The 49ers had not seen a loss in nearly two years as embarrassing as Sunday’s defeat to the Miami Dolphins.
On December 2, 2018, divisional rival Seattle Seahawks defeated the 49ers, 43-16. On Sunday, the Dolphins beat the 49ers, 43-17.
The 49ers went 4-12 in 2018, and they seemed to be turning the corner a long time ago. They designed edge rusher Nick Bosa in 2019, established a dominant pass rush, developed an elite running game, and made their way to a Super Bowl LIV appearance last season.
Sunday was a lot like a sequel to that game from 2018. Several players said a lack of execution on the field was the reason they couldn’t keep the game within reach.
On Monday, Kyle Shanahan was adamant that the 49ers’ lack of execution was not the result of apathy. He stressed that he wasn’t making an apology, but Shanahan cited injuries that led to a lack of consistent practice time together as why the 49ers sputtered.
It’s certainly not a lack of effort, but it takes eleven men to make a play and we haven’t been clean enough, Shanahan said during a video conference with reporters. Any answer to your questions would be an excuse, so I’m just trying to keep it real, but we need to get out there and practice a lot more.
The 49ers, like the rest of the NFL, did not have a traditional schedule or pre-season off-season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, the 49ers still need to practice with all their best offensive playmakers healthy at the same time.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel returned in week 4 after suffering a Jones break in the off-season. Rookie recipient Brandon Aiyuk had a shortened training camp due to a hamstring injury and missed week 1. Tight-sided George Kittle was out for two weeks after sustaining a knee sprain in the season opener. Raheem Mostert missed most of three weeks after spraining his knee in Week 2 against the New York Jets.
When Kittle, Samuel, and Aiyuk finally got back to practice leading up to Week 4, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a high ankle sprain. Shanahan thought they would all finally come back last week, but Samuel missed training due to an illness accompanied by a fever ahead of Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
I was excited to get Deebo back for a second week, but we missed two more workouts with him, which is very difficult for Deebo, Shanahan said. It was very difficult for our quarterback to come back.
It’s tough for a rookie in Aiyuk, and we’re just getting Kittle back here. So I know we have some inconsistencies that way, which are magnified for me when we don’t play well at all.
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Shanahan said playing from behind on Sundays didn’t help either. The 49ers were down 14-0 in just over 10 minutes into the game, which didn’t give his attack the chance to rely on the ongoing game as much as usual. That put even more pressure on the 49ers’ already struggling line of attack.
It really magnified everything for everyone, which I understand didn’t look good and we need to get a lot better, but there’s no secret about it, ”Shanahan said. There is a way to get better. It’s practicing.
Shanahan reiterated that he is happy with the efforts of his best offensive players. In practice, he will continue to get them as many reps as possible under the competition rules, but he also hopes they can stay healthy enough to experience much-needed consistency.
If there was ever a problem that I thought people were not doing their best, it would be a completely different situation, Shanahan said. I see guys at work, I see guys doing what they can, but I can’t be too hard on guys if they’ve only had three workouts or they’ve only been here for two weeks.
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