After a difficult, 30-28, last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers, things don’t get any easier for the 49ers. They’ve got back-to-back weeks against explosive division opponents in the Seattle Seahawks at home and the Arizona Cardinals on the road. There’s not much time for the 49ers to lick their wounds.
Injury updates: Another corner down
It wouldn’t be a 49ers season without some major injury concerns pretty much immediately. After losing Jason Verrett to a season-ending ACL tear in Week 1, the 49ers signed Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Norman, and leaned heavily on rookie corner Deommodore Lenoir and Dontae Johnson while Emmanuel Moseley remained out until this past Sunday.
The injury woes have continued. Norman suffered a gruesome internal injury which required hospitalization. The 49ers have termed it a “lung contusion” and Kyle Shanahan confirmed Monday that Norman was coughing up blood and that there was fluid in his lungs.
Shanahan described Norman as day to day, saying that the team will conduct further tests this week. He returned to the team’s meetings on Monday, but has to pass a CT scan and “clear some imaging” in order to return to practice.
Despite the macabre nature of Norman’s injury, it appears to be far less severe, at least as far as recovery timeline is concerned, than K’Waun Williams.
Williams suffered a calf strain and will “be out a few weeks,” meaning the 49ers will likely turn to Lenoir in the slot, and will likely have Dre Kirkpatrick active for Sunday. He and Ambry Thomas were made inactive against the Packers, and another corner signing is likely.
The other injuries seem to be minor, but include George Kittle for the first time this season, with calf soreness. Kittle is day to day, while both Javon Kinlaw (knee) and Arik Armstead (abductor) are in the same situation as the last few weeks with their lingering injuries, which the 49ers will try and manage. There is an early bye in Week 7 which figures to benefit both of them substantially.
Shanahan’s regrets, and criticism of 49ers’ play
Sometimes Kyle Shanahan plays his cards close to his vest, and sometimes he’s brutally honest. Monday’s availability leaned more to the latter, when Shanahan criticized himself and the team for a few misgivings.
One of the main points of criticism was the inability to convert on third down early in the game. It allowed the Packers to stretch out an early lead and put the 49ers in a disadvantageous situation, in which the Packers pushed their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and basically dared San Francisco to challenge them deep.
Those missed opportunities early were much maligned by Shanahan, who said he expected the Packers to use their outside linebackers to create trouble for the 49ers’ outside zone run game, occasionally using six players on the line of scrimmage.
“It was a little tough sledding, similar to what we got last week; a little bit different style with the softer two-shell coverages,” Shanahan said. “We thought it would be like that, especially in the first half. To me, we didn’t convert any third downs.
We didn’t convert a third down until the big hit Deebo [Samuel] took over the middle — [that] was our first one when we were backed up. Went down and drove the ball pretty well for a while crossing the 50 until we got stopped on 3rd-and-1 in short yardage.
I think we’ve got to do a lot better on third down and then we will get more run opportunities. I know we were down some backs and that always does hurt. But we didn’t get the amount of opportunities we’d like to get.”
The stop Shanahan referenced was that bizarre play in which almost everyone on the 49ers’ line reacted late. George Kittle didn’t even move, and Trey Sermon got stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
According to Shanahan, the defensive line said something and Alex Mack snapped the ball before Jimmy Garoppolo called for the ball to be snapped. He said he thought Sermon lost a yard-and-a-half, and his initial plan was to run a quarterback sneak if it got to fourth-and-one.
As it turned out, Sermon managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, but Shanahan indicated that he didn’t find that out until he reviewed the tape because he was at an awkward angle from the play
“That’s one I regret a ton,” Shanahan said. “I thought the whole time that we had two downs there… I definitely didn’t want to call the call that I had on 4th-and-2. But after looking over, Trey Sermon did a good job of getting back to the line of scrimmage and I should have stayed with my original feeling.”
On those key situations, it’s not uncommon for Shanahan to be the only voice on the headset. But you have to wonder if perhaps offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel should have an opportunity to call down to Shanahan and make sure that he understands the exact yardage before deciding to punt, which can be argued as a conservative play call even if the 49ers had lost yardage on the prior play.