49ers fight emotions of another close loss, promising season gone bad

49ers fight emotions of another close loss, promising season gone bad

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- How many times can the 49ers be so close to a win that they can taste it?

They lost yet another game in the final minutes Sunday, dropping an 18-15 decision that gave the Cardinals their second win of the season. Both of those wins have come at San Francisco's expense.

This skid is similar to last season when the 49ers lost five games in a row by three points or less in Weeks 2 to 6. The main difference is that the expectations were much lower last season. The 49ers finished 2017 with a five-game winning streak and a franchise quarterback in the building. Predictions for 2018 had the playoffs as a real possibility.

[RELATED: 49ers' backup center plays regrettable role in loss]

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan stayed humble about the way his team finished 2017, but this still isn't the season he expected. Not at 1-7, with three more losses of three points or less.

“It’s tough,” Shanahan said. “Guys are really hurting in there, and they should be. If they weren’t, something's wrong with them. But it’s our job. It's what we do. It's our livelihood. We’re not happy at all with where this season has gone, and there's still a half a season to play.

“So, we need to step it up and do something about it. Season's not ending. We’re not going to sit here and run away. I want guys who are going to come out and fight, and I thought our guys did fight today. We just didn’t do it well enough.

"I’m going to continue coaching them, trying to get us better in every aspect. I know our guys are working to get better, but we weren’t good enough today. Thursday [against the Raiders] can’t come quick enough.”

Quarterback C.J. Beathard had a slow start to the day, but he managed to gain momentum in the third quarter. He finished the day completing 14 of his 28 passes for 190 yards, one touchdown and an 83.9 rating. He's no stranger to the close losses, having lived through them last season, too.

“Yeah, I mean, there’s so many of them that we feel like we could’ve or should’ve won,” Beathard said. “But it comes down to we didn’t, and we are where we are right now, and we’ve got eight games left. We’ve got to keep moving.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman hasn't been a part of a losing NFL franchise since his first season with the Seahawks in 2011. He still believes in the 49ers' mental resolve.

“We’re fighting,” Sherman said. “We’re fighting. Unfortunately, we’re not getting the results. These have been some of the toughest losses I’ve seen. We fought the whole game [Sunday], and they made plays the last four, five minutes, and we didn’t.

"Guys have learned how to fight. If nothing else, we’re going to know how to fight today, and guys are doing it. We’ve got to just find a way to make those plays.”

Kendrick Bourne stepped in for Pierre Garçon, who was held out of the game with a knee injury, was the 49ers' top wide receiver, catching seven of his 10 targets for 71 yards. He has no questions about the team losing focus after such emotional losses.

“No doubt at all,” Bourne said. “Nobody is flinching. That game, the same way it happened the last time we played them, it’s just frustrating. We were dominating them and just not finishing what we need to. We got to figure out how to fix that.”

[RELATED: 49ers have told Garcon about possible trade]

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk believes that while the losses has been frustrating, it's a learning opportunity for the younger 49ers.

“It’s pretty taxing emotionally, to be totally honest with you,” Juszczyk said, “but you got to look for some positives. I see young guys getting used to being in critical situations. Right now, we’re kind of learning what not to do. That’s one positive I can draw from it.

“This team is incredibly resilient. I feel like we stay very positive. So, yeah, I feel like we are staying in it.”

The 49ers have a short week, playing the Raiders on Thursday night. They will need to shake off this loss and start preparing, which might be the best thing for them.

How 49ers' D.J. Jones plans to add more consistency to his pass rush

How 49ers' D.J. Jones plans to add more consistency to his pass rush

The 49ers did not count on nose tackle D.J. Jones to provide much of a pass rush during his first three NFL seasons.

But with DeForest Buckner now with the Indianapolis Colts, the team will be looking for a combination of players to help compensate for the loss of the team’s top inside defensive force.

Jones believes he is capable of contributing much more in an expanded role from what he has been asked to do since entering the NFL as a run defender.

“I know I have it in me,” Jones said. “I just need the opportunity and I need to continue to work at my craft to get better.”

Jones was the starter on base downs last season before he sustained a high-ankle sprain in the 49ers’ Week 14 game at New Orleans. He was placed on injured reserve, ending his season before the start of the playoffs. Jones generally was taken off the field in passing situations.

Jones said his ankle is 100 percent healthy. He is running and cutting. He is training to play more snaps than ever before. And he has the voice of 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek ringing in his ears even from afar as the team goes through its virtual offseason program.

“If I don’t stop my feet, I feel like I can get to the quarterback,” Jones said. “The second my feet stop, I’m stuck in mud, and I’m not going to get to the passer. As long as I keep moving my feet, as my defensive line coach continues to tell me that’s what I’m working on, I can get to the quarterback.”

[RELATEDHow 49ers' Jones plans to raise game with ankle healthy]

Jones registered his first two NFL sacks last season while playing in 11 games. On each of his sacks, Jones showed he has the physical ability to get after the quarterback on a more regular basis.

He demonstrated his quickness at 305 pounds to track down Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen for a sack in Week 8. Then, he showed brute force in steamrolling Seattle center Joey Hunt en route to sacking Russell Wilson two weeks later.

Jones was on the field for 147 pass plays last season, according to Pro Football Focus, had had seven quarterback hurries, along with his two sacks.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' George Kittle named to Pro Football Focus' All-Clutch Team

49ers' George Kittle named to Pro Football Focus' All-Clutch Team

George Kittle is second to none when it comes to tight ends in the NFL. That includes in the biggest moments, too.

Kittle was the lone 49er named to Pro Football Focus' All-Clutch Team for the 2019 season. This team highlights who was the best at each position in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games (within eight points).

As the lights became brighter, Kittle upped his game. His 113 yards after the catch and 8.7 yards after the catch per reception in clutch moments were the best by a tight end in all of football.

To no surprise, Kittle was a monster in these moments. He had four forced missed tackles with the ball in his hands, and his run-blocking grade ranked second among tight ends.

Need some proof? Let's rewind to Week 14 when Kittle caught a pass on fourth-and-2, broke a few tackles and dragged safety Marcus Williams for a number of yards before being hauled down after a gain 39-yard gain to help set up the 49ers' last-second 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints.

[RELATED: Watch this incredible Kittle block during college at Iowa]

That play perfectly exemplifies the kind of player Kittle is and displays his clutch gene. 

This is just one reason why Kittle is in for a massive payday in the near future, and why the 49ers want to keep Kittle in the Bay Area for a very long time.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]