Little mistakes keep adding up to big losses for 49ers

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The 49ers have a lot of issues and they start at the top.

While many argue over who should start at quarterback each week, the biggest issue facing the 49ers is a lack of execution. That falls squarely on Kyle Shanahan.

After each loss during San Francisco’s current four-game losing streak, players have talked about the small mistakes that have made a difference in the offense.

Kyle Shanahan was asked about this during the conference call with Bay Area media on Monday afternoon. “I can go into so many different plays, but that’s all of football and when you come back and you lose a couple of close ones, you’re going to say that a ton,” he said

Let’s take a look at some of the key plays from Sunday night, focusing first on the little things that caused the 49ers to struggle on third down. They converted only one out of eleven.


First Quarter, 3rd and 5, Colts 37


Colts bring a blitz and it’s picked up nicely by Ross Dwelley. San Francisco gets the matchup the want, Jamycal Hasty on a linebacker, and Jimmy Garoppolo get the ball out to him. But Hasty falls down on his own. Joey Slye comes on to drill a 56 yard field goal to put the 49ers up 12-7.


Second Quarter, 3rd and 4, 49ers 25


Jimmy Garoppolo has Jamycal Hasty open on a whip route against a linebacker on the left side, but Daniel Brunskill gets beat by the defensive tackle. This results in Garoppolo getting hit as he is throwing and the ball falls incomplete.


Second Quarter, 2nd and 8, 49ers 22


Going to switch it up for a second down play. The 49ers dial up a screen pass to Deebo Samuel, and it is setting up nicely. Only problem is the ball bounces off Samuel’s hands for an incompletion. Instead of having a first down or a more manageable down and distance for third down, San Francisco is left with third and eight.


This third down miss is on Garoppolo. He has Dwelley wide open on an out route to his left and misses him with a bad throw.


Second Quarter, 3rd and 12, 49ers 18


After struggling to complete a pass throughout this tough stretch for the offense, they finally get a completion when Garoppolo finds Deebo Samuel. Samuel then fumbles the ball and Indianapolis takes advantage of the miscue to take the lead.


The mistakes from the 49ers offense on Sunday night were not limited to only third downs or the second quarter.


Third Quarter, 1st and 10, 49ers 25


The 49ers have been running zone and counter well, so they use that to set up this play action pass. After the play fake Garoppolo finds Deebo Samuel over the middle of the field for a gain of 10, but the play is wiped out by an illegal man down field penalty of rookie left tackle Jaylon Moore.


That’s not the only mistake on this play. Take a look at Kyle Juszczyk running the leak route at the bottom of the screen.


Third Quarter, 1st and 15, 49ers 20


On the next play Kyle Shanahan dials up a deep shot to off play action that should go to Brandon Aiyuk. After the play fake Garoppolo rolls to his right, however tight end Ross Dwelley was unable to pin the defensive end inside as the play was designed. This forces the tight end to commit a holding penalty and Garoppolo’s arm is still hit as he tries to get the ball out to Aiyuk.

As Shanahan stated on Monday: “That’s part of football. But when that happens too much and you’re sitting there with a loss, those are the plays you are going to be talking about. And that’s what happens a lot in these games and you do four of those in a row.”

San Francisco has a player problem or a coaching problem. Either way, that falls back on Kyle Shanahan.

This article has 41 Comments

  1. This is the thing – the reasons for the 49ers losses aren’t because the play calling isn’t creating opportunities. The opportunities are there. The execution is just awful far too often.

    When it happens for a few games only you can blame it just on poor player execution/ focus. When the losses pile up and the same issues keep cropping up, it is either the players aren’t actually capable of better execution consistently, or they aren’t being coached up/ held accountable appropriately (or both). Given Shanahan has a large say in roster decisions, either one is a problem created by Shanahan.

  2. This is really great stuff Jack. I learn something every time you do these film break downs. Great job.

    At what point do the players have some responsibility in these errors? Of course the buck stops with Shanny but I want to see a player step up and be a leader. Who is that on this team? I honestly don’t know.

    How bad is Aaron Banks that he is not starting over Brunskil? It seems like you could put a tackling dummy between Mack & McGlinchey and the dummy would grade out higher than Brunskil. And Mack isnt much better. Interior o line was bad last year and it’s worse this year. How did the 49ers let that happen?

  3. Unrelated Side Note: watched a little bit of the Monday night football game and had a very unsettling thought. What makes anyone think Trey Lance is going to be any better than Geno Smith? They have many of the same playing attributes. Geno Smith had 3X more college starts than Lance and played much more difficult competition. Smith actually has better accuracy and throws a much more catchable ball. Obviously Lance needs to develop so we can see his growth but that mobile style of QB rarely maintains long term success in the NFL.

    1. Geno Smith and Trey Lance are not similar at all IMO. I do agree that Lance is very very raw. I don’t think people really consider the damage that can be done (mostly mental) particularly in a complicated scheme and with Shanny being a hard ass like his dad was.

      1. Disagree. Lance and Smith are both sort of 2nd tier in terms of mobility. Can run but not super elusive. I’d put Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray as being top tier mobile QBs. I’d put Trey Lance, Geno Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Tua, and maybe Baker Mayfield in that next tier down. Definitely mobile and can pick up some 1st downs but not as effective running the ball as the tier 1 guys.

        Then on the passing game, both guys seem to be adequate and can hit open guys but they aren’t true playmakers in the passing game. Not elite in reading defenses and anticipating openings from the pocket. This is where Lance must learn and excel to become an elite QB. He will never do it with his legs alone. Trey Lance did not come into the NFL with an innate ability to read NFL defenses like Justin Herbert. He’s not a natural thrower of the football like Zach Wilson or Mac Jones. He’s a good athlete with apparently a great work ethic that may be molded into a great QB. Right now he is a tier 2 mobile QB who can hit a guy if he’s schemed open. Just like Geno Smith was when he entered the NFL.

        1. “I’d put Trey Lance, Geno Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Tua, and maybe Baker Mayfield in that next tier down”

          I’ve heard some stupid football statements on this blog over the years, and to compare Trey Lance’s mobility to Baker Mayfield’s, that is probably in the top 5 dumbest statements I’ve heard on this blog.

          Congratulations dude, you’re football takes are as bad as your Screenname! Now I understand why you are so delusional, because you just aren’t a very smart person.

          1. 49Reasons, I’ve noticed lately that you’ve taken to name calling. I saw it in Razor’s blog the other day and found it crude and disappointing.

            In your post, you called 1.6 Patriot “stupid,” “delusional,” and “not very smart.” How is that appropriate in a blog about football, or any other blog for that matter?

            Calling people names because they don’t believe what you do is as juvenile as one can get. Did one of your parents call you names when you were growing up?

            I think that kind of language should get you banned if you continue it. Seriously. And if it does, it will be a pleasure so the rest of us don’t have to continue listening to your ranting and nagging on a daily basis.

            1. George,

              you make a good point in that normally I wouldn’t, or shouldn’t stoop to using adjectives like stupid, delusional, etc, but this guy’s screenname is an absolute embarrassment, so I treat him a little differently than I would decent human beings like yourself, because anyone who would use a screenname like this guy is clearly a troll who deserves ridicule. To put it kindly – 1.6 Patriot is lacking in intelligence!

              As for the substance of my argument … anyone who would say : “I’d put Trey Lance, Geno Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Tua, and maybe Baker Mayfield in that next tier down” LACKS INTELENCE!

              Baker Mayfield ran a 4.84 second 40- yd dash at the combine, George, and Mayfield can barely even outrun 300 lbs DL’s. Trey Lance runs a 4.51 40, and he’s incredible elusive at 4.51, especially considering his overall size at 6’4.5″ and 235+ Lbs. In fact, Trey runs and moves a lot like an extra large running back, because he can shake and bake, and actually even has some of that RB’s vision.

              Lance can also run through DB’s and some LB’s, but he does need to slide more often to avoid the punishment. And he certainly doesn’t need to be running QB power concepts, we all get that.

              This TROLL who goes by the screenname 1.6 Patriot, is either blind, or simply doesn’t have the ability to perceive how fast and agile these football players are moving around the football field.

              It’s a matter of perception, George, and perception is a sense that most of us healthy human beings have, and we can sense how quickly a football player moves around a football field, in order to gain yards and elude defensive players ….. that’s clearly something this clown 1.6 Patriot is missing, which is why I called him out on it.

              Or to put it another way. If you asked 100 ex-football players is Baker Mayfield is in the same tier as trey Lance in regards to QB mobility, 100 out of 100 would laugh at the notion that Mayfield’s mobility is even in the same ballpark, as Trey Lance. Even Josh Allen isn’t quit aseffective of a pure runner than Lance.

              And so that was my point, George.

              We all know Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray are in a league of their own when it comes to speed, agility, elusiveness. Lance is at, or near the top of the second tier, and Mayfield is well outside of that second tier.

              So 1.6 Traitors post was ludicrous, we all know that. I only decided to call him out with the type of response that any clown who goes by the name 1.6 Patriot deserves!

              And I think a lot of other readers would agree with this statement.

          2. In your post, you called 1.6 Patriot “stupid,” “delusional,” and “not very smart.” How is that appropriate in a blog about football, or any other blog for that matter?

            George, anyone who starts the conversation with a stupid , delusional, not very smart screen name that celebrates insurrection deserves whatever follows. That Hammer has allowed such political provocation, against his avowed stance against political content, has been a blot on this blog ever since he took the helm.

            And I think a lot of other readers would agree with this statement

            Reasons, I don’t agree much with your tirades against Shannie, but I’m with you here.

  4. Love these play break downs. Very unbiased, you tell it how it is. Seems like your always consistent in that regard.

    I am waiting for Garoppolo to have a good start because I think that will really boost his confidence and get this offense back in rhythm. 3 down conversations are imperative in order for Shanahan’s playcalling to work.

  5. Very nice write up and I appreciate the hard work that goes into this. I’m sure every team has lots of mistakes every game but you just can’t have so many when playing the caliber of teams that the Niners have played the last 4 weeks. However, I need to push back on the blaming. I know it’s easy to blame the coach but the players are all professional who get paid a lot of money and have played the game at least since high school. They know what they are supposed to do but sometimes they just make a mistake or go against a better player. The players are the primary fault on making mistakes. If it’s coaching then why aren’t we blaming the position coach since they are the ones who actually do the coaching. Or maybe the coordinators who are responsible for either the offense or the Defense. This blaming of the head coach for everything is a self fulling prophecy. I can name a number of teams who constantly fire and hire head coaches and yet they are the same sad sack team year after year. It’s very easy to just say it’s the head coach. There’s no effort needed to come to that conclusion.

    1. Let’s assume that a fair amount of blame should be put on the position coaches or even coordinators. Who hired them? Answer: KS. Who is responsible for replacing them if they are not performing? Answer: KS. Ultimately it all goes back to the HC.

      1. Apparently players are not responsible for their mistakes. Interesting to say the least. Pushing everything to the head coach is just what bad owners always do and they usually get the same results.

              1. We already know he can coach since he inherited a rag rag group of players and in year 3 took them to the Super Bowl. Year 4 the Niners set a record for injuries and now we are 6 games into season 5 and we think the problems are the coaches fault?

  6. It is both tiresome and ridiculous that coaches talk about what will be done regarding team shortcomings. “We will fix that” or “We will correct that” makes it sound as though it is so simple matter to take care of mistakes. Not so. Getting mediocre players to change their bad habits requires extensive coaching efforts, and those are not likely to happen during the season. The numerous issues with the Niners, pointed out in this Jack Hammer piece will require lots of patient training next preseason.

  7. This team has no on field leadership. I believe that the two players they miss the most are Staley and Sherman. They were both incredible leaders on and off the field. Williams offers no leadership and is injured too often. How many games has he missed since he signed with the 9ers? Bosa and Warner both great players neither of them leaders. They should have plenty of cap room this off season, as much as they need to sign and draft talent they have even a bigger need to aquire players who are known leaders. Maybe Lance can show some leadership once he gets his chance. imho

    1. I disagree Warner is a top leader – The defense is good the only weakness is mis-using the DB’s and Safeties

      Most of the damage to this defense is no safety help on the passes thrown to the outside and runs up in the middle.

      We had a CB rookie playing at a high level – Training camp and preseason – and they benched him so far or put him in NCB which is not his strength

      We have a rookie safety who is excellent in the box – with no solid DT – you will think there will be more creativity in stopping the run and take advantage of his instincts (Sea does this with their Safety) – instead we have the safeties helping the LB’s instead of helping the DB’s

      Our D-Coach was a previous LB – this defense favours LB’s

      The offense sucks because the leader JimmyG sucks.

    2. I agree that loosing those guys was a loss on the leadership front. Both those guys are very vocal. Kittle is good but some others are a little too quite.

  8. This job is too big for Kshan – Do you guys see how he looks – the dirty beard – dull eyes – dude just looks tired

    We are fck-d – we need the Bills J Allen plan – which requires patience – Kshan looks too stressed – no inspiration

    I find it puzzling Kshan didn’t have a better plan or playbook for Trey so far

    I fear Kshan is stubbornly thinking Trey has to fit in the current offense – instead of molding the offense around Trey

      1. Well Kshan as you call him is 41 and McVay is 35. Who’s got worse wrinkles?

        Jimmy got grey hair and he’s only 29

  9. Know one looks more disheveled and sounds more exhausted than Belichick. It doesn’t seem to hurt his winning percentage.

  10. @Jack:

    Is there any way to find out if the players have been having players only meetings to hopefully instill accountability?

    1. Baldy might be right re Garoppolo. But, he’s better than Trey at this point. While I’m not too high on Jimmy, he still gives us a better chance at winning than Lance.

      If Shanahan and the 49ers want to throw in the towel on this season then starting Trey makes sense. But, I just don’t believe that the 49ers are at this point yet.

      With players like Kittle and Greenlaw coming back soon, there is still a possibility to make some noise.
      And although Garoppolo is not our QBOTF, I’m sure he still wants to play well in order to make a good impression for another team. If we lose to Chicago, then I certainly could change my perspective especially with the Rams and Cardinals coming up.

  11. Javon Kinlaw may be out for the year.

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan said it’s possible that Kinlaw may need season-ending surgery.

  12. Once again, I never saw the game due to outages.
    What Jack shows is that JG only made one bad pass and that others screwed up as well.
    If we want to blame KS it should be for not getting the players game ready, not getting them fired up.
    Harbaugh was good at that and you could tell when they came on the field.
    What do you see in that department Jack?

      1. False. Why would you say that when it’s obviously not true. Many on this blog don’t agree with that. It’s NOT fact. That doesn’t mean we believe he’s playing well but there are plenty other starters in this league who are playing worse.

          1. I hope that they can start getting things right this week against Chicago. Jimmy needs to play better and so do a lot of others. I was happy that they are spending extra practice time this week on preventing PI’s. I think we’ve lost 2 games because of those. I really hope they stick together and push to make the play offs. I also hope Aiyuk has a good game.

  13. This is great material Jack Hammer. Thanks for taking the time to do this. It just seems to be all phases taking turns at making mistakes and it’s hard to figure out why.

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