Until 49ers get turnover turnaround, losses will continue

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers brought back their all-white 1994 throwback jerseys for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Niners didn't do much to conjure memories of that world championship season. As it turned out, going back to a 1980 look would have been more appropriate.

That's because the 49ers didn't do much to give themselves a chance against the heavily favored Rams. To be sure, the Rams are the better, healthier, more star-studded team and their undefeated record should tell you all you needed to know about the expected outcome against the Niners.

But given an opportunity to pull off an NFL-shaking upset, the 1-6 Niners turned the ball over four times, coming up with zero takeaways and falling into an early hole that eventually became a 39-10 blowout loss at Levi's Stadium.

"It's inexcusable," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It's impossible to win in this league when you turn the ball over like we are and we don't get any [takeaways]. We had four today, 4-0, and I think it was 24 points off turnovers. … In order for us to be able to play in a football game, we have to tighten up with the ball and get the ball.

"We have to fix the turnovers. Once we fix the turnovers then we have a chance to start playing football."

The 49ers never had much of a chance in Sunday's loss, as they wasted little time giving the Rams' potent offense prime field position. Two of the offense's first three possessions resulted in a C.J. Beathard fumble that gave the Rams the ball at San Francisco's 44 and another from running back Matt Breida that gave it to the Rams at the Niners' 21. Those giveaways resulted in an early 10-0 hole from which the 49ers could not recover.

Later, Beathard threw two interceptions, both of which also resulted in Rams' touchdowns. Four turnovers, 24 Rams points, ball game over.

"It's extremely frustrating because we know we're a lot better team than that and we have just got to get it stopped," Breida said. "We're doing nothing but hurting ourselves and I feel like we're the reason why we're losing these games, so the sooner we get that corrected, I feel like we'll be in a lot better direction."

Meanwhile, the defense was again struggling to get takeaways despite a pair of golden opportunities provided by Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff. One went through the hands of safety Jaquiski Tartt on a play that might have been a pick-six had Tartt secured it. Another came later when cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and free safety Adrian Colbert collided as a catchable ball fell to the ground.

The Niners haven't come up with a takeaway since the opening moments of a Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Niners have turned the ball over 14 times since without getting a takeaway of their own. That lack of production has come despite a consistent emphasis from coordinator Robert Saleh in practice.

"[We've got to] just keep attacking the ball, keep having that focus during the week which is trying to create fumbles, trying to get interceptions, not being satisfied with pass breakups and I think it will come," Witherspoon said.

In this lost season, the sight of opponents coming up with fumble recoveries or interceptions while the Niners fail to get any of their own has become all too familiar. Injuries and other issues aside, the Niners' whopping minus-15 turnover margin through the first seven weeks is the single biggest issue the team just can't seem to overcome.


  • At minus-15, the 49ers are tied with the 1980 Niners for the worst turnover differential in franchise history at this point in the season. Jacksonville has the second-worst turnover margin and is still three better than San Francisco.

  • That negative turnover margin is the second-worst in the NFL through seven games since 2001, with only the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs posting a worse number.

  • The 49ers' three takeaways are the fewest and their 18 giveaways are the most in the NFL.

  • The Niners had a minus-1 turnover margin in their first 14 quarters of the season. In the ensuing 14 quarters, that number is minus-14.

  • Sunday's loss was the fourth time this season that the 49ers were minus-3 or worse in turnover margin. They've lost all four games.

  • The Niners are negative-54 in point differential off turnovers this season, worst in the league by 19 points.

Going into Sunday night's game between Kansas City and Cincinnati, there had been 23 games this season in which a team was minus-3 or worse in turnover margin. Of those games, only two teams were able to overcome the turnovers and win and one more was able to come away with a tie.

For an injury-ravaged Niners team, finding victories figured to be hard enough without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo but this team definitely doesn't have the weapons to cancel out such mistakes in its current state.

While it's easy to put the blame on Beathard -- who has thrown an interception in eight straight starts, the longest streak by a starting 49ers QB since Steve DeBerg in 1979, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, and has at least one giveaway in every game in which he has played substantial snaps -- the Niners' problems run much deeper. Which is why Shanahan said after the game he intends to stick with Beathard moving forward.

"If it was just one thing, you'd say one thing. if it was just one guy, you'd say one guy," Shanahan said. "But it's an accumulation of a number of things.

"We need to get better. The better you get, the less you turn it over. We talk about the ball and work on going after balls as much as you possibly can. You don't stop. You don't wait for it. You keep preaching those same things and you expect it to get better the more you work at it and if it doesn't, then you've got to find people who do take care of it."