The San Francisco 49ers’ first loss of the season on Monday was more costly than they’d thought.
On Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley — who missed the previous six games due to a broken fibula — went down with a fractured and dislocated finger. Surgery could be a possibility, which would keep him out “for a few weeks,” Shanahan said.
Staley was one of four major pieces the 49ers could lose for at least a week coming out of their 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive lineman Ronald Blair III is out for the year with a torn ACL and defensive lineman D.J. Jones could miss at least a week with a groin issue. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders injured rib cartilage, and is listed as day-to-day.
Should Staley have to undergo surgery, he’d be out at least another two weeks. He was in the process of getting a second opinion when Shanahan addressed the media on a conference call Tuesday.
Both Staley and right tackle Mike McGlinchey returned from injury to face one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, and faced a very gap-sound front that brough pressure in multiple ways. Jadeveon Clowney alone got 10 pressures. Shanahan said that there was rust associated with the performance of his two tackles.
“I thought Clowney played very well. He’s done it before, but I thought it was definitely his best game of the year so we’ve got to take that into account,” Shanahan said. “They weren’t at their best. That happens when you have some time off like that. I thought they had their good plays, but definitely had some noticeable bad plays that ended up hurting us a little bit.”
Should Staley have to miss time, rookie Justin Skule ably filled in for him during his first absence, and could do so again.
More irksome was the absence of Sanders, who’s become one of Jimmy Garoppolo’s go-to receivers since being acquired three weeks ago. If he has a rib cartilage injury similar to what George Kittle suffered last season, he could wind up wearing a padded undershirt to soften blows. Without him, the rest of the receiving corps had eight drops on the night, including two crucial ones from Kendrick Bourne.
Kittle — who watched the game from the suite tower to avoid standing on his injured knee and ankle for three and a half hours — may be back as soon as this week. Shanahan was “hopeful” that his record-setting tight end, along with kicker Robbie Gould (quadriceps), could return from one-game absences, saying that their status was “pretty similar” to last week, when both were late scratches.
“Kittle has a much bigger injury, but Kittle’s just a little bit of a different bird,” Shanahan said. “We’re never going to decide on Kittle too early in the week. He’s always got a chance with some of the stuff he’s been able to go through here in these last couple of years.”
Because he’s a kicker, the nature of Gould’s injury is more difficult to evaluate, but he will be kicking this week to see if he can return. In the meantime, rookie Chase McLaughlin hit two of three — including a game-tying 47-yarder — on Monday, though he did pull a potential game-winner wide left in overtime.
Jones — who got the first of five sacks of the game — will miss this week, while running back Matt Breida (ankle) is day-to-day and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is in the concussion protocol.
Though Jones will return, San Francisco is faced with replacing Blair, having already dealt with the loss of one of their top pass rushers in Kwon Alexander (pectoral; out for season).
“We have lots of guys we can use,” Shanahan said. “We’ve only got eight up, but our inside guys can go outside, so there’s always people who can do that. We might end up having to sign someone else.”
The 49ers will have an as-yet-unnamed player in to work out on Wednesday, but could also pull Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner to the outside. They could also activate Kentavius Street from the injured reserve, though he’s more of an inside player.
“A little bit of a different body part, but he can do all of it,” Shanahan said. “The way his body is isn’t exactly compared to Ronald Blair’s, but that’ll be an option and we’ll decide on that based off the other guys coming in here tomorrow.”
Regardless, San Francisco is expected to sign another player as Blair goes on injured reserve.
In positive injury news, right cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot), who as been out since Week 3, is day-to-day and expected to practice this week. Should he return to face the Arizona Cardinals at home this Sunday, that would move Emmanuel Moseley to a backup role, despite the fact that he’s played well in Witherspoon’s absence. Moseley been targeted 39 times this season and allowed 24 catches, with 7.8 yards allowed per target. Pro Football Focus has graded him out at a 74.9 — more than passable.
Despite dropping Monday’s matchup against the Seahawks, San Francisco is still on top in the NFC West, and is still one of the top teams in the NFC as a whole. As such, the 49ers’ Week 12 home game against the Green Bay Packers has been flexed from 1:25 p.m. Pacific on FOX to 5:20 p.m. Pacific on NBC. San Francisco’s Week 16 game against the Los Angeles Rams has been set for Saturday, Dec. 21 at 5:15 p.m. Pacific, and will be broadcast on the NFL Network.