What we learned as 49ers lose fourth straight in ugly game originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SANTA CLARA -- A so-called atmospheric river hit Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night.
And in a related development, the 49ers now find themselves up a creek without a paddle.
On a rainy and windy night, the 49ers might have seen their season wash down the gutter with a 30-18 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The loss was the 49ers’ fourth in a row, and this one -- like all the others — was marked by missed opportunities and sloppy play.
The 49ers (2-4) fall hopelessly behind the top of the NFC West. They have a lot of work ahead of them to make a serious bid for one of the three wild-card spots with 11 games remaining in the season.
Elsewhere in the NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals remained as the league’s only unbeaten team with their seventh consecutive victory — a 31-5 victory over the Houston Texans.
The second-place Los Angeles Rams (6-1) kept pace with a 28-19 victory over the winless Detroit Lions.
Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 7 game against the Colts:
Penalties in coverage prove costly
In what has become a theme for the 49ers this season, their pass coverage was in a constant state of recovery and panic deep down the field.
The 49ers were flagged three times for pass-interference penalties in the first half, and the result of those plays placed the Colts in position for their touchdowns.
In the second half, another PI penalty resulted in another Colts touchdown.
In six games, the 49ers have been called for 14 pass interference penalties (three were declined or offsetting). Those penalties have accounted for 242 yards.
Cornerback Josh Norman was called for pass interference in the first quarter, but it made little difference as Indianapolis wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. still caught a 57-yard pass.
The play led to the Colts’ first touchdown of the game.
Later in the first half, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley was flagged for pass interference against Pittman in the end zone. That penalty gave Indianapolis a first-and-goal situation at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Carson Wentz ended up running it in for a touchdown, which gave the Colts a 13-12 lead at halftime.
Nickel back K’Waun Williams was also called for a 40-yard penalty for pass interference. That play did not directly lead to any points for Indianapolis.
In the third quarter, strong safety Jaquiski Tartt was flagged for a 38-yard penalty that set up Jonathan Taylor’s 5-yard touchdown run, which gave the Colts a 20-12 lead.
The Colts put the game away late in the fourth quarter when cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who entered in place of injured Moseley, surrendered a 28-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Pittman.
No backup plan for Garoppolo
If Trey Lance were healthy, he might have had a big part of the game plan due to his running ability.
But this game belonged to Jimmy Garoppolo, who returned to action after sitting out the 49ers’ Week 5 game with a calf injury.
Garoppolo struggled for most of the night. But he brought some life to the offense early in the fourth quarter with a hot stretch that pulled the 49ers to within two points.
The 49ers’ offense did not show much of anything, but that all changed during a three-play span.
Garoppolo found Deebo Samuel for a 29-yard gain. Then, tight end Charlie Woerner had a 29-yard reception from Garoppolo.
The 49ers scored when Garoppolo found Samuel for a 14-yard touchdown.
The 49ers’ bid to tie the score fell short when Garoppolo’s pass for Brandon Aiyuk landed incomplete for the two-point conversion.
But that momentum was short-lived, as Garoppolo was intercepted on the next possession when Xavier Rhodes made a play in coverage against Samuel.
Garoppolo finished the game with 16 completions on 27 attempts for 181 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble.
Again, the 49ers were miserable on third downs. They converted just one of their 11 third-down opportunities.
Still searching for that identity
The 49ers rediscovered who they are on Sunday night in the first 4 minutes, 48 seconds of the game.
But that clarity did not sustain the 49ers for too long.
The 49ers’ offense looked dominant on the opening drive of the game.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell carried the ball five times on the 49ers’ game-opening eight-play drive. He gained 57 yards, including back-to-back-back rushes of 20, 14 and 14 yards.
His last carry during the sequence resulted in a touchdown on which he eluded the tackle attempt of Colts safety Andrew Sendejo at the 6-yard line.
In the first half, the 49ers attempted 18 running plays while Garoppolo went five of 12 for 56 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Mitchell rushed for 107 yards on 18 carries in the game.