Niners have turnovers, sacks and no chance against Rams

Los Angeles Rams linebacker Trevon Young (49) catches a fumble by San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium.Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

-- By Art Spander ( special to The Sports Xchange --

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth didn't have to put up with this one. Neither did the viewers of Sunday Night Football. NBC has a bail-out. So does the NFL. Why subject the nation to a team like the 49ers? Flex them right out of prime time.

Of course, that also flexed out the Niners' opponent Sunday, the only unbeaten team in pro football, the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately for the Rams. Fortunately for the 49ers. And America on Sunday night, which after the switch got Chiefs vs. Bengals. Of course, that turned into a blowout, too.

Rams-Niners went as expected. Or as suspected, L.A. winning, 39-10 at Levi's Stadium.

The Rams, now 7-0, had four takeaways, meaning the 49ers had four turnovers, four more after five two weekends ago in a loss to the horrible Arizona Cardinals and three last weekend in a loss to the not-so horrible Green Packers last Monday night. That's 12 turnovers in three games.

They -- well quarterback C.J. Beathard -- were sacked seven times, and since they all may not have been attributable to Beathard, maybe they is the better pronoun.

The Niners are 1-6, as bad a record as there is in the league, and second-year head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if that and the pathetic play in this mismatch were embarrassing.

"It's always embarrassing," said Shanahan. "We've got pride in what we do. Right now I'm not proud of our record. If we'd played better today I'd feel the same. We're not into moral victories."

They ought to be into protecting the football. Sunday the Niners lost two fumbles, one by Beathard in the opening five minutes when he was sacked, setting up an L.A. field goal. Beathard also threw two interceptions.

"If it was just one thing, I'd say the one thing," was Shanahan's comment about the turnovers. "If it was just one guy, we'd say one guy. But it's a lot of things. One ball was stripped (by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald). He made a good play on that.

"We've got to get better. To get better we've got to make less turnovers. Once we fix the turnovers we have a chance to win. We're going to work at it, and if we can't take care of the ball we're going to find somebody who can take care of it."

The 49ers were supposed to have an effective offensive line. The 49ers also were supposed to have Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, but he's out for the season. In stepped Beathard, a backup forced to become a starter.

It's nobody's fault. It's football.

This was intended to be a day of ceremony at Levi's, the introduction of the statues of The Catch, the play from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark, in January 1982 that elevated the 49ers to their first Super Bowl.

Clark died earlier this year from ALS, but many members of the 49ers family, including Montana and three other quarterbacks, Steve Young, Steve Bono and Jeff Garcia, were in attendance. The joy ended shortly after kickoff.

"We can't turn it over like that," said Beathard, agreeing with his coach. "Didn't help our defense. I think (the Rams) got 24 points off turnovers. I think it comes down to a mindset."

And staying away from No. 99, the Rams’ 280-pound Donald.

"He's one of the best, if not the best, D-lineman in the league," said Beathard. "Definitely got to know where he is at all times."

Where he was more often than not was harassing the Niners.

49ers tackle Joe Staley was almost apologetic.

"It was a bad effort," he said of the game, and the protection. "Our job as offensive linemen was poor. Our job is to protect the quarterback. ... Donald (who had four sacks); he's in a class of his own."

Shanahan, who took over a year ago, is in a mess not entirely of his own making. Injuries and mistakes have left the 49ers scrambling and losing.

"We had much better rhythm Monday night," said Shanahan, referring to a 33-30 loss to Green bay six days earlier. "Early in this one as soon as we started getting going we had a false start and then a fumble. We struggled and never found our rhythm."

And continued to lose the football on turnovers.