Five turnovers. Five.
When you consider that number, it’s almost impossible to think that the San Francisco 49ers could have overcome shooting themselves in the foot that many times, but here we are. A stifling defense and an offense that came up clutch when it needed to most made all the difference, and the Niners are now 3-0 for the first time since 1998.
This was yet another game that the most recent versions of the 49ers we’ve seen would have found a way to lose. But this team is different. It’s learning how to win almost in spite of itself, and no doubt becoming a closer and more confident group because of it.
Even with all the good vibes at moment (and they’re well deserved) it goes without saying that if Kyle Shanahan’s team wants to join the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams of the world, they have to become a more disciplined unit across the board.
Like in Week 3, turnovers are and have been an issue under this regime. The team has a negative-29 turnover differential during Shanahan’s tenure as head coach, and were tied for eighth most in the league in 2017 (23) and second most in 2018 (32). So far this season, the Niners are tied for the most turnovers with eight.
Looking deeper, 49ers’ quarterbacks have thrown 39 interceptions in 35 games. Now if you’ve been watching what’s actually transpired on the field, you’d know that a number of these weren’t just on the players throwing the passes. Receivers letting passes bounce of their hands, questionable routes and pressure have all played a part, making the picks a team effort.
San Francisco has also lost 24 fumbles during this span, and finished tied for the third most of any team in that category last year. As far as 2019, only the Cincinnati Bengals have more.
Just as bad as the turnovers have been the drive killing penalties that have pushed the team back and taken points off the board more times than most fans would care to remember. San Francisco ranked fourth worst in 2017 in penalties called and accepted (123), 10th worst in 2018 (112) and are currently tied for fourth worst (25).
There are two ways to look at this: The first is if San Francisco can clean up their act and stop the self-inflicted wounds, the sky’s the limit for this rejuvenated franchise. There’s no reason the 49ers can’t contend deep into January if they put the mistakes behind them.
On the other hand, if the mistakes continue, there’s no way winning at this rate is sustainable. When the schedule gets tougher and the weather gets colder, the season could slip away quickly.
In the end this team will decide its own fate. The talent is there to win now, and it could be that the only team that can beat the 49ers is, well, the 49ers themselves.