The 49ers came out strong against the Indianapolis Colts but eventually crumbled under pressure and lost embarrassingly.
Kyle Shanahan has gotten excuse after excuse for why he's only had one successful season in his head coaching career. The Niners' play was inexcusable Sunday coming off a bye. They did not look like a playoff team Sunday and that should be enough to worry about his future in San Francisco.
We take a look at my five takeaways from the Sunday Night Football catastrophe below.
Missed opportunities on offense continue
San Francisco punched the Colts in the mouth by running the ball effectively on their first offensive drive for a touchdown. The offense would continue to move the ball efficiently on their next two drives and came away with field goals in both of them.
Then, Josh Norman forced a fumble as the defense recovered, giving the Niners' offense another opportunity to score. Sadly, the 49ers' offense had three straight three-and-outs following the Colts turnover.
Shanahan's offense didn't convert a single third down in the first half in seven opportunities. That disgusting trend would continue through the game as the Niners finished one for 11 on third down. In the last three games, Shanahan has led this offense to a third-down conversion rate of 16.67% (6/36.) The "play-calling wizard" (Shanahan) admitted, "I haven't gotten in a great rhythm... I haven't felt comfortable with it." Is it time for Shanahan to pass over play-calling duties?
I said before the game that "San Francisco should be in a position to win If Jimmy Garoppolo doesn't turn the ball over." Unfortunately, Garoppolo wound up turning the ball over three times. His total Expected Points Added was a whopping -12.9 and had a -15.1 EPA on (input the home and away teams and year) on dropbacks.
Garoppolo held the offense back, but I cannot solely hold him responsible. The fact that the wide receiver group had no one outside of Deebo Samuel have multiple receptions is embarrassing. Some panicked that the Niners didn't have a WR3 heading into the season. Then again, no one saw the drastic regression from Brandon Aiyuk coming. I've vouched for Aiyuk countless times this season and he hasn't come through on his end.
Azeez Al-Shaair’s field day ruined by a costly play
Azeez Al-Shaair had a field day Sunday, but his high motor ended up costing him. pic.twitter.com/5fpk0JYENw— Xavier Dixon (@GOOBVILLE) October 26, 2021
Azeez Al-Shaair flew around all game and has continued to show that he is a key member of the defense. He got several third-down stops and has made Dre Greenlaw expendable.
Shaair is easily the front-runner for the most improved player on the team. If only San Francisco could develop cornerbacks like they do linebackers.
Conversely, his tackle on third down sprung MIchael Pittman Jr. forward, giving the Colts a first down in the (3:52) fourth quarter. Driving Pittman to the first down would lead to a Carson Wentz 28-yard touchdown heave to Pittman three plays later. The touchdown put the game out of reach as the Colts went up two touchdowns with limited time on the clock.
Fans raining boos mean something.
The offensive struggles are a true reflection of Shanahan. Waisting a challenge on a play where the Colts' offense recovered a fumble isn't ideal either. Although, the offensive struggles have been a trend all season. Shanahan looked to get the run going early, but even Darius Leonard said, "I was glad they kind of went away from that" (misdirection runs.)
The fans screamed boos before the half because the offense had a minute to drive the field. Indianapolis scored a touchdown prior and was receiving the ball coming out the half. I can't fault Shanahan for not pushing the ball down the field with the awful weather conditions, but it was hard to watch him surrender.
San Francisco had ten plays for 15 total yards in two drives in the third quarter. The second drive was derailed by penalties that brought on a third-and-long. Shanahan elected to run a halfback screen to JaMycal Hasty for a minimal gain. Boos would fill the stadium again for the undisciplined penalties and continued offensive struggles.
The cornerback problem is holding the defense back
49ers general manager John Lynch decided the 49ers were good enough at cornerback to select two CB's late in the draft. Having two injury-riddled starters in Jason Verrett and K'waun Williams should have been a red flag from the get-go. Lynch should've used the second-round pick on a cornerback that would have made an impact this season.
This all goes without mentioning that five of the eight cornerbacks on the roster are set to be free agents in 2021. Emannuel Mosley received an "extension," but his deal is an extended rental. Ambry Thomas and Demomodore Lenoir were drafted with the expectations to contribute to this season.
Both of them were healthy scratches Sunday. Thomas, I could see, but I thought Lenoir looked good enough (dating back to the preseason games) to be out there. The pressure over coverage mantra might be over in San Francisco. It's time for the 49ers to draft an NFL-ready cornerback.
Josh Norman had a decent game after he gave up a 57-yard bomb. He did also miss a switch on a pick-play that resulted in a touchdown. However, he was able to get tackles in the backfield and got his hands on the ball several times. Moseley dropped several interceptions. He was in a good position for most plays but he gave up a Defensive Pass Interference in the endzone in the second quarter.
It's no telling where the 49ers go from here
John Lynch traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to select Trey Lance. Resulting in San Francisco not having any first-round picks for the next two years. There will be serious questions if the 49ers miss the playoffs this season.
Shanahan and the Niners need to forget this game even happened and get it together in preparation for the Chicago Bears. Traveling to Soldier field will not be a give-me game, but Justin Fields has the worst qualifying QBR in his last four games.
Shanahan said, 'I have a lot of things to figure out'. This is his fifth year in San Francisco, and he should be past figuring things out. There are plenty of coaches that didn't get as long of a leash as Shanahan, and that includes Jim Harbaugh. Not to mention, Harbaugh never had a losing season for the 49ers.
I have no idea what the trajectory is for this team. Aiyuk has been a major letdown. To see Deebo Samuel take the next step and watch Aiyuk take two steps back is beyond frustrating.
The defense has been put into horrible situations by the offense. With that being said, the cornerback play has to be better. DeMeco Ryans has done all he can with what he's been dealt.
Ultimately, this falls on Kyle Shanahan. The head coach is responsible for having a disciplined and winning team. I'm tired of the excuses and demand results. Maybe the team pulls it around and goes undefeated for the rest of the season.