For a young team in the midst of a complete rebuild, the San Francisco 49ers have looked to be ahead of schedule despite being 0-6.
Although they’ve lost every game, they’ve done so competitively each and every week, testing every team they’ve come across and simultaneously setting an NFL record by losing five consecutive games by three points or less.
Unfortunately for the 49ers (0-7), their perception as a legitimate competitor, only a few years — and franchise quarterback — away from being a contender, was brought back down to Earth compliments of a reality-revealing 40-10 gut check from their once bitter rivals, the visiting Dallas Cowboys (3-3).
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan did not mince words when it came to how he felt about his team’s performance:
“It was disappointing I think at all three phases. Players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that. A lot better.”
Entering the day as the league’s 28th-ranked defense according to NFL.com, the 49ers had their hands full for the majority of the afternoon as they lined up against the NFL’s ninth-best offense in regards to yards per game in Dallas.
The main concern on the defensive side of the ball would be Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was granted eligibility to play in Sunday’s game after his six-game suspension for domestic violence was not enforced for the week due to an appellate judge being on vacation.
Even with first-round linebacker Reuben Foster back in as a starter after nursing an ankle injury for six weeks, the 49ers defense was hard-pressed to deal with Elliott as the second year back literally ran all over the 49ers, gaining over 200 all-purpose yards and scoring three touchdowns.
Elliott’s highlight of the day came as a 72-yard pass from quarterback Dak Prescott after the 49ers gave the ball up on an unsuccessful fourth down attempt.
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Foster commented on the challenge that was Elliott:
“(Elliott) is a phenomenal player. You got to watch out for what gaps he’s in. He’s all around. He can go A-gap, B-gap, it don’t matter.”
On top of the seemingly uncontainable force that was Elliott, the 49ers were unable to do much about the rest of the Dallas offense including Prescott, tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Prescott, although pressured relatively often, ended his best game of the season with 236 yards through the air and three touchdowns. The second-year quarterback would also get into the endzone on the ground with a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Witten and Bryant finished the game with a touchdown apiece, combining for over 100 yards through the air between the two.
In total, the 49ers allowed 501 yards, making Sunday their worst defensive performance of the season — second to their Week 2 loss to the Rams when they gave up 418 yards from scrimmage
Safety Eric Reid expressed the level of frustration regarding Sunday’s blowout from a defensive perspective:
“It’s extremely frustrating. When you work as hard as I know we have and you don’t get the results you want, it pisses you off. All we can do is keep going, watch this film and get back it on Monday.”
As if the 49ers defensive performance wasn’t bad enough, their offensive output may have been worse.
In his first game as a starter, rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard found nearly no success getting into the end zone against the Dallas defense.
Completing 22 out of his 38 passes, Beathard threw one interception and zero touchdowns and lost a fumble following a strip sack from Cowboys’ defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
Beathard did find the end zone once, however, on a garbage-time QB keeper from four yards out. Unfortunately for Beathard, this would be his only true highlight of the day on a forgetful day in Santa Clara.
When asked about how his first start as an NFL quarterback went, Beathard was critical in his self-analysis:
“By the look of the score, it didn’t go well at all. You never want to lose a game 40-10.”
The only 49ers to have a relatively decent day, as far as individual stats are concerned, was 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin who hauled in four catches for 80 yards. This included a 48-yard catch from Beathard.
The head-shaking performance by this young and inexperienced 49ers team shouldn’t really come as a surprise, though. With many of the team’s building blocks being in their first or second years it isn’t shocking that the 49ers looked kids going up against men in this game.
Although their last five games proved otherwise, the 49ers learned on Sunday that there is still a long, long way to go until they can be even considered contenders.
Sometimes a slap of reality can be good for a team, even if it comes as a 30 point beat-down kind of slap — the worst 49er loss in Levi’s Stadium’s four-year history.