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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Notebook: What’s wrong with the offense? Chiefs’ unique chemistry exercise; Jim Harbaugh reflects

Oct 23, 2022 at 9:20 PM--


The defense seemed to get much of the blame for the 49ers' 44-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, but the performance from the 49ers' offense once again left observers scratching their heads.

Not everything was bad for the 49ers on offense Sunday -- they put up 444 total yards with 25 first downs and were 8-of-14 on third downs -- but they still made too many mistakes (three turnovers, a safety, and a number of penalties) and settled for three field goals in a game where they needed touchdowns. Given the talent the 49ers have on offense, it's been disappointing to see them not score more points than they have over the first portion of the season.

"I just feel like we've got too many people that can change the game to score 23 points," wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said Sunday. "People can ask about the defense, but at the end of the day we've got to score more points than the other team. That's how I feel."

So why are things going wrong with this unit, even though they have experience playing with each other and have had success in the past? Tight end George Kittle chalked it up to self-inflicted errors and first down shortcomings that haven't helped the running game.

"That's a great question," Kittle said. "I think it's a combination of penalties in the red zone, mistakes in the red zone, whether it's where you get mistargeted or something like that. We don't really have second-and-shorts. We have a lot of second-and-longs. We're a really good running football team -- It's hard to run the ball if you're in second and long. I think that's been an issue for us. We have plenty of guys to make plays -- Aiyuk, Deebo (Samuel), myself, Christian (McCaffrey), Jeff Wilson. We have a lot of guys out there -- Jauan (Jennings). We have plenty of guys that can make plays. I think unfortunately today it really showed we just couldn't get the ball into those guys hands at the right times. Penalties, like I said, just kind of sabotage ourselves."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo both mentioned holding players accountable as the way to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds that have been hurting the team. Garoppolo said accountability needs to happen during the week in practice.

"I think it starts in practice," Garoppolo said. "I think the way you practice is how you play. Just can't let little things slide like that in practice. I don't know if all that stuff happens in practice, but I think that's the starting point for it. There's no magic trick to it -- it's just hard work and guys doing the right thing and doing it right longer than the other team. I think that's a big part of it."

Garoppolo added, "I think we've got the right core guys especially to hold people accountable. We've got to stay together right now. This is a tough time and obviously a tough loss. You never like to lose games in this league, but just the way we did today, we've just got to stick together right now.

The offense was just one of several topics discussed on Sunday. Here's a rundown of some other topics of note from the game, including an interesting chemistry-building activity from the Chiefs and some words from former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Maybe the 49ers should try some Call of Duty


The Chiefs were on fire offensively Sunday, putting up 529 total yards against a defense that spent the first six games of the season regarded as one of the NFL's best. What was their secret?

According to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (seven catches, 124 yards, one touchdown), it was a session of the video game Call of Duty featuring himself, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling that carried over into a big offensive performance on Sunday.

"I'm going to tell you what got us the chemistry we needed this game," Smith-Schuster said Sunday. "So I think it was Friday night, it was me, Pat, Travis, and MVS. We were playing Call of Duty together. We were playing Warzone and we won three games. We won three games back-to-back. And we got off and were like 'damn.' It's really hard to win a game in Warzone. You could just tell the communication between all of us and the chemistry, it was like we were in the game... It kind of just led into this game. It kind of just showed on the field."

Maybe the 49ers should give it a try.

Garoppolo on his interception


One of those aforementioned self-inflicted wounds from the 49ers came late in the second quarter when Garoppolo was picked off in the end zone by rookie cornerback Joshua Williams.

Garoppolo was under pressure on the play and lofted the ball into the end zone, where Williams made the grab. The ball was closest to wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, but Garoppolo had another target in his sights -- tight end George Kittle.

"They zeroed us, just tried to throw it to George, left it short there," Garoppolo said. "The guy made a play. I didn't even see it but just left it short."

A time to remember


Jim Harbaugh's days as head coach of the 49ers may not have come to the happiest of conclusions, but he was all smiles Sunday as he recalled his time with the organization.

Now the head coach at the University of Michigan, Harbaugh was in town as part of the 2012 NFC Championship team reunion and spoke to reporters for a moment about his four seasons with the 49ers. He referred to his days as the 49ers as the time of his life after his NFL head coaching stint came to an end in 2014 and hasn't changed that perspective since then.

"(General manager) John Lynch and (49ers CEO) Jed (York) had me say a few words last night, and that's exactly what I said, man -- It was the time of my life, those four years," Harbaugh said. "Just very happy and an attitude of gratitude for that opportunity and to be in that situation, that position at that time. Then for everybody to do so well, it was tremendous to be a part of."

Watch below:


Keying in on Nick Bosa and Fred Warner


Kittle gave some praise to Kansas City's offensive gameplan after the loss, saying the Chiefs focused on preventing defensive end Nick Bosa and Fred Warner from beating them.

"I think they had a really good gameplan too -- basically don't let Bosa or Fred win the game," Kittle said. "Don't let them get their hands on the ball carriers. Don't let them get sacks. Don't let them get picks. I thought they ran that pretty well. Just gotta have the other guys step up when that's another team's gameplan."

Bosa did have a big moment in the second half when he dug the Chiefs in a hole after a first down sack, but Mahomes connected with Valdes-Scantling for a 57-yard gain two plays later before scoring a touchdown to go up 35-23. Bosa seemed to choose his words carefully after the game when speaking about how the Chiefs played against him.


Jeff Wilson on Christian McCaffrey


The 49ers' leading rushers on Sunday were Jeff Wilson and new addition Christian McCaffrey, who stood out despite having his first practice with the team on Friday. Wilson (54 yards, seven carries) was impressed with how quickly McCaffrey (38 yards, eight carries) learned what he needed to know in order to play on Sunday.

"Our offense is not easy at all, so for him to go in do what he did and produce the way he did, just off the strength of him, that speaks volumes to him," Wilson said.

Wilson is among a number of 49ers who are happy to have McCaffrey aboard.

"He was in the league before me," Wilson said. "I used to sit on my couch on Sundays and watch him run, you know what I mean? So he's always been a great player and he's always going to bring a ton of assets to the game and to the offense. So to have him, that's definitely a breather or me."

Wilson also traded jerseys with Patrick Mahomes after the game. Both players are natives of East Texas.


"For us coming from that small town and that small world to be on the big stage is just a blessing," Wilson said. "He's proud of me and I'm proud of him."



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