Kyle Shanahan said D.J. Jones may have the dreaded high-ankle sprain. Jones limped to the locker room early in the game against Buffalo and did not return. That’s the same injury that prevented Jones from participating in last season’s playoffs.
The rotation at right guard continued, until Tom Compton suffered a head injury for the second week in a row. Shanahan said that Compton is being evaluated for a concussion.
Things opened up in a hurry on Buffalo’s second drive, when Zack Moss and Josh Allen messed up a routine handoff. The fumbled ball bounced right to the 49ers, who returned to offense as the Bills’ defense came back onto the field for another goal line stand. This time they couldn’t hold, and the 49ers took a 7-0 lead on Brandon Aiyuk’s touchdown catch.
From this point, the Bills tightened up their focus. Josh Allen drove the offense 77 yards in five plays, finishing with a pinpoint strike to Cole Beasley on a hitch pattern for the touchdown. The defense forced a punt after four plays by the 49ers’ offense. Buffalo continued the trend by marching down the field—14 plays, 69 yards—and scoring another touchdown to Dawson Knox. The 49ers took over from there but punted again, and Buffalo strung together a field goal drive before halftime.
“I talked to general manager John Lynch before the game, and he told me that Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle both had very good workouts today,” said Lisa Salters during the ESPN broadcast. “Remember, Kyle Shanahan told us that both guys were making really good progress, and John Lynch said that after seeing them today, they gave him even more reason to be optimistic about them being able to return before the end of the regular season.
“He said several players worked out on the practice field this afternoon. Garoppolo and Kittle, though, looked the best.”
“No, that’s just him answering a question, probably,” Shanahan responded. “I mean, those guys are working their tails off right now, but they’re still part of the rehab, just trying to get back and be a part of this. But it’s not anytime soon, right now.”
Troubling trend: The Niners’ inability to generate a pass rush with their front four has been an issue since they lost top edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to injury. That problem was laid bare Monday, as Allen took advantage of clean pockets on his way to going 32-of-40 for 375 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 139.1. He went 23-of-25 for 284 yards and two TDs against zone, per ESPN’s Next Gen Stats.
The 49ers finished with one sack and three quarterback hits as Allen shredded their preferred zone coverage largely because the Niners couldn’t get after him with their front four. In the first half alone, Allen was 13-of-14 for 165 yards and two touchdowns when the Niners rushed four or fewer pass-rushers.
“The 49ers have decided to stay because players wanted to make definitive Christmas plans with their families,” reports Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Many families will join the team in Arizona for the holiday.”
While the 49ers are slated to play their next two home games, which start with tonight’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills, at State Farm Stadium, the possibility of finishing out the season in Arizona remains in play. That would mean a “home” game against the Seattle Seahawks on January 3 at State Farm Stadium, in addition to the already-scheduled one against the Washington Football Team on December 13.
Nick Mullens’ first interception of the game came on one of his better throws. It came with the 49ers down 24-10. Micah Hyde caught a pass that bounced off Brandon Aiyuk’s hands, off a Bills defender and over to Hyde. He returned it to the 49ers’ 5. Buffalo wound up settling for a field goal, but it made it a three-score game late in the third quarter. That was going to be very tough for the 49ers to overcome given how out of sorts their offense was. Everything else from Buffalo was gravy.