Penalties are a Warning Flag for 49ers

Loss to Seahawks exposed some problems, including Niners' penchant for penalties; in two games, 49ers have been flagged 23 times

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Although Aldon Smith made some big plays Sunday, including this sack of Russell Wilson, he also committed a costly unnecessary-roughness penalty. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

    A lot went wrong in the 49ers’ loss to Seattle Sunday night.

    The offensive line couldn’t open up holes for Frank Gore, wide receiver Anquan Boldin couldn’t get open, the defense couldn’t stop Marshawn Lynch and the Niners’ lost starting nose tackle Ian Williams for the rest of the season with a fractured ankle.

    Also, the 49ers were penalized 12 times for 121 yards, some of which were very costly, including a 40-yard pass-interference call on Nnamdi Asomugha, an unnecessary roughness call on Aldon Smith and an unsportsmanlike conduct flag on Vance McDonald.

    The 121 penalty yards in a game were the most against the 49ers since Jim Harbaugh became head coach.

    Said Harbaugh of all the flags: “We definitely made things harder on ourselves, yes.”

    And, the one-game flagfest wasn’t an isolated incident. In the season-opening victory over the Packers, San Francisco was penalized 11 times for 85 yards.

    After two games, the 49ers are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for most penalties in the NFL at 23 and rank second in penalty yardage (206).

    Though the 49ers have had great success since Harbaugh became head coach for the 2011 season, reaching the NFC Championship Game in Season 1 and the Super Bowl in Season 2, the Niners actually have been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. In 2012, they ranked No. 7 with 109 penalties (6.8 per game); in 2011 they were sixth with 113 (7.1 per game).

    So far this season, the 49ers have been called for six false starts. They already have three penalties for unnecessary roughness.

    Some of the team’s veteran leaders are saying the players need to be held accountable.

    “Some can be prevented and we need to take ownership of them,” linebacker Patrick Willis told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group.

    Added tight end Vernon Davis: “We’re better than that. It was just a game where we just acted instead of thinking.”

    In reviewing Sunday night’s 29-3 loss to the Seahawks, Bill Williamson of ESPN.com cited a number of factors for the defeat, but noted penalties were crucial. In a game that was so tight for so long – the Seahawks broke it open with 17 fourth-quarter points – the number of San Francisco penalties hurt.

    “In two games, the 49ers have 23 penalties,” wrote Williamson. “That’s ridiculous. Good teams cannot kill themselves with silly penalties. It’s up to coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff to fix this issue sooner rather than later.”

    At 1-1, the 49ers will get a chance to address that problem – and the other lingering issues from the Week 2 defeat – this Sunday at Candlestick Park against the Indianapolis Colts.