How long can San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) hang on with pressure to start back up Trey Lance whose waiting on the sidelines. The 49ers suffered their fourth straight loss Sun Oct 24, 2021 to the Indianapolis Colts at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara (AP News photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
SANTA CLARA, Calif—Mother nature was a force with its atmospheric river but in the end, the San Francisco 49ers shot themselves in the foot.
On a stormy night in Santa Clara, the Indianapolis Colts took advantage of the San Francisco’s miscues in a 30-18 victory on Sunday evening at Levi’s Stadium.
San Francisco have lost a season worst four games in a row after starting the season 2-0 and currently sit in the bottom of the NFC West. Indianapolis have won three out of its last four games after starting the season 0-3.
Everything looked to have gone San Francisco’s (2-4) way to start out the game. They opened the game with a good looking drive to draw first blood. Their eight play 78-yard drive was capped off with a 14-yard rushing touchdown by Elijah Mitchell. The rookie running back amassed 43 of the 78 yards on just four rushes. Kicker Joey Slye missed the extra point.
Indianapolis (3-4) gave the ball back to San Francisco on their first play of their opening drive. Safety Jimmy Ward popped the ball loose from Colts running back Johnathan Taylor and linebacker Fred Warner recovered for San Francisco at the Colts 28 yard line.
The 49ers were able to turn the Colts gift into three points as they went 12 yards on five plays and finished off with a 34 yard field goal by Slye.
The Colts responded on its second drive of the game. Colts quarterback Carson Wentz made a nice play-action fake to Taylor and found a wide open Mo Alie-Cox in the the flat as the Colts tight end danced into the endzone for a 11-yard touchdown reception to cut the deficit to two points.
San Francisco’s defense came up with a big turnover at their own four yard line with Indianapolis threatening to get into the endzone to start the second quarter. Nick Bosa pressured Wentz into a desperate shovel pass attempt that landed directly in the hands of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair for his first interception of the season.
The heavy rain started coming down halfway through the second quarter and had an impact on the game. Colts running back Nyheim Hines couldn’t corral a pass that hit him right in the hands while running wide open. The play which could have been a touchdown resulted in a punt for Indianapolis.
Deebo Samuel also dropped a pass that hit him in the numbers from 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garopplo.
“I think the weather played a little bit of a role,” said Garoppolo. “Started to pick up there a little bit. But we didn’t execute. I think too many mistakes stacked on top of each other. You can’t do the and win football games consistently.”
Samuel had the ball punched out of his hand after a reception by Darius Leonard and was recovered by Anthony Chesley at the 49ers 28-yard line.
The ensuing drive for Indianapolis had them gain its first lead of the game late in the game on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Wentz that had him sprint to the right side with a dive into the endzone with 1:00 left in the half. The goal line situation was set up by Emmanuel Mosley’s 19-yard passing interference penalty inside the endzone. The two point conversion attempt failed.
In the second half the Colts defense made it difficult for the 49ers to establish the run game that worked so well for them earlier in the game. Indy’s defense played with an eight man front for the majority of the game forcing San Francisco to beat them through the air.
More penalties and turnovers were the difference in the second half that allowed the Colts to expand their lead.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t mix words about his team’s performance in front of a national audience.
“We’re not doing good enough. It’s been a struggle all year. Today was the worst. We gave them too many explosive freebies, especially the two touchdown drives in the first half,” Shanahan said.
AL-Quadin Muhammad sacked Garoppolo and forced a fumble that Kwity Paye recovered with under five minutes left in the third quarter.
On the ensuring drive, 49ers safety Jaquiski Tart was flagged for a 38 yard passing interference call in the end zone on Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. It set up Taylor’s five yard rushing touchdown with 3:45 left in the third quarter to give the Colts an 20-12 lead.
Taylor rushed 18 times for an evening best 107 yards and a touchdown.
San Francisco cut the lead to a two-point deficit when Garoppolo led a three play 70-yard drive resulting in a Samuel 14 yard touchdown reception. The two point conversion attempt failed to even the score.
Samuel finished with seven catches for 100 yards and a touchdown as he was the only target Garoppolo was able to connect with during the game.
Up 23-18 with under three minutes left, Indianapolis iced the game when Wentz threw a deep ball down the right sideline that Pittman was able to jump up over cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and pull in the ball for a 28 yard touchdown to seal the deal for the Colts.
Xavier Rhoades intercepted Garoppolo with a minute left ending any chance of a comeback by San Francisco.
Garoppolo finished 16 for 27 for 181 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His counterpart Wentz went 17 for 26 with 150 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a sweet homecoming for Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was traded to the Colts during the offseason, as he had five solo tackles and was motivated to play well against his former team.
“I said, ‘I knew this was personal for you,” said Taylor who along with Buckner were the last players to leave the field after the game. “And I’m glad that we were able to pull it out even in these conditions.’ And he said, ‘Listen JT, as long as we got the win.’ As long as we got the win.”
Buckner said he tried to keep an even keel when preparing for the game during the week but it was difficult knowing it was his first game against his old team in his old stadium.
“This win meant a lot. It was definitely personal for me, you know? I wasn’t trying to get too high or too low throughout the week, but it meant a lot.”
GAME NOTES: The 49ers were without backup quarterback Trey Lance who was dealing with a sprained knee. There were also without starting left tackle Trent Williams who was dealing with both ankle and elbow injuries.
The last time the 49ers let an opposing running back rush for over 100 yards was back in October of 2019.
UP NEXT: The 49ers next two games they head to Chicago to face the Bears at Soldier Field this Sun Oct 31st a 10:00 AM PDT kick off and on Sunday 11/7 as they host the Arizona Cardinals at 1:25pm at Levi’s Stadium.