SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As Emmanuel Sanders clutched his side en route to the 49ers locker room in the second quarter Monday night, he may have taken San Francisco’s offensive juju with him.
Acquired three weeks ago to give Jimmy Garoppolo a reliable veteran in the slot, Sanders caught 13 balls on 18 targets for 161 yards. He gave the 49ers spacing and gave Garoppolo a steady set of hands.
Sanders was one of six 49ers to go down with injury in Monday’s 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, thinning their ranks on a day when they got back tackles Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley, along with fullback Kyle Juszczyk. They now have six days to get healthy, and that includes getting tight end George Kittle’s knee and ankle right.
Without Kittle and Sanders, San Francisco’s offense sputtered through mixing and matching receivers, and the tight end was largely taken out of the receiving game, despite the activation of Garrett Celek. Even if that gets rectified next week, the loss of Sanders for any amount of time could be keenly felt.
Without him, San Francisco had to rely on Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis. They didn’t catch a single ball on six targets, and 49ers receivers had eight drops on the day. Garoppolo finished 24-for-46 (his second-lowest completion percentage of the season) for 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception, with five sacks.
“They’re our two best playmakers,” Shanahan said of Kittle and Sanders. “It definitely takes a toll. We knew that coming in with George, we kind of realized that was going to happen today. Emmanuel was out there battling. Had that happen with his ribs, he tried to go a few more series longer, but he had to go out … We just didn’t have the consistency out there.”
Sanders underwent X-rays for what San Francisco is calling a rib injury, but the results were inconclusive, as they could not tell if there was cartilege involvement. He’s set for an MRI on Tuesday.
Defensive tackle D.J. Jones — one tackle shy (16) of his entire production from last season, with a career-high three sacks — went down with a groin injury in the second quarter, and will also undergo an MRI.
Defensive tackle Ronald Blair III — who had two tackles and was on pace to set a career high with 21 in nine games — went down pursuing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter, grabbing his right leg. He crutched around the locker room with his right knee immobilized after the game, and is expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is in the concussion protocol, thinning a linebacker unit that’s already lost pass rusher Kwon Alexander for the season due to a torn pectoral.
Running back Matt Breida went down late, aggravating the same ankle injury that’s plagued him all year. With the Seahawks gap-sound play along the defensive line, San Francisco was only able to gain 87 yards on the ground.