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Penalties, third down defense proves costly in 49ers loss to Chiefs

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The 49ers blew some big opportunities.

The only storyline that really matters from the San Francisco 49ers Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs is Jimmy Garoppolo likely tearing his ACL in the fourth quarter. That’s the first, second, and third story of the day, regardless of anything else.

But there are still other issues that came out of the shootout loss. The team had their chances to get back into this game, but self-inflicted wounds were a big issue as well. It started with a George Kittle drop on the first offensive play of the game, and then continued throughout the game with the 49ers committing 14 penalties for 147 yards, the defense blowing 3rd and long situations, and missed tackles remaining a consistent issue.

Not all the penalties seemed legit. There was a very questionable defensive holding call against cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. The most egregious bad called was this ticky-tack offensive pass interference call against Kyle Juszczyk that negated what would have been a huge touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard to George Kittle.

Those penalties aside, it was at times an overly undisciplined performance by the 49ers. Most notably were offsides penalties that gave the Chiefs offense new life. These were just a small taste of the problems the 49ers had on several third downs. Along with the penalties, shoddy tackling and poor game-planning resulted in easy gains for the Chiefs.

On the first drive of the game, Kansas City had a 3rd and 15 at the 49ers 33-yard line. The 49ers brought serious pressure on the next play, but Andy Reid dialed up a screen pass to Spencer Ware that picked up 14 yards. It did not convert the 1st down, but Patrick Mahomes kept it on the next play to pick up the fourth down conversion. Two plays later, the Chiefs scored their first touchdown.

On Kansas City’s second drive of the game, the 49ers had the Chiefs in a 3rd and 16 situation at San Francisco 32. Mahomes threw it out of the end zone, and K’Waun Williams was called for pass interference. The Chiefs were set up with a 1st and goal at the 1 yard line, which Kareem Hunt promptly punched in to give his squad a 14-0 lead.

The Chiefs offense is so dynamic, it forces teams into bad positions and can lead to bad penalties and bad execution. After the 3rd and 15 screen pass, the 49ers defense went into more prevent on subsequent 3rd and long plays, They were burned, and learned from it — unfortunately a little too late.

But the pass interference penalty was just one example of an issue that cost the 49ers all day long. The team’s tackling remains woefully inconsistent, and more often bad than good on anything outside the hashmarks. Considering how well the Chiefs are playing right now, you can’t afford to give them any free plays. The 49ers did not need to play perfect in Week 3, but when you put up 14 penalties against this kind of opponent and fail to tackle with consistency, you can’t expect to win. It says something that the 49ers were able to climb back into these thing before one of the bad penalties cost them their final shot at the comeback.

The 49ers have a big problem to address at the quarterback position, but beyond that, they have to clean a lot up, particularly on defense. I don’t really know what they can do at this point about bad tackling, but something needs to be sorted out. But that, coupled with better execution, and some better play-calling decisions need to happen if this defense is going to step up in Jimmy Garoppolo’s absence.