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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers scratching their heads on offense after back-to-back losses

Oct 11, 2020 at 8:12 PM--

After putting up over 30 points in each of their two road wins against the New York Jets in Week 2 and the New York Giants in Week 3, the San Francisco 49ers are suddenly looking for answers on offense after back-to-back home losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.

The 49ers put up over 400 yards and found the end zone three times in their 25-20 Week 4 loss to the Eagles but also turned the ball over three times while allowing five sacks. They took more steps in the wrong direction in Sunday's 43-17 loss to the Dolphins, putting up just 259 yards of offense while once again allowing five sacks while giving up three turnovers.

Injuries have undoubtedly been part of the problem on offense, where every position has had at least one key player miss multiple games this season. But most of the offense was on the field against the Dolphins in Week 5, including starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after missing Weeks 3 and 4 due to a high ankle sprain. It didn't matter much in the end, as the Dolphins jumped out to a 30-7 halftime lead and the 49ers couldn't respond.

"As an offense, I feel like we're pretty healthy," tight end George Kittle told reporters after the loss. "We've got most of our guys back. We've got to put points on the scoreboard, and we just didn't do that. I can't put my finger on it. I played in the game, yes, but I've got to see the film where we made those mistakes. At the end of the day, we're just not playing complementary football. If our defense gets a stop, we have to go down and score. That's just what we have to do in order to win games, and we haven't done that two weeks in a row."

The 49ers ran for 131 yards on 19 carries against the Dolphins, with 90 of those yards coming from Raheem Mostert, who returned to the lineup after missing time with a knee injury. Those numbers weren't enough for Kittle, who expects nothing short of dominance in the run game after helping the 49ers finish second in the league in rushing in 2019. Kittle thinks the lack of dominance in the run game is part of what is holding the team back.

"I love running the football," Kittle said. "When we don't run the football well, that's kind of a shot at me, because I feel like me and the offensive tackles are the best at what we can do when we can combo block, and we haven't been very good at it. So, we're going to get better at that. I can promise you that. Once this run game gets going, I have all the confidence in the world in our ability as a football team because we have players and weapons all over the field."

The offensive line certainly played a role in those successes of 2019 but has not been spared its share of criticism over the past two weeks. There's undoubtedly room for improvement from what they've shown, but head coach Kyle Shanahan says any issues the line has been having are part of a bigger picture.

"I was happy with the week (of practice) that they had," head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the loss to the Dolphins. "I thought they came out, I thought we run-blocked well, and I thought we got way too one-dimensional in some situations we got into in the pass game, which puts them in a tough situation, one we weren't in very many times last year at all. We were definitely in it for most of the game today -- pretty much the entire second half.

"I definitely expect those guys to do better. I know we can help them with staying in some better situations, which doesn't make it easy. But just the offense as a whole, not just the O-line, from the receivers to the quarterbacks to tight ends to running backs to every single coach, I was very disappointed today."

The 49ers are about to enter into a schedule gauntlet that includes home games against the Rams, Packers, and Bills with road games against the Rams, Seahawks, Saints, Patriots, which means they need to find answers to their struggles on both sides of the ball in a hurry. Perhaps the offense can take a leap forward heading into next week's home game against the Rams after fielding a lineup against the Dolphins that was as healthy as it's been all year, but it's still a work in progress, according to Garoppolo.

"Every offense, every team really, you have to find your identity," Garoppolo said. "It's a process. Every team goes through it every year. It's not one of those things that happens very quickly. It takes time. We need to do it with a little sense of urgency. It really comes down to finding out who we are, what we do best and going out there and doing it on the field. There's a million little things that all come together and we've just got to keep working at it."

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