The greatest obstacle to the 49ers' pursuit of a championship this season is the 49ers themselves. The 49ers have the talent and coaching, leaving the only real speed bump on their path to glory this season being the self-inflicted mistakes that have often plagued this team in recent years.
While both those teams deserve their share of credit for handling the 49ers in their respective matchups, San Francisco’s inclination to implode played a major role in their demise over the last couple of weeks.
The 49ers committed three turnovers in each of those games but found a way to respond in a major way by not turning the ball over once in their win over the Rams. It rings true for most teams in any given season, but when the 49ers have been able to avoid coughing up the football, they’ve won.
The 49ers have not lost a game this season when they have recorded a positive or even turnover margin. They have failed to win a game this season when they are on the losing end of the turnover margin in a given contest.
Here is the 49ers' turnover margin disparity this season.
In their four wins: +5 turnover margin
In their four losses: -8 turnover margin
The only turnover they have committed in any of their four wins this season was a first-quarter fumble by George Kittle in the 49ers' week five win over the Carolina Panthers.
Just like turnovers, penalties are pretty straightforward. The more you commit, the harder you’ll make it on yourself to beat opponents at the highest level. Here is how the self-inflicted mistakes via penalty have shaken out so far, eight weeks into this season.
49ers penalty stats per game in the 49ers' four wins:
27.2 yards per game
49ers penalty stats per game in their four losses:
62.25 yards per game
The numbers literally double in losses, highlighting the volatility in how disciplined the 49ers play weekly. However, heading into the bye, the 49ers have to feel strong about their recent performance after only committing three penalties for a grand total of eight yards against the Rams.
It’s easier said than done, but the formula for the 49ers moving forward is clear. Don’t commit back-breaking turnovers; try to refrain from giving/losing free yards because of undisciplined play that will lead to turnovers.
One last side note from Sunday’s game, it was the first time in a 49ers game that neither team recorded a turnover since the 49ers' Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
If you’re a 49ers player, the message is clear here. Stay out of your own way, take care of the football, and the rest will take care of itself. When healthy, this team is too talented to fail but also clumsy enough to keep tripping over itself every other week.