49ers

Shanahan's debut: One regret, one apology, one loss

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AP

Shanahan's debut: One regret, one apology, one loss

SANTA CLARA – A day later, Kyle Shanahan had one regret and made one apology from his first game as an NFL head coach.

Shanahan’s 49ers opened the season on Sunday with a 23-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.

Shanahan, who doubles as his own offensive coordinator, showed an aversion to punting the ball in the middle of the field. And it backfired both times in the first half that he kept his offense on the field for fourth downs.

Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the 49ers went for it on a fourth-and-4 situation from the Panthers’ 44-yard line. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was sacked for an 8-yard sack when Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis pushed his way past running back Carlos Hyde.

The Panthers capitalized by moving the ball just 27 yards to set up a field goal.

On the 49ers’ next possession, the 49ers failed on a fourth-and-1 from the Carolina 45 when fullback Kyle Juszczyk was stuffed for no gain. Shanahan said he did not regret that decision or the play call – a fullback dive against a team with five defensive backs on the field. The Panthers also turned their prime field position into a field goal to take a 13-0 lead at the half.

But, Shanahan admitted, the first time to go for it on fourth down was not sound strategy. The 49ers took over after safety Jaquiski Tartt made a one-handed interception and 37-yard return to the 49ers’ 38-yard line.

“Looking back at all of them, the first one is the one I regretted, when it was fourth and 4,” Shanahan said Monday during his day-after-game press conference. “I think there was about three and a half minutes left (in the first half). We were down seven. Tartt just made an unbelievable play on a pick. I thought we were moving the ball pretty well and came up short there on third down, and I just, I believed we were going to get it. I had a lot confidence that we would and it just didn't work out. But, definitely looking back on that, I wish I did punt because I think it would have made it a lot harder for them to go 90 yards.”

In all, the 49ers were just one of four on fourth-down conversions. They would have had another chance, trailing 23-0, but Shanahan did not get a timeout called before a fourth-and-1 opportunity. The 49ers were called for a delay penalty despite Shanahan’s late attempt to signal for a timeout.

Shanahan was shown on TV berating down judge Hugo Cruz. Shanahan said he has made that mistake before. In 2012, while serving as Washington’s offensive coordinator, Shanahan was fined $25,000 for verbal abuse of an official in a game against Cincinnati.

“And if he (Cruz) was here, I would apologize to him now,” Shanahan said. “He's trying to do his best just like I am. I was just frustrated. I wanted a timeout and I yelled it as loud as I could three times and he just didn't hear me. I was mad at him for it. It's not his fault. He's focused on the game, too. Hope he has no hard feelings towards it.”

Overall, it was a rough debut for Shanahan, who six times in nine seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator fielded top-10 units. But Week 1 showed that he has a lot of work in front of him after inheriting a team that went 2-14 last year under Chip Kelly.

“The thing that's tough for a coach when you look on tape and you just feel like you have no chance, then there's not much to say,” Shanahan said. “There's a lot of clips there you could see that we had a lot of opportunities that we missed on, and especially early.

“I think our guys watching the tape, by no means do they just look at it and feel that they didn't have a chance. I think we're all disappointed because there was a number of times that we could have had a chance to be in that game and we just came up short.”

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”

Armstead to undergo surgery on broken hand, out indefinitely

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USATSI

Armstead to undergo surgery on broken hand, out indefinitely

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead will be out indefinitely with a broken hand, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday.

“He’s going to need surgery, so it’s going to be some time,” Shanahan said of Armstead, the 49ers' first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

The 49ers will discuss placing Armstead of injured reserve, which would rule him out for at least eight weeks. The 49ers will also be without defensive end Aaron Lynch this week against the Dallas Cowboys. Lynch is week-to-week with a calf strain.

“The more guys you lose, the less you like that depth,” Shanahan said. “Losing Arik, which could be some time. We’ll have to discuss IR. We have to do that over the next couple of days. We know we’re going to have Lynch out, too, for at least a week or most likely more. That takes away two guys who were helping.”

The 49ers might make a roster move to add a defensive lineman to their 53-man roster. The 49ers also expect outside linebacker/defensive end Dekoda Watson to return to action this week after missing two weeks with a groin strain.