SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Few teams in the NFL invest as much in draft picks and money in the defensive line as the San Francisco 49ers.
So if a pass rush with players such as Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead and Co. can't do a better job of bringing down quarterbacks, it will be a big problem for the Niners.
That was evident Monday night when Kirk Cousins picked apart San Francisco's defense in impressive fashion, throwing for 378 yards and taking no sacks in Minnesota's 22-17 victory over the 49ers.
“I mean we have a lot of really good players on the D-line and, obviously, a lot invested in it,” Bosa said. “We have to make plays when they are there. We got lulled to sleep by some of the protections. When those opportunities come, you have to be ready for them.”
San Francisco had plenty of chances against Cousins with the Vikings passing the ball 45 times. But none of those plays ended in sacks and very few even in a throwaway or scramble under pressure. For the season, the Niners rank 27th in the NFL in sack rate.
This marked just the third time in coach Kyle Shanahan's seven seasons with the 49ers that the defense faced that many passes and failed to get a sack.
“We put out the running game,” Armstead said. “After the first half I feel like it just became the passing game; the screen game so that was positive, to try and make them one-dimensional but Kirk was definitely hot. He’s a phenomenal quarterback and that showed tonight. We weren’t good enough in the passing game, both up front rushing and on the back end.”
Christian McCaffrey scoring TDs. Despite being listed as questionable with an oblique injury, McCaffrey played every snap on offense for the 49ers. He had a TD run and a TD catch, extending his streak to 16 consecutive games in the regular season or playoffs with a touchdown. That's one shy of Lenny Moore's all-time record.
McCaffrey is tied for the NFL lead with 11 TDs this season — two more than any other 49ers player has ever had through seven games. He has scored 24 TDs in 21 games since joining San Francisco last year.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Protecting the ball. San Francisco had a season-high three turnovers with McCaffrey losing a fumble in the red zone on the opening drive and Brock Purdy throwing two interceptions late with San Francisco trying to drive for the go-ahead score. The Niners finished minus-2 in the turnover differential, ending a 16-game streak of not committing more turnovers than the opposition that was the fourth longest in the Super Bowl era.
Purdy became the first Niners QB to throw two fourth-quarter INTs when trailing by a score since Colin Kaepernick did it in the 2013 NFC title game against Seattle. Purdy's 16.7 passer rating this season when trailing in the fourth quarter is the worst in the NFL among players with at least 15 attempts.
LT Jaylon Moore. With Trent Williams out with a sprained ankle, Moore did an admirable job protecting Purdy's blindside. He allowed only one pressure all game, according to Pro Football Focus.
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. One of the key plays came late in the first half when Wilks called for a blitz with 16 seconds left and the Vikings facing a third down at their 40. Cousins got rid of the pass and Jordan Addison outmuscled Charvarius Ward for the ball and raced for a 60-yard score with no safety help to give Minnesota a 16-7 halftime lead.
According to NFL NextGen stats, it was the first time a team rushed seven players in last 30 seconds of a half in opposing territory since Week 11 of the 2020 season.
LB Fred Warner left briefly with a bruised thigh but returned to the game. ... Williams could return this week after sitting out with the injury against the Vikings. ... LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles left the game with an ankle injury and didn't return.
0-36. The 49ers remained winless in 36 games under Shanahan in the playoffs or regular season when trailing by at least eight points in the fourth quarter. No other team in the NFL has lost every game in that scenario since Shanahan took over in San Francisco in 2017.
San Francisco hosts Cincinnati on Sunday.
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