The NFL is a league that is defined by head coaches and quarterbacks.
That’s bad news for the San Francisco 49ers.
Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo turned in their individual and collective worst performances of the season Sunday in a 30-18 loss in the rain on Sunday Night Football to the Colts.
The Colts are the kind of flawed team that the 49ers should beat — particularly at home. Instead, another loss — their third-straight at home and fourth on the trot.
Losing to Indianapolis — bad quarterback, middle-of-the-road head coach — is the kind of failure that only portends bad things for San Francisco this season.
Here are the studs and duds from an overall dud of a game.
The rookie running back gave the Niners an early presence on the ground, as he showed burst and good vision. He finished the day with 107 yards — 57 on the first drive of the game — and a touchdown.
He was pretty good, registering three quarterback hits on the day and forcing the Colts to overload their offensive line to try to stop him.
It didn’t matter, but it was impressive. Bosa had four tackles in the game.
Did he fumble, setting up a Colts TD?
Yes. He did. But he also had seven catches for 100 yards.
Let’s call it a wash.
Do I need another one? Really?
OK, Moore was fine as a sub for Trent Williams, who missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.
Given how the rest of the Niners’ 2021 draft class has performed, it’s good that Moore and Mitchell have been solid contributors.
But let’s get on with the real stuff:
The other quarterback had to play in the rain, too.
And while he was also bad, he at least found ways to move the ball down the field amid his incredible efforts to give the ball to the Niners.
Make no mistake, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz stinks. He should use the Benny Hill theme music as his own.
But Wentz is levels beyond Garoppolo right now.
Save for one strange series in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo couldn’t even muster interesting on Sunday.
Plus, after the 49ers had an early 2-0 turnover advantage, Garoppolo turned it over three times. San Francisco lost the turnover battle 4-2.
It was just another terrible performance from a quarterback whose supporters have every excuse for his play and nothing of value to actually present.
Garoppolo played the hits on Sunday. He didn’t read the field, he refused to push the ball downfield, and when he did those things, he forced balls into windows that didn’t exist and he put his receivers in dangerous situations.
There were a few flashes of positive play, but they came nowhere close to overwhelming the negative — the missed throws, the classic strip-sack fumble, and the indefensible interceptions late in the fourth quarter.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Garoppolo should not start another game for San Francisco.
Because if Garoppolo is the quarterback who gives the 49ers their best chance to win, then they stand no chance of winning games for the remainder of the season.
Sunday was a truly unacceptable performance from the 49ers’ head coach.
Not only was he timid and predictable as a play-caller amid the weather conditions, but he also made three massive mistakes as a head coach:
• Failing to call any timeouts as the Colts were on the doorstep of their second touchdown at the end of the second quarter
• Taking a knee to end the first half, knowing his team would kick the ball to start the second
• One of the worst challenges I’ve ever seen in an NFL game
The challenge flag was so confusing that the game crunched to a halt. Even the referees were like “you want to challenge that?”
Shanahan said that he didn’t see the play and apparently the team’s headsets went out at that exact moment.
Shanahan threw the flag on the advice of the players on the sideline.
Again, he didn’t see the fumble and threw the flag anyway.
It didn’t matter in the long run, but that’s concerning.
Over the last few weeks in public appearances — press conferences and the like — Shanahan has been snippy at his worst and detached in the other moments.
He’s the coach of a losing team for the fourth year in five. I don’t expect him to be happy.
But disinterested? That’s unacceptable.
What makes it worse is that there were moments where Shanahan’s offense looked competent — more than competent, in fact. The team’s first offensive drive of the game and their first of the fourth quarter were downright impressive.
But outside of those two series, the Niners consistently stunk on offense.
Shanahan is supposed to be an offensive genius. I bought into that hyperbolic praise and pushed it myself.
There’s nothing genius about this Niners’ offense. It’s stale and inadequate. The personnel might not be elite, but there’s no reason for it to not be interesting.
And yet it is.
It’s all enough to make you wonder if Shanahan wants to be in Santa Clara anymore. It sure doesn’t seem like it.
Brandon Aiyuk and the NFL rulebook
Aiyuk can’t get the ball passed to him and now he’s not even allowed to receive punts, as he lost that job mid-game Sunday.
The good news for Aiyuk is that his horrendous punt “return” in the second quarter could have been — should have been — worse. The NFL rulebook bailed him out.
After letting a punt fall beside him, Aiyuk had a change of heart and ran after the ball. He kicked it in the process — all the way into the 49ers’ end zone. He picked it up and was promptly tackled.
Logic states that play is a safety. After all, had the Colts recovered the ball in the end zone, it would have been a touchdown.
Isn’t the opposite of a touchdown a safety?
Apparently not. The rule book says that a punt returner has to create a “new force” in order to activate the ball enough to where it would be a safety and not a touchback.
Sure seems to be like Aiyuk’s kick was a “new force” but what do I know?
Other than a new rule. You learn something new (and ridiculous) every day.
Pick your member of the secondary
Seriously, whoever you want — they all took a turn being burned or picking up flags Sunday.
The Colts’ offensive game plan, for a large chunk of the game, was to have Jonathan Taylor run the ball (he’s fantastic) and then have Carson Wentz throw a deep-but-underthrown ball downfield.
The Colts would pick up a pass interference spot foul and suddenly Indianapolis was in scoring range.
Josh Norman, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, and Emmanuel Moseley were all flagged for pass interference Sunday.
I have no earthy idea what Dre Kirkpatrick was doing on the Colts’ final touchdown. A 50-50 ball requires effort — Kirkpatrick decided that instead of trying to deny Michael Pittman the ball or get it himself, he would instead just put a double forearm shiver into the Colts receiver. It was such a feeble attempt he didn’t even get flagged for the clear pass interference effort.
Congratulations to Jimmie Ward for staying flag-free Sunday.
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Author: Dieter Kurtenbach