The San Francisco 49ers’ stay at their temporary home in Arizona started with a dud.
After a mostly seamless transition to the new location, the Niners put together what they felt was a productive week of practice only to have it end with a 34-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Instead of flying back to the Bay Area like they normally do after they play away from home, the 49ers (5-7) spent the off day in Arizona before resuming practice Wednesday with hopes of salvaging their season, beginning with Sunday’s game against Washington.
“I think that’s the challenge. Monday night was a letdown. We did feel that way,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “There wasn’t much in our minds that pictured us losing that game, just the way we felt, the week we had. We did go into that very confidently and so we were pretty disappointed after the game. That carries into yesterday and you’ve just got to get through it and look at stuff.”
Shanahan held a longer than usual team meeting Wednesday to go over the film from the Bills game to show how a few mistakes on offense and defense led to the disappointing result.
The Niners struggled to slow down Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense, allowing him to complete 32 of 40 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Two of the TDs came to wide-open receivers who exploited blown coverages for easy scores.
San Francisco’s offense also had its issues and was unable to keep up with the Bills. Nick Mullens had one pass go off Brandon Aiyuk’s hands for an interception and threw another near the goal line.
The Niners couldn’t covert on a fourth down from the 1 on their opening drive and then missed on a couple of manageable third downs later in the first half to create a 10-point halftime deficit they couldn’t overcome.
“I think we felt like we could have done some big things,” Mullens said. “I think the challenge was Buffalo did keep the ball for a while. They did a very good job of controlling the football. We just needed to find a way to stay out there. There were a couple mistakes that held us back on certain drives. But we felt like opportunities were coming and so we were just rallying together and staying solid through the process.”
Neither Shanahan nor his players believe that being forced to relocate from the Bay Area to Arizona after Santa Clara County imposed new COVID-19 rules that banned contact sports for at least three weeks played a role in the loss.
They praised the setup they have at a hotel near the Arizona Cardinals stadium where the 49ers are playing their home games. The team has set up weight and training rooms at the hotel and practices close by on fields the Cardinals use during training camp.
“I try not to dwell on the circumstance, because at the end of the day, there is an end point to all this,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “It’s not like we’re stuck in this situation. It’s something they have to put up with for a few weeks. The quicker that you’re able to adapt and accept is the quicker that you’ll be able to improve as a player. Because at the end of the day, we’re playing football and you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. If you allow the circumstance to dictate your performance, then you’re in a lot of trouble.”
NOTES: WR Deebo Samuel missed practice with a bruised foot but should be back at practice Thursday. … DL D.J. Jones missed practice with an ankle injury but Shanahan said it wasn’t a high ankle sprain and Jones should be able to return this season. … CB K’Waun Williams (ankle) was limited in practice. … OL Tom Compton (concussion), CB Emmanuel Moseley (hamstring) and DL Kevin Givens (personal reasons) also didn’t practice. … The 49ers game at Dallas on Dec. 20 was moved from prime time to early afternoon. “I was pretty disappointed,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “I love playing those type of games where the whole league is watching, but it is what it is.”
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