The 49ers should know exactly where they need to improve heading into the offseason.
Sunday’s season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, a 48-32 blowout loss, typified the team’s struggles throughout their 4-12 season.
San Francisco, with no takeaways on the day, broke the NFL record for the fewest in a season with seven. And, they committed four turnovers, giving them a minus-25 turnover differential, tied for the 10th-worst mark in NFL history.
On the bright side, Sunday’s defeat ensured the 49ers will have the No. 2 pick in the draft, perhaps a defender who could help generate more turnovers or another building block for coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
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San Francisco entered the game with a chance at the No. 1 pick, but their loss to the Rams would have to be paired with an Arizona victory at Seattle. The Cardinals kept it close until the Seahawks kicked a decisive field goal late in the fourth quarter to escape with a 27-24 victory. The Cardinals had the fewest wins in NFL with three.
And the next time the 49ers play a regular-season game, in just over nine months, they hope to have franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo under center after missing 13 games with a torn ACL. One of his replacements, former third-stringer Nick Mullens, threw a career-high three interceptions Sunday at the Coliseum, all in the first half. The 49ers fell behind by 25 in the second quarter.
“You turn the ball over like that and games get out of hand quick,” Mullens said. “I mean, we experienced that today. It’s frustrating. We know that we can compete with any team on the field if we protect the football, but we didn’t do that today.”
The 49ers turned over the ball on their first three possessions and lost the turnover battle in two games against the Rams 8-0.
San Francisco outgained Los Angeles 391-377 while averaging 6.7 yards per play to the Rams’ 5.3. While that was encouraging for the 49ers’ offense and defense, the home team pulled several starters on both sides of the ball late in the third quarter.
Cornerback Richard Sherman, who exited in the second half to allow playing time for Greg Mabin and Tyvis Powell, was asked how close he thinks the 49ers could be to making a playoff run in 2019.
“Well, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to tell without your guys out there,” Sherman said before listing injuries to Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon and others. “... I think it’ll be tough to know how good we’ll be till we have a consistent unit out there and show some continuity.”
49ers fearful of guard’s knee injury - Left guard Laken Tomlinson left the game in the second quarter after he appeared to hyper-extend his right leg.
The 49ers were fearful Tomlinson suffered a torn ACL, which could put his 2019 season in jeopardy.
“They can’t confirm for sure,” Shanahan said. “There’s still a chance, so we’re hoping not for an ACL, but definitely a possibility.”
Tomlinson played every snap this season before getting hurt. He was the only player on the team who came into the season without missing time. He became a strength of the offensive line after a full offseason with the club. He joined the 49ers in a trade from the Detroit Lions during final cuts in 2017 and was thrust into the starting lineup a few weeks later.
“Laken’s been great all year,” Shanahan said. “... Hoping for good news on him. But if not, I know he’ll do his rehab and be ready at some point next year. He’s a huge part of what we do.”