It’s been four weeks and it’s been a very similar story. The 49ers have been competitive, but not able to do enough to gain a victory up to this point.
Moral victories are just that, moral ones, not real ones. While it’s important to see every positive that is present during a rebuild, defeat leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of players, coaches and fans alike, as the obvious object of the game is to win.
Let’s review the first quarter of the season for the 49ers.
Week 1 vs Carolina
While the final score was 23-3, the 49ers were very much in the game going into the 4th quarter down 16-3. There were dropped passes, among other things, but one score early in the fourth quarter and it’s 16-10, with a lot of time left.
This isn’t to say the 49ers should have won, but they had chances.
The bad from this game was a combination of Hoyer’s inaccuracy, an interception, and dropped passes from the receivers. Penalties weren’t helping either and it ended up being a loss.
Week 2 at Seattle
The defense did its job and the Niners led 9-6 late in the game until Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass that ended up being the game-winner.
Carlos Hyde ran for 124 yards and for the first time in several years, the 49ers did not look intimidated by their tormentors from the Northwest.
Brian Hoyer had a big interception early and the offense struggled, but that was against Seattle’s great defense, in their building.
It sounds like a moral victory or even an excuse, but there were positives that went with the negatives of the passing game and losing the game.
Week 3 vs Rams
The 49ers hung with the Rams, despite getting themselves into a hole. They fought back in the second half and had a chance to win a 41-39 game until a penalty pushed them out of field goal range and ultimately cost them the game.
Brian Hoyer looked better, but the defense couldn’t make a lot of stops, which resulted in giving up 41 points.
The key play in this game was the missed extra point by Robbie Gould, which forced San Francisco to go for a two-point conversion late in the game that failed.
Many would argue the officials cost the 49ers the game on a poorly-called penalty against Trent Taylor, but the 49ers did enough to lose the game themselves.
It was great that they didn’t quit, came back, and had a chance to win the game, but the result was the same.
Week 4 at Arizona
The defense is coming into its own, especially up front, as they dominated the line of scrimmage and sacked Carson Palmer six times.
The offense wasn’t quite what it was against the Rams. The passing game was poor and the running attack was average. When the 49ers needed points, they were held to field goals.
The defense kept them in the game and overtime was forced. Brian Hoyer, who had another interception in this game, led the 49ers all the way to the Arizona 5 yard line, but they had to settle for a 15-12 lead. It would be Arizona that would seal the deal with a Larry Fitzgerald game-winning touchdown reception, 18-15.
Yeah, it’s great that the 49ers refuse to give up, take leads late in games and have a chance to win. It’s great that there is tangible growth by many players.
But they lost. That’s the bottom line and that’s what fans see and remember.
So where do they go from here?
The 49ers travel to Indianapolis this Sunday to face a short-handed Colts team in another winnable game.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has stated that Brian Hoyer will not be benched, despite the call from fans across the country to do so. Hoyer gives the 49ers the best chance of winning and deserves a couple more games to make that happen.
If the 49ers win Sunday, they will be 1-4 in a poor division where anything can happen. The defense will only get better when Reuben Foster and Eric Reid return, so there is that to look forward to.
Now, if the 49ers lose Sunday and find themselves in the same predicament next week, it may be time to get a look at rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. For now, Coach Shanahan is correct about Hoyer, but it’s obvious to everyone that he is not a long-term solution. If the 49ers are 0-7 or even 1-6, I would be in favor of playing Beathard to see what he can do.
I’m one of those that wants to win now. It’s what fans expect and should see, especially when there is this much talent on the field.
While I want to see victories, it’s also important to take a step back and realize this is a rebuild. Victories are going to take time. There are other areas to find growth and positives that just the box score and these will continue to be pointed out.
All in all, this will work out, but everyone has to do the most difficult thing and that is, to be patient.