SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo was back on the practice field for the San Francisco 49ers a few days after getting pulled at halftime because of a bum ankle and bad performance.
If the defending NFC champions want to get back on track after losses at home the past two weeks they will need more than just better play from their quarterback.
The offensive line must start pulling its weight.
While the Niners (2-3) have been decimated early this season by injuries to stars like Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman and Garoppolo, the offensive line has been mostly intact with the five projected starters from the preseason playing nearly every snap the past four weeks.
But a handful of blown blocks and missed assignments have helped doom the offense in losses to Philadelphia and Miami. Those issues better get fixed fast with the Los Angeles Rams coming to town Sunday with their league-leading 20 sacks, including 7 1/2 from Aaron Donald.
“I think we just have to be better,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey said Wednesday. “We have to communicate the things that we’re seeing. We’ve gotten some wild looks, some things that were new to us because of the things that they haven’t shown and packages that we haven’t had yet. We just have to go back to our concepts, go back to our base communication rules and get on people. That’s all it comes down to. We got to clean it up. We’ve had some tough looks, some tough situations to be in. But we’ve got to protect better.”
The Niners have allowed five sacks in each of the past two games, the first time they’ve done that in six years. There’s been plenty of blame to go around with McGlinchey, left tackle Trent Williams and guards Laken Tomlinson and Daniel Brunskill all taking turns at missing assignments that led to negative plays.
That unit was supposed to be a strength of the team this season because of its stability, with the only major change being seven-time All-Pro Williams replacing Joe Staley at left tackle.
But the group has not rounded into form yet.
“I think our guys have been challenged by some guys and been in some challenging situations and we’ve missed some opportunities, which puts kind of the spotlight on them,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But I know they can do better and I know we can do a lot better around them to take some of the pressure and attention off them that they’re obviously getting right now.”
The poor protection was a factor in Garoppolo’s poor performance last week against Miami. He returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained ankle and struggled from the start.
He went 7 for 17 for 77 yards, two interceptions and three sacks before getting pulled at halftime. While his ankle appeared to impact his performance, the line didn’t make his job any easier.
Shanahan said he thinks leaving the game Sunday before he took too many hits should help Garoppolo this week as the injury didn’t get any worse.
But it still is a factor even if Garoppolo might have to play through it.
“It makes it hard for you to play at your best by no means,” Shanahan said. “But does that mean that you can’t play? Lots of guys go out there and they have things that prohibit them from being their best. If you can play, you still have to go out there and perform. I’ll be the judge of that watching him throughout the week. If he has a good week of practice and looks like he gives us the best chance to win, then I won’t hesitate. And if it looks like it hurts in the game and it’s prohibiting him, then we’ll do what we did again.”
NOTES: LB Kwon Alexander (sprained ankle) and CB Dontae Johnson (groin) missed practice. … CB Emmanuel Moseley was back on a limited basis after missing two games with a concussion. … DT D.J. Jones was a full participant after leaving Sunday’s game with an eye injury.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.