49ers takeaways: What we learned from season-ending 48-32 loss to Rams

49ers takeaways: What we learned from season-ending 48-32 loss to Rams

LOS ANGELES -- The 49ers have a lot of ground to gain if they hope to give any kind of challenge to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West next season.

The Rams on Sunday completed their domination of the 49ers this season with a 48-32 victory to wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

The 49ers lost to the Rams 39-10 on Oct. 21 at Levi’s Stadium. Los Angeles forced four turnovers in that game.

The Rams (13-3) got off to a big lead Sunday, as the 49ers (4-12) committed turnovers on four of their first five possessions.

However, the 49ers did salvage something from their season finale. Second-year tight end George Kittle put an exclamation point on his breakout season with nine catches for 149 yards to set the NFL's single-season record for a tight end with 1,377 yards. Kansas City's Travis Kelce held the mark for less than an hour. He eclisped Rob Gronkowski's 2011 total earlier in the afternoon. Kittle achieved the record on a 43-yard touchdown catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter.

Here are three other takeaways from the season-ending game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum:

Setting records for futility

The biggest takeaway from the 49ers’ season was, well, their lack of takeaways.

In fact, their futility in that area was historic.

The 49ers set the NFL record for fewest takeaways in a season with just seven forced turnovers. The record prior to this season was 11, shared by the Baltimore Colts (1982), Houston Texans (2013), Dallas Cowboys (2015) and Chicago Bears (2016).

The 49ers also set the record for fewest interceptions in a season with two. The previous record low was three, set by the Houston Oilers during the nine-game strike-shortened season of 1982.

Antone Exum and Jaquiski Tartt had the 49ers' only interceptions. It was the first time in Richard Sherman’s eight-year NFL career that he did not have one.

No team in the NFL was more generous than the 49ers this season. They entered the season finale with a minus-21 turnover margin. And they added impressively to their league-worst total in the opening minutes of Sunday’s game.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk made the poor decision to reach the ball out on a third-and-1 play on the 49ers’ first series of the game. Mark Barron stripped the ball, and Aqib Talib scooped it up and returned it 47 yards for the Rams.

Quarterback Nick Mullens threw three first-half interceptions, including a pick-six to Rams linebacker Cory Littleton.

Mullens’ first interception came when he was hit as he was throwing. The other came when John Johnson deflected a pass that was intended for George Kittle in the end zone, and fellow Rams safety Blake Countess made the interception.

Solidifying draft position

The 49ers enter the offseason with their biggest needs being two edge rushers to get after the quarterback on nickel situations. They're well-positioned to add some upgrades, beginning in free agency in March and, then, during the draft in April.

The organization is expected to have in the neighborhood of $70 million in salary cap space. They also wrapped up the No. 2 overall draft pick with this loss to the Rams.

Former Ohio State star Nick Bosa and Kentucky's Josh Allen could be among the options at No. 2. The Cardinals own the top overall selection.

The 49ers will pick ahead of the New York Jets in the first round because of the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker. San Francisco played a weaker schedule to gain the tiebreaker edge over New York.

Building depth at running back

The 49ers had to use every bit of their running back depth, and they appear to be in good position for next season -- if they remain healthier than they did this season.

Their leading rusher Sunday was veteran Alfred Morris, who isn't likely to return next season. He carried 16 times for 111 yards.

Morris signed with the 49ers after the team experienced a rash of injuries during training camp. But he ended up being No. 5 in the pecking order after starting the first game of the season.

Morris was back in the lead-back role in the season finale. Matt Breida went on injured reserve Saturday with an ankle injury, and rookie Jeff Wilson Jr. made his second start of the season Sunday, but he lasted three carries before exiting with a shoulder injury.

Jerick McKinnon, Breida, Wilson and Raheem Mostert ended the season injured, but each is expected back next season. Mostert was the team’s best special-teams player before getting his opportunity on offense and proving himself. Mostert’s season ended in Week 9 with a fractured forearm.

How Emmanuel Sanders trade helps 49ers' badly battered receiving corps


How Emmanuel Sanders trade helps 49ers' badly battered receiving corps

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch long have maintained their belief in the 49ers' wide receivers, but that group's lack of production might have forced their hand.

Two days after 49ers receivers had four total catches during a 9-0 win at Washington and one day after Shanahan said "I do think the answers are here," the team went outside to acquire two-time Pro Bowl wideout Emmanuel Sanders in a trade with the Broncos.

Tight end George Kittle leads the 49ers in receptions (34) and receiving yards (376) through six games this season, and no other player has reached 200 receiving yards. Marquise Goodwin is the closest at 181, but now the 49ers will have Sanders, who has caught 30 of his 44 targets for 367 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Sanders had been vocal about that relative lack of production in Denver, as he has broken the 1,000-yard mark three times as a Bronco. The 49ers, meanwhile, would love to have that production.

Kittle likely will be the immediate beneficiary of Sanders' arrival, as opposing defenses will have to focus on another explosive target and might lighten pressure on the tight end. Sanders also should be an immediate weapon for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, having worked in Rich Scangarello's Broncos offense, which is very similar conceptually to Shanahan's 49ers scheme. Scangarello previously was the 49ers' quarterbacks coach.

The 49ers had hoped for more production from second-year pro Dante Pettis, who has struggled with a pectoral muscle injury since training camp and caught just nine of his 17 targets for 83 yards and one TD. The injury bug has further thinned the 49ers' receiving ranks, as Trent Taylor, who stood out in training camp, was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 20 after a setback with his foot, and third-round draft pick Jalen Hurd landed on the list on Oct. 3 with a back injury. Second-round pick Deebo Samuel missed Sunday's win with a groin injury.

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Shanahan has stayed consistent with his praise of the receivers, but he also has said the team would watch for potential help. The trade for Sanders appears to be an attempt to do just that.

"We're always looking to improve, but I do like the guys we have here," the coach said Monday.

One day later, Lynch and the 49ers' braintrust made their move.

How time as father inspired 49ers' Tevin Coleman to help other parents


How time as father inspired 49ers' Tevin Coleman to help other parents

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tevin Coleman has his hands full.

When he's not toting the rock for the NFC's leading-rushing team, the 49ers running back usually has a firm grip on one or both of his two-year-old twins, Nazaneen and Nezerah.

One infant can be a tall enough task for even the most experienced of parents. Two simultaneously for a first-timer, and they can use all the help they can get.

That's why Coleman is installing changing tables in San Francisco as part of Pampers' commitment to install 5,000 of them across North America by 2021. It's a cause Coleman was motivated to get involved in through his own experience as a father.

"I see so many dads struggle having somewhere to change their kids," Coleman said after installing a changing table at the San Francisco Zoo on Tuesday. "I had a couple times where I had to change my kids in my trunk. It's real hard to do those things."

As you can imagine, Coleman's life has changed considerably since the arrival of his son and daughter.

"They're my kids," Coleman explained. "You look at the world differently. You look at everything differently when you have kids. It's just a joy coming home from work, and seeing them with their smiles on their faces is just an amazing feeling."

NFL players don't exactly have a ton of downtime. For every game played on Sunday, there's a week of practices, meetings, film study, treatment, lifting, etc. Add on 2-year-old twins to that load, and it would be understandable if it became overwhelming. Coleman insists that, yes, it's a demanding duality, but one he believes actually helps him on the field.

"It's definitely challenging," Coleman confirmed. "The things you have to do to be prepared for a game, the things you have to do at home to make sure that your kids are right and make sure your home is right ... it's definitely a challenge. But it keeps me on my toes. It keeps me focused and it definitely keeps me on the right track."

From the moment they were born, Coleman has set out to make his children proud. It didn't take him very long to do so, as he scored two touchdowns within their first 48 hours on the planet. It's a memory Coleman holds quite dearly.

"I feel amazing," Coleman said looking back on that performance. "I feel proud that I did an accomplishment for them. I had them Saturday and I had to play the next day. It was real tough, but it was a battle I had to do, and I came up with the win and two touchdowns for them, so it was amazing."

Safe to say, that was one happy weekend in the Coleman household. Both Nazaneen and Nezerah have an official piece of memorabilia to commemorate it, as dad brought home the balls from each scoring play.

Coleman played for the Atlanta Falcons at the time. Now, he's in the first year of a two-year contract signed with the 49ers in the offseason. The one main element of consistency? The presence of Kyle Shanahan.

Shanahan was Coleman's offensive coordinator for two seasons in Atlanta. Now with San Francisco, he's his head coach. The promotion hasn't changed Shanahan one bit, according to Coleman.

"He's definitely not different," he said of Shanahan. "He's the same guy. He's the same cool guy that I always knew in Atlanta, he's just in a different position. It's just great to have him back."

Since joining the 49ers, Coleman has appreciated what he views as San Francisco placing an organizational priority on maintaining an active role in family life. That directive comes straight from Shanahan.

"That's what Kyle Shanahan is about -- family," Coleman said. "He brings the guys so close together -- and their families -- it's really important to him. It is family.

"Coming from Atlanta to San Francisco, it's far. Without my family being here, it would be kind of hard for me to have success."

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Success. Coleman and the 49ers have experienced a lot of it so far, winning their first six games of the 2019 season. He was injured in the first game, but Coleman has returned for the last three and been San Francisco's leading rusher in each of the last two victories. The 49ers appear destined to end their postseason drought, but Coleman knows the job isn't even close to done yet.

"It's definitely hard to be 6-0, and it definitely takes hard work," Coleman said. "Kyle, he's just bringing the guys together and doing an amazing job as a coach and having the guys play for each other. I'm really looking forward to [the playoff push].

"Everybody is happy, everybody is doing great. But we still have to work. We still have to continue to fight and push to continue this streak."

Coleman has yet to fumble so far this season. Pretty impressive, considering how full his hands are.