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Kyle Shanahan felt 49ers’ offense would have to be great to beat Bills

The 49ers’ head coach said he thought it would be similar to the game against the New Orleans Saints last season.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers’ playoff chances suffered a massive blow with their 34-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Niners fell to 5-7 and sit one game back of the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals going into the season’s final four games.

The Niners needed to beat the Bills to strengthen their postseason hopes but are now in a position where they will need to run the table just to have a shot at playing in the playoffs. Head coach Kyle Shanahan knew the offense would have to put up some big numbers against Buffalo in order for his squad to get the victory.

“We didn’t play our best on D, that’s why we had to on offense and special teams,” Shanahan said. “It was going to be one of those games that was going to be a shootout. I think we had a chance to do it on offense, make this game similar to how New Orleans was last year.”

The 49ers had both Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle in the lineup when they beat the Saints 48-46 during the 2019 season. Both players watched the game from the stands on Monday, while quarterback Nick Mullens was trying to command the offense.

Mullens went 26-of-39 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and two picks against the Bills. He wasn’t why the Niners lost, but he certainly didn’t do enough to lead the team to a win.

The 49ers have only managed to put up more than 24 points once this season, with Mullens starting at QB, which came in Week 3 against the New York Giants. Shanahan believed that in order for his team to get the win, the offense would have had to keep pace with Josh Allen and the Bills’ unit. Something that was far-fetched from happening considering the struggles of San Francisco’s offense throughout the season.

Receiver Deebo Samuel — who is the Niners’ best weapon on offense — didn’t have a reception in the first half and was only targeted once. Not exactly a recipe for success with points already hard to come by.

“It was really important to us tonight to establish the run to start the game out to get that going,” Shanahan said. “So, we didn’t have a ton of passes in the first half and the ones that we called for him, we didn’t get those coverages and they controlled the ball very well. So, we didn’t have the number of plays either.”

The defense was a major letdown after being the team’s backbone throughout the season, but the offense could have made plays to keep the Niners in the game. Mullens was off on his throw to receiver Kendrick Bourne, which was initially called a touchdown but overturned after review. If Mullens leads Bourne a little bit more outside, San Francisco would have been down 10 with just over seven minutes left in the game.

Instead, Mullens was called for a false start, pushing the offense back to the Buffalo six-yard line. Then, on the very next play, Mullens’ pass to Jeff Wilson Jr. was off target and intercepted by Tre’Davious White.

Still, Shanahan believes the offense wasn’t too far off in the loss to the Bills.

“We needed to play our best and I think that we were very close to doing it,” Shanahan said.

“We just had a few things that didn’t keep us out on the field, and when you do that versus an offense and a quarterback like that who’s playing the way they are, and you don’t get it back for a while, the game gets away from you.

I think we needed to keep matching them, and it was frustrating because I believe, not taking anything away from them, they did an awesome job, but I believe that we were capable of that. We had our times, which I think you saw at times, but we had to do it every time today and we didn’t get that done.”