The San Francisco 49ers are dealing with several issues this season, but nothing tops the turnover problem. The defense is struggling to get any takeaways, but offensive giveaways have been a huge problem through seven weeks. There are no guarantees if you remove some of the turnovers, but there is a decent chance they beat the Vikings, Chargers, Cardinals, AND Packers if they are not as sloppy with the ball.
This past weekend, the 49ers had two interceptions and two fumbles en route to a 39-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked on Monday about the two interceptions and specifically whether C.J. Beathard should have thrown the balls earlier or if the pass catchers should have fought for position better. Shanahan had this to say.
“Each one’s different ... [W]e’ve had 18 turnovers this year and I’ve watched every single one definitely more than once. I recommend you guys do it too. You guys will see there’s a lot of people involved in each one.”
With that in mind, Mark, Akash, and I took a look at the team’s 18 giveaways to date. Akash put together quick clips on each one, and then the three of us split them up to figure out what is going on in each play.
For the turnovers involving C.J. Beathard, he bears some responsibility, but as you’ll see below, there are plenty of circumstances outside of his control that impacted many of the plays. We do not have access to the playbook, and we do not know for certain if Beathard is making the right first read in certain instances. We can only take what the broadcast, all-22 and end zone cameras show us. Take it all with a grain of salt, but we think this at least offers a little more insight into the 18 turnovers the 49ers offense (and returner D.J. Reed) have committed this season.
If you don’t see the videos below, click here.
Week 1: Alfred Morris fumble — 2:30 2Q — 2nd goal, MIN 1
The 49ers trailed 10-3 and lined up for the second straight time ready to run it down Minnesota’s throat with Alfred Morris. They lined up with Earl Mitchell in at fullback on 1st and goal, but then went with a single back formation on 2nd and goal. Dante Pettis ran a fake jet sweep from right to left, and Garoppolo handed off to Morris who was running a counter play.
Morris cut towards the middle of the line and was met first by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who wrapped his arms around Morris’ legs. Safety Andrew Sendejo grabbed ahold of Morris’ right leg, and defensive tackle Linval Joseph disengaged one arm from Weston Richburg and poked the ball out from Morris’ left.
Morris blamed the humidity leaving his forearms extra sweaty, and said that coupled with him reaching for more yards caused the fumble. I don’t know if Richburg could have done more on his block, but if not, it was a great play by Joseph, and then bad ball security and/or humidity for Morris. — FOOCH
Week 1: Jimmy Garoppolo interception — 10:41 3Q — 3rd and 8, SF 20
The 49ers trailed 10-3 and had forced a Vikings punt early in the third quarter. After a two-yard run and an incomplete pass, the 49ers lined up with Jimmy Garoppolo in the shotgun, Alfred Morris to his right, two receivers on the strong side of the formation (Kendrick Bourne out wide, Dante Pettis in the slot), and one receiver on the weak side (Trent Taylor, I believe). Garrett Celek went in motion from right to left.
It appears Bourne is his first read, although I can’t tell for certain on all-22 or on the broadcast view if he gave a quick look at Pettis first. Either way, he threw at Bourne, but it went right into the arms of Mike Hughes, who ran it back for a 28-yard touchdown return.
After the game, Bourne took the blame.
“I was supposed to run an under route, Jimmy put the ball (inside) and I ran a hitch route (to the outside),” Bourne said. “Just a missed (assignment) by me. Just thinking of another play … Where he threw it was right, and I was wrong. It was on me. I told him I owe him one. I’ve got to get that play back. That’s stuff that can’t happen.”
Garoppolo said blame could go to both of them, but assuming Bourne is correct and not just falling on the sword for his quarterback, the blame rests on the receiver’s shoulders. — FOOCH
Week 1: Jimmy Garoppolo interception — 14:41 4Q — 1st and 10, SF 31
First play of a drive, after Minnesota was forced to punt. Minnesota leads 24-13 with a quarter to go, so the Niners are still very much in this game. First and ten on their own 31 yard line. Dante Pettis is split wide, outside the numbers, and runs a slant, breaking in at five yards.
Pettis gets some separation from All-Pro CB Xavier Rhodes after his break, but the pass is too high and too far inside. Rhodes makes a brilliant play, extending one arm to tip it back to himself, and pulls it in. It’s possible that the rookie ran his route wrong — it was his first pro game, after all — but this one really looks like it’s all on Jimmy G. — MARK
Week 1: Jimmy Garoppolo interception — 1:45 4Q — 2nd and 10, SF 11
The 49ers trailed 24-16 and had the ball having forced a Vikings punt. After a first down incompletion, the 49ers lined up with Jimmy Garoppolo in the shotgun, with five receivers spread out. They had trips left with Pierre Garçon outside, Dante Pettis in the middle, and Trent Taylor inside in the slot.
Garçon ran a route to the flat and then up toward the sideline, Pettis ran what looked like a wheel route, and Taylor ran what looked like a skinny post route. Vikings safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo initially looked to drop back into their respective zones. Garoppolo attempted a pass to Taylor, was was initially covered by linebacker Eric Kendricks. Kendricks remained in coverage throughout, and Harrison Smith came down from his safety spot to get the easy interception.
There are a couple issues with this. Garoppolo seemed to be looking Taylor the entire way, and might have been trying for a deeper pass. Kendricks was in coverage behind Taylor, Sendejo had coverage from the left of Taylor, while Smith snuck in underneath for the pick. Dante Pettis seemed to be the more open option, unless Garoppolo had gotten more air under the ball. It’s worth noting at the beginning of the play, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson easily beat Mike McGlinchey to get pressure on Garoppolo as he threw the ball. We don’t know the trajectory of the pass without pressure, but it could have partially cost Garoppolo that interception. — FOOCH
Week 4: C.J. Beathard interception — 9:00 3Q — 1st and goal, LAC 8
The 49ers trailed 23-17 and had driven down into a goal to go situation. They lined up with two tight ends on the left side of the line of scrimmage (Garrett Celek at the end of the line of scrimmage, George Kittle at just off the line of scrimmage), two receivers split out on the right side, C.J. Beathard in the shotgun, and Alfred Morris to his right. At snap, Kittle ran a corner route, while Celek ran towards the corner, but turned back and sat at the 2.
Beathard threw to Celek and it went through his hands and off his chest, into the air and into Trevor Williams hands. I don’t know if Beathard threw too hard or not, but it seemed to be a clear case of the pass catcher messing up. — FOOCH
Week 4: C.J. Beathard interception — 2:38 4Q — 2nd and 6, SF 31
The 49ers trailed 29-27 and had forced a punt. The 49ers picked up 27 yards on a pair of plays to set up 2nd and 6 and their 31. They lined up in a single back formation, with two receivers split left and two split right. Safety Derwin James came down to the line off the left tackle, telegraphing a potential blitz. Pierre Garçon was in the slot near James and pointed to him, suggesting he was letting the line know a blitz might be coming.
At the snap, Morris ran his route out of the backfield. As he was coming out of the backfield, James was on his way back in. Morris specifically avoided James rather than try and chip him, and it appeared like Beathard was hoping to quickly dump it off to Morris. The problem is left tackle Garry Gilliam was dealing with Chris Landrum as well from that side. James got in and hit Beathard as the QB was throwing the ball. It popped right into Isaac Rochell’s hands.
In reviewing the play, I don’t know if Beathard ever looked at James prior to the snap. He signaled to Alfred Morris in the backfield and George Kittle on the left side to adjust where they were in the formation. He then was looking to his right, while James was lined up off left. All I can think is that maybe Beathard could have changed the play. He had Morris on what seemed like a hot route given how the play developed, but even that simply did not have enough time. — FOOCH
Week 5: C.J. Beathard interception — 8:21 1Q — 2nd and 11, SF 30
The 49ers trailed 7-6 midway through the first quarter after they exchanged touchdowns with Arizona. A false start penalty on second down set up 2nd and 11. The 49ers lined up in a single back formation with Victor Bolden wide left, Kyle Juszczyk wide right, and Pierre Garçon in the slot. Juszczyk motioned into the backfield to turn it into an I-formation. The 49ers used play action, and Garçon ran what looked like a post or in pattern.
Either way, C.J. Beathard fired in a pass that went off Garçon’s hands, into the air, and into the arms of diving safety Tre Boston. The ball might have been just a little bit high, but that is a pass Garçon seemingly has to catch. On slow motion it seemed to go off his hands, as opposed to so high that it was more off his fingertips. That seemed all, or mostly on Garçon. — FOOCH
Week 5: Raheem Mostert fumble — 13:27 2Q — 1st and 10, ARI 40
The 49ers trailed 7-6 and had driven into Cardinals territory. C.J. Beathard handed off to Raheem Mostert who ran off tackle to the right side. Defensive tackle Rodney Gunter was able to get over and get his hand into Mostert’s body, punching the ball out. This seems like primarily an issue of basic ball security.
The only other potential blame would be left guard Laken Tomlinson. He did not seem to get much in the way of leverage in blocking Gunter. I don’t know Tomlinson’s exact responsibility in that regard, but if he gets a stiffer block on Gunter, the Cardinals DT might not get as close to Mostert as he did. — FOOCH
Week 5: C.J Beathard strip sack — 8:46 3Q — 1st and 10, ARI 39
SF is down 14-6 and marching slowly but steadily downfield. Eight plays have picked up 42 yards, and they’re first and ten on the Cardinals 39 with 9 minutes left in the third quarter.
Arizona is normally blitz-happy and they seemed to predict that Kyle Shanahan would pass here, but they only rushed four and had pretty good coverage downfield. Only one Cardinal got anywhere near Beathard, but unfortunately that was Chandler Jones, who got around Joe Staley on the edge, strip sacked the QB and beat both men for the ball.
Obviously Staley failed to contain Jones and bears a lot of responsibility, but I put a lot of this on Beathard as well. This is one of those plays where he takes forever to make a play — four seconds, maybe? — and, as often happen, he pays the price. Beathard had Kyle Juszczyk wide open to his left at the 30, right away — Shanahan managed to scheme safety Budda Baker (36) into covering his own DB Ben Benwikere (23) down the right seam — but the QB appeared to be targeting Pierre Garçon, who was well covered in the middle of the field.
Beathard also had no excuse not to see or feel the pressure. This was play-action, and the fake handoff made him turn to face left — right at Jones, who was already pushing past Staley by that point. Beathard had lots of time to make a throw and should have stepped up more and to his left. If he didn’t want to throw to the wide-open Juszczyk, he had lots of room to run and pick up a quick five yards before sliding. — MARK
Week 5: C.J Beathard strip sack — 4:33 4Q — 2nd and 11, SF 41
I like C.J. Beathard. You like him. Everybody likes him. But he was terrible on this fumble and it’s just inexcusable. When you read the words “strip sack,” you imagine an edge rusher who curls around from behind the QB and slaps it away just as he’s about to pass, right? Not this time.
The Niners were down only two and driving toward a game-winning field goal at their own 41, 2nd and 11. The Cardinals blitzed, like they do, and Haason Reddick tossed aside Alfred Morris’ feeble attempt at pass protection like Morris was a cobweb he had walked into. Meanwhile, Josh Bynes had a free run right at Beathard’s face straight up the middle. Can’t say he didn’t see it coming.
With no receivers open, Beathard only had a couple of choices. Throw it away out of bounds. Maybe try to scramble left? Or curl up and die, which was honestly his best option. Instead, he chose option D: double-clutch and just stand there while Reddick slaps the ball out of your hand face to face like a point guard, so that Bynes can run it in for the winning touchdown. I hate to be judgy, but I’m going to call that a bad decision. — MARK
Week 5: C.J Beathard interception — 3:48 4Q — 4th and 19, SF 27
So this was always going to be a desperation play, 4th and 19 with time running out against a team with a talented, veteran secondary. Honestly, Beathard should risk interception on a play like this because that’s the only way you’re going to get 20 yards when everyone knows you’re going deep.
Even so, targeting triple-teamed Victor Bolden Jr. — and throwing well behind him — was a notably poor decision. Trent Taylor appeared to be open (admittedly, in a narrow window) mid-field around the 50, past the sticks. — MARK
Week 6: D.J. Reed fumble — 9:17 1Q — Kickoff
This is a straight forward fumble. The Packers tied the game and on the ensuing kickoff, safety Raven Greene got a strong hit on returner D.J. Reed. He got a hand in to pop the ball out, and linebacker James Crawford recovered the ball.
One mistake I did see was Malcolm Smith did not get a good block on Greene. That left Greene open to cut across the field to get to Reed and pop the ball out. The fumble is all on Reed, but if Smith gets a better block on Greene, he’s likely never in the play. — FOOCH
Week 6: Kyle Juszczyk fumble — 12:22 2Q — 1st and 10, SF 20
Oh boy, fullback Kyle Juszczyk has to do a better job of holding the ball on this play. After gaining 21 yards on a first-down play, Packers’ safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is able to easily knock the ball out Juszczyk’s hands.
There’s not another 49ers’ player in sight, allowing the Packers to easily recover the ball and have it on the plus-side of the field. Kyle Shanahan needs to put glue on his offensive players’ hands, cause it’s sliding out too easily right now. — AKASH
Week 6: C.J. Beathard interception — 1:13 4Q — 3rd and 3, GB 46
This was a highly controversial interception, more so because of the play call in that situation, rather than the actual throw. With the 49ers only needing three points and nearing field goal range, most fans thought San Francisco would run the ball on this short third-down play.
Instead, Shanahan chose to be aggressive and dialed up a pass play. Quarterback C.J. Beathard decided to go for the home-run play with wideout Marquise Goodwin. The Packers’ defender, Kevin King played the inside and that’s exactly where Beathard threw the ball. After the game, Beathard acknowledged if he was going to hit Goodwin, he needed to throw it on his outside shoulder.
Beathard had wideout Kendrick Bourne and tight end George Kittle open on the left side of the field, but the Packers also brought one more blitzer than the 49ers had blockers — he had no time for more than his first read. Kyle Juszczyk picked up Blake Martinez blitzing up the middle, but nobody was there to get Ha Ha Clinton-Dix coming off the right edge. If Beathard saw the extra blitzer preparing to come in, he might have thought he had the arm strength to just chuck it up to Goodwin. Otherwise, he could have audibled to a shorter hot route. — AKASH
Week 7: C.J Beathard strip sack — 9:58 1Q — 2nd and 16, SF 45
This was a slow drive even by the Niners grinding standards. After six plays, they had advanced 15 yards and it was second down (and 16). No score. Beathard moseyed back to pass, narrowly escaped Ndamukong Suh to his left, and as he stepped up to pass, Michael Brockers briefly grabbed hold of his right leg. He slipped free but that slowed him just enough that OLB Samson Ebukam had time to get up and get a hand on Beathard’s arm. The ball popped in thee air and Trevon Young caught it in mid-air for the turnover.
Beathard was looking at either Kyle Juszczyk or Marquise Goodwin to his left, while George Kittle was getting open over the middle near the Rams 40. If Kittle had been the first read, Beathard could have made the anticipation throw before Suh and Brockers got to him. Instead, Beathard was distracted by the two pass rushers. He climbed up into the pocket, but he did not have time to recover and find an open Kittle. — MARK
Week 7: Matt Breida fumble — 1:06 1Q — 1st and 10, SF 20
Aaron [site decorum] Donald.
This was all Aaron Donald for two reasons. The most obvious is that he basically reached in and snatched the ball out of Breida’s hands. You’ll see a player poke a ball out, but as Stephen White described it, he yanked the ball out of Breida’s hands, “just like Debo snatched that chain off of Red’s neck.”
But as White detailed, Donald also made a big play that forced Breida inside to begin with. The play looked like a zone run, which meant right guard Mike Person needed to gain outside leverage on Donald. I’ll let White describe it:
Technically Person accomplished at least part of his objective, because he did gain outside leverage on Donald. The problem was that he had to step so wide to get the job done that Donald was able to easily bench press him back behind the line of scrimmage. That forced Breida cut the ball back and run to where Donald wanted him to run to, and that’s when it happened.
I suppose you could put a little blame on Person, but this is Aaron Donald we’re talking about. This was an entirely freakish play by the best defensive player on the planet. — FOOCH
Week 7: C.J. Beathard interception — 6:17 2Q — 1st and 10, SF 49
I’m not too mad about his play. It was mostly just a great play by Troy Hill, baiting the young QB into throwing and then blazing to ball right at ground level. For once, Beathard saw the pressure and stepped up nicely to make the throw. Marquise Goodwin looked open when he threw it. Kyle Shanahan said as much Monday when he discussed this TO.
“... you can’t let it go when someone’s in your face. [Beathard] did a good job shuffling to the side. “
But you know how everyone raves about Jimmy G’s quick release? No one says that about Beathard, and this play shows why it’s so important. The ball was thrown well, low and fast, but Beathard’s arm comes around at a casual pace, and it takes a while for him to get comfortable to throw. The end result was that the ball came a good while after Goodwin had finished his route. He was just standing there, waiting for a throw, which let Hill know where the ball was going and gave him time to plan his pounce.
Quise was very open, ran a good route, then he was waiting in the hole for the ball because it didn’t come on time but it didn’t come on time because someone was in [the QB’s] face. He had to avoid a sack and move and then he let it go. When that happens, you do have to step to it. So, it’s a little bit on both. ”
Combined with Beathard’s slow windup — a failure to step to it — this standing around gave Hill just enough time to make an impressive drive on the ball and beat out the flat-footed receiver. Shanahan doesn’t really spell it out, but it sounds like Goodwin should have kept moving, perhaps come back toward his QB or move away from Hill instead of standing still, checking his phone for texts and looking at his watch, wondering when that damn bus was going to show up. — MARK
Week 7: C.J. Beathard interception — 7:07 3Q — 3rd and 1, SF 34
Most of Beathard’s interceptions are a result of holding onto the ball for a split second too long. That’s the case once again on this third-down play. Beathard has Kittle open immediately at the top of the route, but instead, the 49ers’ signal caller allows for the defender to catch up.
Beathard’s first read appears to be Juszczyk in the flat. When he’s covered, Beathard turns towards the middle of the field. Kendrick Bourne runs what looks like a corner or out route, while Kittle runs a crossing route. Young quarterbacks don’t always trust what their eyes show them immediately and have to hold on to the ball for a little longer. In that time, the defender catches up and then makes a play on the ball.
In this case, Kittle was initially open, then ran into safety John Johnson. Kittle was covered but as he cut to the right, there was a brief window where Beathard should have thrown quicker than he did. It might have gone incomplete, but if he throws a second earlier, Johnson likely does not have time to close for the interception. — AKASH