The 49ers will head into their “mini bye weekend” trying to figure out how to turn up the heat on opposing quarterbacks.
Through three games, San Francisco has managed just three sacks, all of them coming in their Week 2 loss to Seattle. Only three teams – the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jets – have fewer, and two of them, Tampa Bay and Miami, have played just one game so far this season because of Hurricane Irma. The 49ers and Rams are the only teams to have played three contests.
“It wasn’t good enough, you know?” Kyle Shanahan said of Thursday’s pass rush against Los Angeles. “I can’t tell you exactly why, but our guys didn’t win. They blocked us pretty well. We didn’t affect the quarterback enough.”
What’s worse, one of the 49ers with a sack this season, defensive end Tank Carradine, will miss at least several weeks with a high ankle sprain. Shanahan said an MRI will determine the exact nature of the damage to Carradine’s lower leg but that putting him on injured reserve is a possibility.
Carradine is in a walking boot and also on crutches. Shanahan said a decision on on injured reserve will be made Monday. The 49ers can bring two players back from injury reserve later this year. Ronald Blair, who ended the preseason with a thumb injury and who plays the same position as Carradine, already is a candidate to return from injured reserve.
Carradine’s absence will lead to more snaps for first-round pick Solomon Thomas, who has played 59 percent of San Francisco’s defensive snaps so far. Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, has seven tackles and one hit on the quarterback, but he has yet to record a sack.
Perhaps even more prominent, Elvis Dumervil also no sacks.
The 49ers didn’t draft a so-called “Leo” or “Elephant” defensive end – the marquee pass-rush position – in their defense until they selected Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round. Taumoepenu is considered a bit of a long-term project and he’s been inactive for every game this season.
Instead they signed Dumervil more than a month after the draft hoping he could reacquire some of the explosion and tenacity that helped him get 17 sacks in 2014. On Thursday it seemed as if Dumervil had his first of the season and the 100th of his career when he brought down Jared Goff in the first quarter. But a holding call on cornerback Dontae Johnson erased the play and gave the Rams a first down.
Dumervil and fellow defensive end Aaron Lynch usually enter games on obvious passing situations. One of the problems against Los Angeles was that the Rams were so effective running the ball and on first and second down they rarely put themselves in third-and-long scenarios.
As a result, Dumervil played just 10 of 67 defensive snaps; Lynch played 14.
“Elvis comes in in more of our speed-rush packages, which is obviously pass downs, third and long, when the run is taken out of it,” Shanahan said. “We can use Elvis at both, too, but that’s really what he specializes in. The more third and longs they have, the easier it is to get to the quarterback because they’ve got to hold onto it longer.”
Et cetera – Shanahan said he’d ask the NFL to review the controversial pass-interference call on Trent Taylor that ended up being a 21-yard swing at game’s end. Asked what he saw on the play, Shanahan said, “I saw a very good route.”
▪ The 49ers have three players in the concussion protocol: linebacker Brock Coyle, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and safety Jaquiski Tartt. Coyle and Juszczyk seemed to suffer their initial injuries and then remain in the game for an additional play.
▪ Shanahan said he’d be “shocked” if linebacker Reuben Foster, who also is coming back from a high ankle sprain, plays in the 49ers’ next game, Oct. 1, against the Arizona Cardinals.