’s just what it is. And it’s frustrating, obviously you can hear the frustration in my voice, but it’s just because I care. And it sucks to lose, I hate losing and we’ve got to change something. You got to look at yourself, first and foremost, because you can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.”
Shanahan agrees. No matter what they’ve been dealing with off-the-field, the mistakes are on-field mistakes.
“Well yeah, we’ve dealt with a lot of crap this year, but when you say it’s too much to overcome, I think we would have overcome it without turnovers today,” Shanahan said. “And I don’t think the turnovers necessarily have to do with all of that. You play good football, you’ve got a chance to win every week. And regardless of our circumstances, it doesn’t mean you need to turn the ball over.”
Today’s game was Mullens’ sixth straight with an interception, which is not the kind of streak a quarterback wants. Mullens left the game late with an elbow injury.
“I was throwing the football and they hit my hand and jammed my elbow a little bit,” Mullens said. “So, I figured it was best for the team for somebody who can throw the football to get in the game.”
This and that
- Running back Raheem Mostert, who has been dealing with a high-ankle sprain, left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.
- Jimmie Ward (concussion) and Dion Jordan (knee) also did not return.
- Arik Armstead had two sacks, bringing his season total to 3.5.
- Robbie Gould kicked his 400th career field goal.
- Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk continues to be a bright spot for San Francisco. He had nine receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown.