The San Francisco 49ers lost to the Tennessee Titans 20-17, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
The 49ers had the opportunity to put Tennessee away early in the second quarter, but Jimmy Garoppolo missed on two throws and kept the Titans in the game.
After holding Tennessee scoreless and allowing only 2.6 yards per play in the first half, the 49ers defense struggled to get off the field throughout the second half. This allowed Tennessee to climb back into the game and eventually steal the win on a 44-yard field goal from Randy Bullock with only four seconds left to play.
Here are the answers to the five questions I asked before the game:
- Who creates the most turnovers? Tennessee
Coming into this game it was clear that Tennessee would win the game if they won the turnover battle, and that’s exactly what happened as they intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo twice.
The first interception took points off the board for the 49ers when Janoris Jenkins stepped in front of George Kittle in the endzone.
The second interception came on the 49ers first offensive play of the second half.
Tennessee had just driven the ball down the field on San Francisco for the first time in the game to pull within seven. Garoppolo was late trying to hit Deebo Samuel over the middle and the ball floated into the hands of Titans safety Amani Hooker. Hooker would return the ball 23 yards to the 49ers 18-yard line and Tennessee would cash in for a touchdown to tie the game at 10.
- Can the 49ers move the ball on the ground? Yes and No
It looked like the run game would be tough sledding for San Francisco and it was. While the 49ers would end the game with 83 yards rushing on 21 carries, those numbers get skewed due to a couple of big runs from Deebo Samuel. Samuel would pick up 32 yards on only five carries, but no other 49er would even be close to four yards per carry.
Jeff Wilson Jr found some success early on, but he would be held to only 45 yards on 14 carries while JaMycal Hasty was held to only three yards on his lone carry.
- Will Jimmy Garoppolo be able to carry the offense? NO
Tennessee came into this game allowing the fourth lowest passer rating (70.5) on throws over the middle of the field in the league, making this a difficult matchup for Garoppolo who is at his best working over the middle of the field.
You wouldn’t have known this early in the game as Garoppolo led the 49ers offense for a touchdown on the first possession of the game, hitting all five of his targets for 59 yards.
It was much the same on the next possession as Garoppolo would hit on his first three throws for 45 yards. That’s when disaster struck.
Facing second and goal from the Titans eight, Garoppolo would try to force the ball to George Kittle in the endzone and Titans cornerback Janoris Jenkins would step in front of the tight end for an interception. Coming away from this possession with no points would prove to be costly.
Things didn’t get much better as Garoppolo would miss Kyle Juszczyk with an inaccurate throw. Juszczyk was wide open and likely could have reached the endzone with an accurate throw from Garoppolo. The 49ers would settle for a field goal on the possession.
If these weren’t bad enough, along came the interception on the opening play of the second half which was mentioned earlier.
To Garoppolo’s credit, he continued to battle and led the 49ers on a 95-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17.
The key play on this drive was a 56-yard strike to Deebo Samuel. Garoppolo hit the 49ers top playmaker in stride over the middle and Samuel split the defense to set the offense up at the Tennessee six. Two plays later Garoppolo would find Brandon Aiyuk over the middle for the two-yard touchdown.
Garoppolo would finish the night with 26 completions on 35 attempts for 322 yards along with the one touchdown and two interception and a quarterback rating of 88.7. This marked the first time since before Halloween that Garoppolo was unable to post a passer rating over 90.
- Can the 49ers defense stop the run? YES
Tennessee came into this game averaging 4.8 yards per rushing. The 49ers defense was able to limit the Titans to only 90 yards on 24 carries, 3.8 yards per attempt.
Former 49er Jeremy McNichols led Tennessee with 31 yards on seven carries, and D’Onta Foreman was able to plow through the 49ers defense for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10 in the third quarter.
The biggest run of the game for Tennessee wasn’t even on a running play, it came on a scramble from quarterback for 23 yards on the final drive of the game.
- Will the 49ers defense be able to keep Ryan Tannehill down? NO
As the first half ended the answer to this question looked as though it would be a resounding yes.
Then came the second half.
Tannehill caught fire in the second half as the 49ers defense would allow Tennessee to convert on third and fifteen, third and seven, third and ten, third and twenty-three and third and 10 during the two second half drives which sandwiched the Jimmy Garoppolo interception in the third quarter. And this happened despite Tennessee playing its backup left guard and third string left tackle.
Dillon Radunz made the first start of his career at left tackle for Tennessee. The rookie had played a total of 53 offensive snaps coming into this game. On the other side was David Quessenberry. The San Jose State product is one of the lowest rated tackles in the NFL. On Thursday night they held Nick Bosa to a total of one hit on Ryan Tannehill.
The third down conversions don’t solely fall on the defensive line; however, it’s well known that the cornerback position for San Francisco is a position of weakness. Tennessee attacked Josh Norman and Ambry Thomas relentlessly in the second half and it paid off.
It was Thomas who gave up a 42-yard completion to A.J. Brown allowing Tennessee to convert the third and twenty-three, and Josh Norman who was beaten by Brown for the go ahead score in the fourth quarter.
With the game tied late in the fourth quarter it was Tannehill’s legs that made the difference. After a pass interference on Marcell Harris gave Tennessee a first down near midfield, Tannehill was able to escape the pocket and scramble for a 23-yard gain down to the 49ers 31 setting up the game winning field goal by Randy Bullock.
49ers 20 Titans 23