The 49ers suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season to the undefeated Rams. And head coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t think his team can compete with the league’s best until it corrects its most glaring issue.
“Once we fix the turnovers, then we have a chance to start playing football,” he said afterward.
San Francisco (1-6), debuting their all-white throwback uniforms honoring their 1994 championship team, turned the ball over four times leading to 24 points for Los Angeles. The Rams entered the weekend with the NFL’s top-ranked offense, yet three of their four touchdown drives went 27 yards or shorter en route to the 39-10 win.
“It’s inexcusable,” Shanahan said. “It’s impossible to win in this league when you turn the ball over like we are and you when don’t get any.”
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The 49ers didn’t force any turnovers and worsened their league’s worst takeaway differential to minus-15. They have given the ball away 14 times since forcing their last turnover Week 4 against the Chargers, when safety Antone Exum Jr. had a pick-six against Philip Rivers on the first series of the game. That was 21 days ago.
San Francisco has the fewest takeaways on the season (three) – and the most giveaways (18). Predictably, that formula helped them join the Cardinals as the only teams in the NFL with six losses through seven weeks.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard was tagged with three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) and running back Matt Breida had the ball ripped away by star defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who dominated the game up front.
The reigning defensive player of the year had four of the Rams’ seven sacks, the most of a 49ers’ opponent this season. Beathard threw for just 170 yards on 27 attempts. Three of the San Francisco’s turnovers came in the first half, when the Rams jumped out to a 22-0 lead and put Shanahan’s club in a stranglehold it couldn’t escape.
The game felt out of hand as soon as the Rams scored their first touchdown following Breida’s fumble early in the second quarter, which led to the first of running back Todd Gurley’s two touchdowns.
“We’re doing nothing but hurting ourselves. We feel like we’re the reason why we’re losing these games,” Breida said.
The game also included a blocked punt that went out of the end zone for a 36-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that led to Gurley’s second touchdown.
The 49ers, despite their record, had been competitive throughout the season, even after losing their franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo Week 3. Their average margin of defeat in their previous three games since losing Garoppolo was just five points.
The 19-point loss to the Rams was the first time San Francisco has been blown out since.
“It’s always embarrassing when you lose like that,” Shanahan said. “We’ve got pride and we’re also confident in what we do. We’re not proud of our record right now. We’re definitely not proud of today. When we played better, we still feel the same way. We’re not into any moral victories here. We’re as far away from one as we could have today.”
George Kittle paced San Francisco with five catches for 98 yards and a third-quarter touchdown. Running back Raheem Mostert had his second-straight solid performance, rushing for 59 yards on just seven carries. But the 10 points generated by the offense were the fewest since Nov. 5, 2017.
“If you don’t get the ball on defense, or turn it over on offense, you can’t do anything,” Kittle said. “Minus-four (turnovers) is rough and you can’t expect to beat the one of the best offenses in the league giving them the ball at the 50-yard line.”
Beathard’s first turnover came on the first possession when he was hit by linebacker Samson Ebukam as he was looking to throw while escaping pressure. The ball popped right to Trevon Young. Beathard was intercepted in the second quarter by cornerback Troy Hill on a pass to Marquise Goodwin. He was picked again in the third by safety John Johnson III on a pass mishandled by Kittle.
The game left the 49ers searching for answers – again.
“We talk about (protecting) the ball and work on going after the ball as much as you possibly can,” Shanahan said. “You don’t stop. You don’t ignore it. You keep preaching those same things. You keep drilling those same things and you expect it to get better the more you work at it. If it doesn’t, you’ve got to find people who do take care of it.”
The 49ers had a season-low 228 yards of offense and averaged a miserable 3.9 yards per play. It was their lowest yardage total since Week 1 of last season when Shanahan made his head coaching debut with former quarterback Brian Hoyer at the helm against the Carolina Panthers.
“It’s not a huge overhaul of things that need to be corrected,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It’s just little things here and there ... just finishing a block just a hair longer, holding on to the ball just a little bit tighter, catching the ball (when it’s) 50-50. It’s just complete team effort – clean up the small little details that will get us to the next level.”
Donald’s play was the story of the game for the Rams. He threw center Weston Richburg back into Beathard on one of his sacks and beat McGlinchey for another. He finished with eight combined tackles, five quarterback hits, six tackles for loss the forced fumble and the fumble recovery.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that’s every been like him in the NFL. He’s in a class of his own,” veteran left tackle Joe Staley said. “(But) at the end of the day, he’s still an NFL player and our job is to block him. He was really impactful today. We’ll go back, we’ll watch film, see what we can do better next time we play him.”
With the season spiraling down, the 49ers will have a chance to for their first victory since Sept. 16 when they travel to Arizona in a battle of the two worst records in the NFL.
“I’ve already flushed (the Rams loss) and I’m ready for Arizona,” Kittle said.