SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)Brock Purdy keeps giving the ball away, San Francisco’s heralded defense is struggling to generate stops and the early season dominance for the 49ers is firmly in the past.
The Niners stumbled for a third straight week, getting picked apart all game by Joe Burrow and failing to generate nearly enough offense in a 31-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday that sends San Francisco stumbling into its bye week.
“It hurts,” Purdy said. “But at the same time, this is a going to be a good time for us to do some reflection and all of us are really hungry for the second half and the stretch that’s about to go down. So we’ll be ready for it.”
It’s been quite a reversal for the 49ers (5-3), who left here three weeks ago after beating the Dallas Cowboys 42-10 on national television to improve to 5-0.
But the mistakes they were able to overcome in that fast start to the season have been crushing the past three weeks in losses to Cleveland, Minnesota and now Cincinnati.
“This isn’t on any one coach or any one side of the ball,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We haven’t scored over 20 points here in three weeks too. I think our defense needs to be better, our offense needs to do better, our team needs to do better.”
Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa both missed chances at a sack on a third-and-long on the opening drive that Burrow escaped and turned into a conversion and ultimately a touchdown drive.
There were several more missed tackles throughout the game for a team that had been one of the best at avoiding them during the first five games.
“The common denominator right now is I haven’t been able to say through the last three losses that man, our defense had our best outing and we just happened to lose,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “We’re not playing good football on our side. That’s the reason why we haven’t won the last three games.”
Then there were the late-game mistakes from Purdy, who has been much better this season playing from ahead than behind.
San Francisco trailed in only one of its first five games and never in the second half, but has had to play from behind the past three weeks.
Purdy threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter in the loss to the Vikings and had three more turnovers in the final 15:04 of this game to doom any comeback attempt.
The first came when San Francisco was in the red zone in position to tie the game at 17, but Purdy and Elijah Mitchell missed on a handoff. Purdy then tried to improvise and threw a pass that Germaine Pratt deflected to himself for an interception.
On San Francisco’s next play, Purdy tried to fit in a pass over the middle to Brandon Aiyuk that linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted to set up the TD that gave Cincinnati a 14-point lead.
Purdy then lost a fumble late in the game when the Niners were in desperation mode, giving him six turnovers the past three games after having only one the first five weeks.
“Toward the end of the game, I was starting go force things and not see things clearly,” Purdy said. “Don’t force things, let the game come to you. If it’s not there, try to make something happen, but try to make a smart play as well. There’s definitely a fine line to it.”
Purdy, who began the week in concussion protocol, threw for 365 yards but was unable to lead the offense to more than 17 points – marking the first time San Francisco had been held to 17 or fewer in three consecutive games since Shanahan’s first season in 2017.
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