How 49ers are try­ing to im­prove turnover is­sues

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Chris Bi­der­man

SANTA CLARA — There’s no cleans­ing serum that will cure the San Fran­cisco 49ers’ turnover is­sues.

Quar­ter­back C.J. Beathard must im­prove the minu­tiae of his game, he said, to keep San Fran­cisco’s of­fense from mak­ing the back-break­ing mis­takes that led to the em­bar­rass­ing loss to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals last week.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s just lit­tle stuff. It’s a game of inches,” Beathard said Wed­nes­day.

The sec­ond-year sig­nal caller was re­spon­si­ble for four of his team’s five turnovers against pre­vi­ously win­less Ari­zona, cost­ing the 49ers dearly in their third-straight de­feat. Beathard threw two in­ter­cep­tions and lost two fum-

bles in the pocket, in­clud­ing one that was re­turned for a touch­down in the fourth quar­ter.

The first fum­ble came when star pass rusher Chan­dler Jones beat Joe Sta­ley off the edge and knocked the ball from Beathard’s hands early in the third quar­ter. “(If) I step up in the pocket two inches more, the ball doesn’t get taken out of my hand,” he said.

Beathard doesn’t de­serve all the blame for his first-half in­ter­cep­tion. His pass down the mid­dle to Pierre Garçon was dropped and bat­ted in the air be­fore get­ting snagged by safety Tre Bos­ton. Beathard’s late pick to Bene’ Ben­wikere came on a des­per­ate fourth-and-19 heave af­ter the game had been de­cided.

“It’s noth­ing that can’t be fixed,” said Beathard.

Tak­ing care of the ball will be a pri­or­ity head­ing into Mon­day night’s game against the Green Bay Pack­ers, who have ar­guably the league’s best quar­ter­back in Aaron Rodgers. The for­mer league MVP would love to get ex­tra chances against San Fran­cisco’s 29th-ranked scor­ing de­fense.

The 49ers have the NFL’s worst turnover dif­fer­en­tial (mi­nus-8) and are tied for the league’s worst record (1-4). Beathard will make his eighth ca­reer start and has 10 in­ter­cep­tions to eight touch­down passes.

“We’ve got to pro­tect the ball bet­ter,” coach Kyle Shana­han said.

But it’s not just up to Beathard. Shana­han noted that while his quar­ter­back needs to be more aware of his sur­round­ings when drop­ping back to pass, his re­ceivers need to get open quicker, the pro­tec­tion from the of­fen­sive needs to be more stout and Shana­han could dial up bet­ter plays to help Beathard get rid of the ball faster.

“A lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing, but we’re very well aware that our five turnovers last week cost us the game,” said Shana­han. “... We’ve got to get that fixed. We’ve also got to get our hands on the ball a lit­tle more, too, to help us.”

The 49ers have a leaguelow three take­aways. The Pack­ers (2-2-1) might give San Fran­cisco some chances. They had three give­aways in their loss to the Detroit Lions last week, in­clud­ing two lost fum­bles from Rodgers.

“Turnovers, both ways, tak­ing them away and giv­ing them away is a fo­cus for us,” Pack­ers coach Mike Mc­Carthy said on a con­fer­ence call with Bay Area re­porters. “We have not played to the stan­dard that we’ve set over the 13 years. So that’s a fo­cus for us as a foot­ball team.”

The Pack­ers have used their first seven draft picks com­bined over the last two years on de­fense -- and that fo­cus is yield­ing re­sults. They en­ter Mon­day’s game with the league’s fourth-ranked de­fense, al­low­ing 314 yards per game. They also rank fifth with 16 sacks. The 49ers, con­versely, are tied for 24th with nine sacks.

Said Shana­han: “They’ve got cor­ners who can cover. They’ve got safeties who can cover and the five guys that they have on the line of scrim­mage are as good as any five that we’ve played this year. They can stop the run very well.”

The good news for San Fran­cisco is the ex­pected re­turn of re­ceiver Mar­quise Good­win, who has missed most of the sea­son with a deep thigh bruise and ham­string in­jury. The pro­longed ab­sence was com­pounded when his re­place­ment, rookie Dante Pet­tis, suf­fered a knee in­jury Week 4 against the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers dur­ing a punt re­turn.

The two in­juries have forced San Fran­cisco to rely on the un­proven trio of Ken­drick Bourne, Vic­tor Bolden Jr. and Richie James, two rookie free agents in 2017 and a sev­enth-round draft choice last spring.

“De­fenses def­i­nitely have to game plan for hav­ing a guy like Mar­quise in there,” Beathard said. “It changes your of­fense a lit­tle bit and what you want to do as a scheme, for sure. So, it’ll be nice to have him back this week.”

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