PHILADELPHIA — The San Francisco 49ers‘ defensive game plan Sunday in Philadelphia was clear from the start. Blitz Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, blitz him again and after that, blitz him some more.
For a large chunk of the Niners’ 33-10 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, that aggressive defense kept them in a slugfest against the NFL’s only one-loss team.
Alas, the Niners again came up empty in their search for their first win of the season. The biggest reason for that was an offense that yet again failed to deliver for a defense that kept San Francisco close.
With a patchwork offensive line missing starting right tackle Trent Brown (concussion) and left tackle Joe Staley (cut under eye) and rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard making his first road start, the Niners had one of their most anemic offensive showings of the season. They posted just 238 total yards, averaged 3.7 yards per play, Beathard threw two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and despite having favorable field position multiple times, they were unable to break through for a score until there were less than five minutes left in the third quarter.
It was the fourth time this season the Niners finished with fewer than 300 yards of offense. The defense, meanwhile, held the Eagles to 229 yards through three quarters.
And for the eighth time in as many tries, the 49ers failed to put together the complete performance needed to get a victory.
What it means: In the grand scheme of things, another loss for the 49ers doesn’t mean much for this year. This is and has been another lost season for a number of weeks now. The implications for the long term have only to do with the 2018 NFL draft, and in that sense, the 49ers’ latest defeat keeps them neck-and-neck with the Cleveland Browns for the No. 1 pick.
What the 49ers did well: The defense earned at least a tip of the cap for the job it did against the Eagles’ high-powered offense. Aided by wet conditions and a Philadelphia offensive line missing left tackle Jason Peters, Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh came up with an effective game plan in which he turned up the heat on Wentz. Saleh called for blitz after blitz, and when the Niners weren’t getting home for one of their three sacks, they were forcing Wentz to throw it earlier than he’d like. Wentz was hit seven times in the process of letting it go. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon even made his first career interception to set up the Niners’ first touchdown.
All of that with a defense missing linebacker Reuben Foster, nickel corner K’Waun Williams, ends Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch and dealing with the in-game injury to free safety Jimmie Ward. The Niners defense has struggled in recent weeks, but this was a positive step for Saleh’s group against a good offense, even if the final score didn’t show it.
What the 49ers didn’t do well: Name something that has to do with being effective offensively and the Niners probably didn’t do it well. Beathard was inaccurate on a number of throws, finishing with a 46.9 passer rating. The run game flashed but was inconsistent, and the offensive line didn’t offer much protection, allowing four sacks and 12 quarterback hits. The Niners’ third-down woes also continued as they converted just 3 of 15 tries.
Fantasy fallout: Chances are, you probably didn’t start many 49ers in this one but if you did, it wasn’t pretty. Receiver Pierre Garcon was targeted four times and finished with two catches for 17 yards. Running back Carlos Hyde didn’t fare much better, finishing with 12 carries for 25 yards.
Injuries pile up: The injury bug bit the Niners hard on Sunday as a whopping six players suffered from various ailments. Staley (eye), Garcon (neck), Ward (forearm), right tackle Garry Gilliam (knee) and defensive tackle D.J. Jones (knee) departed the game and did not return.
News on the Douz: Defensive lineman Leger Douzable is far from a household name, having just signed with the 49ers on Oct. 17 after having a cup of coffee with the team in training camp. But Douzable has proved usable in his short stint with the team, posting five tackles, two quarterback hits and a career-high two sacks on Sunday.
What’s next: The 49ers’ nightmare October of traveling and losing is finally over and they will get to go home for the entire month of November. It starts next week when they host the Arizona Cardinals, though the Niners are still two weeks away from a much-needed bye.