SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers' own mistakes might have played a bigger role in their 30-18 loss to the Indianapolis Colts than their opponents themselves.
San Francisco's secondary was responsible for 97 of the team’s 122 total penalty yards accrued throughout the game. If Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. did not catch a 57-yard pass from Carson Wentz in the first quarter, the total would have been even higher.
Josh Norman was called for defensive pass interference (DPI) on the play, but the penalty was declined as a result of the completion. After the game, Norman, in part, blamed the league for favoring receivers.
“Obviously, it’s an offensive league,” Norman said. “The moment you take your stinger away is the moment you become lax, and they got you. So for us, we just got to understand, we just got to be better in certain situations like that.
“At the same time you got to just stay with that stinger. It’s what got you here and we just got to continue to be better when the ball is in the air, knowing that when they throw it up, it’s not even 50-50 anymore.”
When Richard Sherman was a member of the 49ers, he expressed the same sentiment, acknowledging that the offense has the advantage on the field. Still, both veterans understand that they must play within the confines of the game to succeed.
Norman’s mistake didn’t show up on the stat sheet as penalty yards, but several of his fellow defensive backs contributed to the total. K’Waun Williams was called for DPI near the end of the first quarter, which cost the team 40 yards on third down and kept the Colts' drive alive.
A few plays later, Carson Wentz fumbled the ball on the 49ers' 4-yard line, and the 49ers narrowly escaped the penalty resulting in points. They weren’t so lucky with the next DPI call.
At the end of the second quarter, Emmanuel Moseley’s DPI in the endzone moved the Colts 19 yards forward to the 49ers' 1-yard line. Two plays later, Wentz ran the ball in for a touchdown.
Jaquiski Tartt’s DPI in the third quarter led to a Colts score as well. The Colts gained 38 yards on the penalty and advanced to the 49ers' 5-yard line. Two plays later, Jonathan Taylor ran the ball in for a score.
“It’s a passing league,” Norman added. “Everybody wants to see points. I think we are kind of at a disadvantage now from that. But at the same time, whether it goes away or not, we still got to execute. Those guys get paid just like we do. We still have to be in position to fight against the opposition.”
Letting emotions affect their play was also a factor in the secondary’s struggles. Norman explained that while everyone has the best intentions, it doesn’t always lead to the best result.
“You give up one play and you want to do something to fix that by making a big play,” Norman said. “Sometimes you get cross-wired with your teammate and what is asked of you so you have to be disciplined and understand that the next play you have to make sure that your execution is flawless and do the assignment that is asked and not try to run into.”