DETROIT – It should come as no surprise that 49ers coach Jim Tomsula lost track of how many times his defensive players jumped offside on Sunday.
"What did we have, six?” Tomsula asked after the 49ers’ 32-17 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
No, actually, the number reached seven, as the 49ers were penalized a total of 11 times for 65 yards. Seven of the penalties were due to neutral zone infractions or offsides.
“I mean, there’s no excuse for that. None. OK?” Tomsula said. “We just got to go back and look at that. I can’t for the life of me give you any excuse for that. It’s inexcusable.”
Some 49ers defensive players complained that Lions center Travis Swanson was twisting the ball before he snapped it to quarterback Matthew Stafford. And Stafford took advantage of the 49ers’ jumpiness with a hard count and changing his cadence.
“He was doing a good job of mixing up cadence and he got us a few times,” 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman said of Stafford.
When asked if Swanson was moving the football, Bowman said, “Yeah, they were doing a little bit of moving. The referee (Bill Vinovich) said he’d look at it. And we left it at that.”
Said Tomsula, “You have to watch the ball. And I know the ball was moving around. I’m not going to get into all of that. You can’t have that.”
Bowman said he kept reminding his players to watch the ball. But, still, the 49ers feel victim to the recurring penalties.
Arik Armstead, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Aaron Lynch were each penalized on the Lions’ final drive of the first half to set up Matt Prater’s 38-yard field goal on the final play of the half to give the Lions a 20-17 lead.
The 49ers’ other neutral-zone penalties were called on Ahmad Brooks, Gerald Hodges, Jimmie Ward, and Eli Harold.
The 49ers became the first team with six offside/neutral zone penalties in the first half since the Houston Oilers in 1993, according to the Associated Press. The 49ers had just seven of those penalties in the entire 2014 season.
"I believe I said, ‘Watch the ball' about 50, 60 times today," Bowman said. "And after we jumped off about five. That’s pretty much all you can do is just keep reminding the guys to watch the ball. They’re trying to make a play. I understand that. But we have to be discipline.”
The Lions picked up three first downs via penalties, including Harold’s infraction in the third quarter on a third-and-2 play.
“It makes it very difficult, especially on a third down when we have a chance to get off the field,” Bowman said. “It comes down to discipline and focusing on your assignment.”
“Penalties, whether they’re on offense, defense or special teams, penalties within the spectrum of that game, they were tough,” 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “But it’s not one person, it’s not anyone’s fault, we’ve just got to do better as a unit, as a team, to not take those and put ourselves in tough positions.”