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49ers Notebook: Christian McCaffrey says his fumble cost 49ers the game; Fred Warner wants team’s mental toughness to go up; Nick Bosa comments on D-line play

Oct 23, 2023 at 10:41 PM--

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Christian McCaffrey scored two touchdowns in the 49ers' 22-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, but afterwards he was kicking himself for one play in particular he felt cost his team the game.

The 49ers were driving towards the end zone early in the game when McCaffrey fumbled the ball to the Vikings, killing a scoring opportunity. The Vikings took the turnover and drove 89 yards to take a 7-0 lead while setting the tone for a night where their offense racked up 452 total yards.

McCaffrey made it clear while speaking to reporters after the game that he blamed himself for his fumble as well as what happened the rest of the way.

"I think we have a team that's hypercritical of each individual and we can't just let it trickle down and got to take a good hard look in the mirror," McCaffrey said. "I know I'll do that. I made a bad mistake today that I believe cost us the game if I don't fumble that ball, and so I'm going to put it on me and go from there."

McCaffrey finished the game with 45 yards and one rushing touchdown on 15 carries with three catches for 51 yards and one receiving touchdown. His status was questionable coming into the game due to an oblique injury, but he fought through any issues he may have had and said his injury status was irrelevant in the end.

"It really doesn't matter," McCaffrey said. "If you're out there. You have a responsibility to your teammates to play the best you can and I can't make those mistakes like that early in the game."

Monday's game marked the 16th game in a row in which McCaffrey has scored a touchdown, but it was also the second consecutive loss for the 49ers after a 15-game regular season win streak. There will be a bit of soul searching in the days ahead as the 49ers try to pick up the pieces, and McCaffrey will start with focusing on what he needs to do better.

"We just have to play well on game day," McCaffrey said. "We practice hard. We got all the right guys. We just have to play well. I don't even want to speak for anyone else. I'll just speak for myself. I can't put the ball on the ground. I have to do better than that."

In addition to McCaffrey's fumble, we dive into the performance of the pass rush, why linebacker Fred Warner wants to see the team improve their mental toughness, what happened at the end of the first half against the Vikings, and more (Moore?) in this version of 49ers Notebook. Let's keep it going...

Where's the pass rush?

The 49ers have invested a lot of money into a defensive line that was expected to be among the league's best, but on Monday they weren't making the impact they're supposed to make.

The 49ers totaled zero sacks on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who picked the defense apart to the tune of 378 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 35-of-45 passing. There were four quarterback hits from defensive linemen on the night (one each from Nick Bosa, Clelin Ferrell, Randy Gregory, and Arik Armstead) and not enough pressure on Cousins overall to change the trajectory of his performance.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked after the game if he felt like he was getting enough from his pass rush.

"No, it didn't look like it," Shanahan said.

The 49ers had two sacks in their 19-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 6, but Shanahan felt there wasn't as many opportunities for the pass rush to make an impact in that game as there was Monday night.

"Last week I didn't think they had as many opportunities," Shanahan said. "This week it seemed like they did watching it live. I'll have to check it out on the plane, but we didn't have any sacks today. And when you go against a quarterback like that, you got to make him uncomfortable, and he didn't seem too uncomfortable."

Bosa gave his thoughts on where the defensive line stands while singling himself out as someone who needs to cash in on more of his chances.

"I mean, we we have a lot of really good players on the D-Line and and obviously a lot invested in it," Bosa said. "And and you have to make the plays when they're there. You kind of get lulled to sleep by some of the protections, and when those ops come, you have to be ready for them. And I'm not sure how it went for the other three guys. I could only focus on myself, and there was definitely a couple of opportunities there where I could have changed the game. And I need to do that with the kind of player I'm supposed to be."

Gotta get grimier

The 49ers won in a flashy manner early in the season, scoring 30 or more points in each of their first five games while winning four of those games by double digits. The last two weeks have been a different story, as the 49ers have had the fight taken to them and have not been able to come out on top in two close, hard-fought games.

Warner says the 49ers are going to have to make winning the slugfests part of their identity, and that they might have to pick things up a notch in the mental toughness area to make it happen.

"We've shown obviously what we're capable of, like our best version of ourselves," Warner said. "But at the end of the day, I want our mental toughness to go up. I want to win in any form or fashion. I don't care if it's ugly. Like, all right, we'll figure it out later on, but let's find a way to get this done."

The 49ers were actually in a position to win against both the Browns and the Vikings at the end but weren't able to pull out a win on their final possessions. They'll certainly encounter that situation again sooner or later and will need to learn how to come out on top when they do.

"I think the thing right now with us is we got to find ways to win the grimy games, the ones that it's not looking great, and find a way," Warner said. "Obviously we can win 30-10, but who are we and what are we going to do when we're down and we got to come back and win a game?"

Pre-halftime disaster

49ers cornerback Charvarius "Mooney" Ward started off Monday night's game in style by intercepting a pass when he pried the ball from the hands of Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison on the third offensive play. But Ward's luck completely reversed itself with seconds to go before halftime when it was Addison who took what would have been Ward's second interception of the night and turned it into a 60-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings a 16-7 lead.

Addison's touchdown was a turning point in the game and caused some second-guessing because the 49ers were blitzing on the play. Shanahan, Bosa and Warner all weighed in on that moment after the game, starting with Shanahan, who didn't blame Ward but said he'll review the decision to call a blitz in the days ahead ("That's stuff we'll discuss throughout this week. Obviously, I did not like the result," Shanahan said).

"We called an all out blitz, and he's got to get rid of it right away. And he threw it up and got a chance for a pick," Shanahan said. "Didn't come through with it, and they got a touchdown. It's a real bad play by us."

Bosa and Warner tipped their caps to Addison for making a great play.

"I don't know how the back end feels about it, but Mooney was there," Bosa said. "Tough luck for him on that. He was definitely there. It could have been his second pick of the game. And I'm sure he's going to be hard on himself and not blame the call, but yeah, it was a good play by them."

Warner added, "I mean, obviously people are going to be like, 'Oh, why are we going to blitz in that situation?' But you look at it, Mooney had an an interception. Their player happened to make a great play and goes in there and scores. I wouldn't say I mean, yeah, of course you don't want that to happen, but you got to overcome adversity."

Jaylon Moore fills some big shoes

Third-year offensive lineman Jaylon Moore was called on to step in for injured left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) on Monday and drew some positive reviews for his performance.

The 49ers expressed confidence last week that Moore could get the job done, and on Monday he at least didn't do anything to stand out to Shanahan in a negative way.

"It seemed like he did well," Shanahan said. "I didn't notice. I mean, I didn't say his name much today, so it seemed like he did well."

McCaffrey gave Moore a definitive thumbs-up.

"I think he did great, you know, coming there and (doing) what he did," McCaffrey said. "He had a great week of practice and I thought he did great out there."

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