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Struggling San Francisco 49ers Drop Second Straight Game

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The San Francisco 49ers were the talk of the league and unbeaten just over two weeks ago after crushing the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

That game might as well have been played two years ago inside the Niners’ locker room following their dreadful 22-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. Three turnovers, a missed 40-yard field goal, and Minnesota’s 60-yard touchdown shortly before halftime on an extremely uncommon all-out blitz were among the 49ers’ errors on Monday.

After a commanding 5-0 start, the outcome was their second straight loss—something San Francisco hadn’t encountered since this day a year ago—and a pervasive feeling that everything had collapsed.

“The NFL will humble you every step of the way,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “And getting off to a 5-0 start you kind of get that confidence that we are who we need to be, but the NFL does that. Good players, good schemes and we’re going to face another good team this week, so we’ve got to be ready.”

To reverse the trend, the Niners need to figure out how to win games similar to the ones they lost to the Cleveland Browns on Monday and last week. Although the Niners did not play as well as they had in the first five weeks of the season, they still had chances to win in the last minutes of both games.

The Niners are disappointed that they failed both times because they appear to be alright when they have the upper hand early in the game (winning the first five games by an average of 19.8 points), but they falter when things get tight.

As NFL linebacker Fred Warner quickly noted, teams that make it far into the postseason are capable of winning any kind of game they play.

The Niners had numerous chances on Monday night to improve their position and secure their sixth victory. To begin with, they could have made things harder for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who scorched them for 378 yards and two touchdowns on just 25% of his 45 dropbacks and was not sacked.

After the game, kicker Jake Moody wished he could have had a second chance at the 40-yard field goal he missed, running back Christian McCaffrey bemoaned his first-quarter fumble deep in Minnesota territory, and quarterback Brock Purdy took the blame for a pair of late-game interceptions that cost San Francisco a chance to win.

However, the 49ers may have suffered the most from the strangest play of the evening. With 16 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the Vikings faced a third-and-6 at their 40 and seemed ready to take a ball underneath that could perhaps set up a field goal.

As an alternative, Niners defensive coordinator Steve Wilks deployed seven defenders in an all-out blitz against Cousins. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell claims that Cousins checked into a deep pass for rookie wideout Jordan Addison after sensing the pressure.

Niners cornerback Charvarius Ward stepped in front of the ball as it was flying toward Addison, appearing to intercept it for the second time that evening.

With no one to assist Ward, Addison managed to take the ball away from him and sprint into the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown, giving Minnesota a 16–7 lead.

Wilks made an odd call as well. It was the first 7-man pass rush in opposing territory in the last 30 seconds of the half since Week 11 of 2020, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. When asked if he was comfortable with the call following the game, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan replied that his staff would discuss it in the days ahead.

The challenge will only get harder from here for a Niners team that was a Super Bowl favorite going into the season and played like one for the first five weeks of the season. They took out from Minnesota late on Monday night in order to return home and get ready for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are coming off a bye and two straight victories.

The Niners will next play the Jacksonville Jaguars after having a bye. After that, they’ll play the Tampa Bay Bucs, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, and once more the Seahawks. It is the Niners’ most challenging stretch of the schedule—at least theoretically—and it will have a significant impact on how seriously they are regarded as contenders.

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