Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: The Trent Williams effect; Shanahan on his decision to decline key penalty; A familiar face haunts 49ers

Sep 26, 2022 at 8:05 AM--

The sooner everyone moves on from the 49ers' dreadful 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night the better. But first, let's tie up some loose ends to come from Sunday's postgame interviews.

Much of the postgame discussion surrounded the performance of the 49ers' offense, which was poor enough to squander a defensive effort that held the Broncos' offense to just nine points. But there was also some honesty regarding the loss of left tackle Trent Williams, some insight from head coach Kyle Shanahan on why he declined an important first half penalty, and much more.

Let's get into a roundup of some of Sunday's postgame comments in this edition of 49ers Notebook.

George Kittle's honesty on the loss of Trent Williams and the performance of the 49ers' offense

The 49ers have a true luxury in Trent Williams, who gives the team everything they could hope for and more from the left tackle position. But when Williams exited Sunday night's game due to an ankle injury, it served as a reminder of how valuable he is to his team.

The 49ers looked to Jaylon Moore and Colton McKivitz to fill in while Williams was out, but Williams' absence was felt right away when the Broncos attacked Moore for a quick sack. Tight end George Kittle talked after the game about the loss of Williams, stating the obvious about how much of a dropoff can be felt when a player of Williams' caliber leaves the lineup.

"He's the best football player in the NFL," Kittle said. "It's not like a gut punch. It's kind of like he's the most reliable person. There's no pressure, there's no sacks, then when you take him out, nothing against the guy below him, but there's no one nearly as good as Trent Williams. So when you lose him and also a captain, the most steady player on our team besides probably Nick (Bosa), it's just tough. Nothing against our two left tackles that came in after that, but when you lose a guy like him, it's tough."

Williams' injury was one of many reasons why the 49ers struggled on offense Sunday night. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo also threw an interception, lost a fumble, and stepped out of the end zone for a safety, while running back Jeff Wilson also lost a fumble and the offense as a whole converted just one of ten on third downs. Kittle summed it all up succinctly.

"Three turnovers, safety, one for ten. That's just bad offense," Kittle said. "When we have a defense playing the way that they are, giving us opportunities, if we don't turn the ball over and score ten points a game, we should be able to win as long as we don't turn the ball over three times with a safety. I think our goal is much higher than that but at the lowest, we can't do that."

Shanahan on the decision that led to the Broncos' first field goal

Early in the second quarter of Sunday night's game, the Denver Broncos were flagged for offensive holding on a two-yard run by Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson on a 3rd-and-9 play from the 49ers' 39 yard line. The penalty would have knocked them out of field goal range had the 49ers accepted, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan chose to decline the penalty instead, setting up a 55-yard field goal attempt for kicker Brandon McManus. McManus' field goal was good, cutting the 49ers' lead at the time to 7-3.

Why didn't Shanahan accept the penalty? He told reporters he would have rather taken a chance on McManus missing the field goal instead of giving Wilson the opportunity to make something happen that would have resulted in a first down.

"I was told it was a 50/50 decision," Shanahan said. "We were a little nervous of Russell making a big play on 3rd-and-long, maybe throwing it up, getting PI and stuff or getting a holding, getting an automatic first down or something like that. So we went with the 55-yarder. Next time in the second half I switched and went the other way."

Remember me?

The player on the other end of Garoppolo's interception was actually a member of the 49ers not long ago, and after the game he couldn't have been more excited about the play he made against his former team.

Linebacker Jonas Griffith, who caught the interception off a deflection with just two minutes to go in the game, first joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent signing of the 49ers in 2020. He spent time on the 49ers' practice squad that season, then was traded with a seventh-round pick to the Broncos before the start of the 2021 season in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2022 (used on offensive lineman Nick Zakelj) and a seventh-round pick in 2023.

Griffith was awarded with a game ball after the game and met reporters with a wide smile on his face to discuss his play.

"This is special to me, man. This is pretty crazy," Griffith said. "This is pretty surreal, especially against my former team, the 49ers. I think I'm going to sleep with this one tonight."

It's not like last year... at least not yet

The 49ers got off to a slow start in 2021, stumbling to a 3-5 record before rallying to a 7-2 finish that resulted in a postseason berth as a Wild Card. The moment that got that turnaround started was a one-sided Monday night home win over the Rams, which came on the heels of an awful home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The Rams will be in town once again next week for a Monday night game, while the 49ers are once again searching for answers after a tough loss. But it's too early to compare the situation to 2021, according to Garoppolo.

"We're only three games into this thing," Garoppolo said. "We've still got a lot of football left. You never really like to lose like this in that type of fashion, but we've got to bounce back. But yeah, I wouldn't put it in that category yet."

It wasn't me

One humorous moment from the 49ers' postgame interviews came when defensive end Nick Bosa was discussing a play where he was credited with a sack on Russell Wilson even though he could have been called for tripping.

Bosa was asked about the call after the game and gave a quick answer, saying "Yeah I just shot through and didn't trip him." He followed that comment with a bit of a grin, suggesting he knew he got away with one at that moment.

The sack was Bosa's fourth on the season. He also expressed disappointment that he wasn't able to do more in the loss.

"I know for myself I could have made some more plays in that game," Bosa said. "I definitely was a little quiet at times. The type of player I want to be, I want to be able to affect games more than that."


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