SANTA CLARA -- George Kittle isn't bashful about his metaphors, especially as the San Francisco 49ers spin with greater speed toward the center of the black hole that is the 2018 football season.
I mean, when it’s time to talk plumbing, it’s time to talk plumbing, so when the tight end was asked how his quarterback, C.J. Beathard, would deal with another four-turnover game in a 39-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Kittle minced nothing.
“He’s good at flushing the game,” Kittle said as he surveyed a listless game in which his performance was among the most obviously energetic. “That’s what he’s gonna do. That’s what we’re all gonna do.”
He even offered an update later in his postgame flog-a-thon.
“I’ve already flushed it,” he said. “I’m ready for next week.”
Well, OK then. Do what you want with that, but Kittle can verify, and has, that the pipes at the old yard play up to the very highest NFL standard. The rest of it was pretty sub-meh.
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That’s how it figured to go, to be fair. The Rams are one of the league’s few elite teams, and the 49ers are their funhouse-mirror opposites. Los Angeles had struggled to win its last two games of this three-game roadie and, if you believe in the law of big numbers, were due for a serious administration of justice.
Which is what they did, largely to Beathard’s consternation. They forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes to lead to 24 points, blocked a punt for a safety, sacked Beathard seven times, held the 49ers offense to 58 plays and 229 yards, and other than Kittle were unbothered by whatever San Francisco tried to hurl back in response.
It was the opposite of “football happens,” the default position when a game makes no sense. This game made perfect sense -- better team comprehensively hammers worse team.
Ahh, but Kittle’s report that what you just saw already has been dealt with in the most lavatorial sense surely must give you hope, especially when you consider the 49ers' next three games are against teams with equally septic concerns -- the Cardinals, Raiders and New York Giants.
The 49ers now have lost 16 games in the Kyle Shanahan regime, and for the most part, those games have been relatively competitive; Sunday’s was the second-worst defeat he and they have endured in the past two seasons (they lost at home to the Cowboys last year, 40-10), and one of the rare times they were dominated statistically across the board.
They looked every inch the 1-6 team they are, which is why Kittle was so eager to make this a game to send to the sea.
Indeed, Shanahan looked tired and at a loss to explain such a tiresome defeat. You can tell that’s the case when he says the coaches are partially to blame for the turnover problem when, at last check, no coach has ever fumbled and few throw passes that are intercepted. It’s a default position so that the coach doesn’t look like he’s assigning blame without carrying his share, even if he doesn’t have a share to carry.
[RELATED: Takeaways from 49ers loss]
On the other hand, Shanahan also is reaching rope’s end with that blame deflector.
“If it was just one thing, you could say one thing. If it was just one guy, you’d say one guy,” the coach said, after describing the problem as “inexcusable” and an “impossible” impediment to winning. “But it’s an accumulation of things . . . We talk about the ball and work on going after the ball as much as you possibly can. You don’t stop. You don’t ignore it. You keep preaching those same things. You keep drilling those same thing, and you expect to get better the more you work at it. If it doesn’t, you’ve got to find people who do take care of it.”
But draining aside, there is a potential rainbow emerging from this particular corner of the waste treatment plant. There are still, as we’ve said, the Cardinals (1-6), the Raiders (1-5) and the Giants (1-5) -- three straight high-draft-pick games in succession to determine just how well the plumbing is expected to perform. At some point, after all, there has to be a flush of success for someone to enjoy as opposed to another successful flush, and if you had to make an objective choice, the 49ers are best positioned to accomplish that.
Until then, though, the 49ers must keep the pipes clear, the limescale down, the air freshener replenished, and the paper receptacle filled and operable. Kittle has told us the standard this team upholds each week, and it probably will be awhile before they get to spend more time enjoying the other parts of the house.