The Most Glaring Problem For The 49ers

September 13, 2022
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Discipline and situational awareness are critical in football and the 49ers lack both. The team committed 12 penalties for 99 yards Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Bears leading to a brutal loss.

What Went Wrong On Sunday?

San Francisco suffered an ugly loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon. While most fans thought the team would crush Chicago, mental errors cost them a victory. The Niners dominated from kick-off to six minutes left in the third quarter. With a 10-0 lead, the vaunted defense stopped running back David Montgomery on third-down and four yards to go. Momentum halted due to Dre Greenlaw grabbing Montgomery’s face mask in the backfield, leading to a personal foul and 15-yard penalty.

Three plays later, Justin Fields threw a touchdown pass to Dante Pettis for 51 yards. A complete turnaround. Prior to the Bears scoring, Trey Lance led the offense on an 11-play 68-yard drive that took six minutes and thirty-eight seconds off the clock. With Kyle Shanahan in rhythm, the offense had a chance to increase their lead to 17-points, however, the defensive error narrowed their lead to 3-points. 

Compounding Mistakes

On the next Chicago possession, cornerback Charvarius Ward committed a defensive holding penalty on a third-down. Later in the drive, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair committed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a third-down for another Chicago first down. This led to another scoring drive as Chicago quarterback Justin Fields hit Equanimeous St. Brown for an 18-yard touchdown pass. 

When you thought it couldn’t get any worse, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw committed a defensive holding call on third and goal, resulting in a Khalil Herbert touchdown.

The defense gifted Chicago with four third-down penalties which led to touchdowns. Quickly, the Bears found themselves up 19-10 and the game out of hand for San Francisco. Due to a lack of discipline, the Niners spoiled gutsy performances from Trey Lance, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, and Talanoa Hufanga, who was the best player for either squad. In essence, victory was snatched from the claws of defeat. But is this surprising? 

Penalties Killed The Defense in 2021

San Francisco is an undisciplined football team and has been for years. In 2021, Kyle Shanahan’s squad was ranked third in penalty yardage allowed. The secondary had many problems including giving up multiple pass interference penalties per game. Over time, they corrected the mistake and played sound defense throughout the postseason. 

Nonetheless, penalty problems transferred into 2022 as well. In three preseason games and one regular season game, San Francisco has committed 39 penalties for 312 yards. With Super Bowl aspirations, the Niners will not win many football games playing like that. Why is this a trend? Is it coaching? Lack of execution? 

Tough Opponents Ahead

If San Francisco looks to win Week 2 against Seattle, they cannot commit penalties. The Seahawks defeated Denver 17-16 on Monday Night Football taking advantage of mental errors by Denver. The Broncos committed 12 penalties for 106 yards and fumbled in the red zone. Both Denver and San Francisco were better football teams than their respective opponents. Regardless, the better teams lost because of penalties. 

Kyle Shanahan has a daunting schedule ahead of him which includes the AFC West, widely considered the best division in football. Additionally, they play Tampa Bay and New Orleans in the NFC South, two teams looking for a playoff berth. If San Francisco has any chance of making the playoffs, they will need to clean up mistakes and let their talent take over. 

Kyle Shanahan On The Hot Seat?

Expect the coaching staff to put focus on discipline and film study this week. In any event, if the team does not improve in this area, they will not win against Seattle, putting them in a 0-2 hole. Following Seattle, San Francisco faces off against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football and very well could start 0-3. In this circumstance, Kyle needs to take responsibility and coach his team better.