By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
It’s easy to look at the hand the San Francisco 49ers have been dealt in 2018 and chalk it up to a lost season, but head coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t ready to pack it in just yet.
Despite starting the season 1-4 after losing his starting running back and quarterback 22 days apart, Shanahan says the 49ers still have the potential to win games this year regardless of the public’s perception.
“I know we’ve been through some adversity,” said Shanahan on Monday afternoon. “But I think we have the people in our organization, I think we have the players, I think we have strong enough people who can deal with it and man up and find a way to win.”
The beginning of the 2018 season has not been kind to the 49ers. After entering the offseason as playoff hopefuls with what looked like a formidable roster, a pair of knee injuries to key offensive starters quickly dashed the team’s expectations.
On Sept. 2, former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon — who signed with San Francisco as a free agent this offseason — suffered a torn ACL in practice just days before the start of the regular season. Just over three weeks later, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo — acquired from New England last season and then signed to a $137 million contract — suffered the same injury against Kansas City.
“I think it was a tough blow early in the year,” Shanahan admitted. “So, I do think that takes a toll and I think everyone understands that. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t win games.”
While the 49ers’ record places them as the worst team in the league through five weeks, Shanahan would argue that San Francisco has been more than capable of winning their last two games. They narrowly lost to the Chargers, 29-27 in Week 4, then owned the stat sheet, but coughed up five turnovers to the Cardinals and lost by 10 a week later.
Over the course of both losses, the 49ers averaged 404.5 yards of offense, completed 63 percent of their passes and posted a 50 percent third-down conversion rate.
The problem, however, has been the fact that San Francisco has given up seven combined turnovers between both losses, of which five came after halftime.
“You try to look at that and you just try to say to the players, ‘Why did we lose those games?’” said Shanahan. “‘ What did we do good and what did we do bad?’ I think there’s lots of answers in there of what we could have done better to win. That’s really all you can focus on.”
According to Shanahan, handling the “adversity” in-house isn’t the only obstacle he has to work through, though, as many of his coaches and players have heard the public’s perception as of late.
“With social media, when guys go home, even if they don’t listen to things, their wives do, their girlfriends do, their brothers do,” Shanahan explained. “That’s the world we live in. So, when you go through that stuff and you don’t meet outside expectations, it starts to affect you.”
Determined to overcome that distraction, Shanahan is now tasked with shifting the 49ers’ focus onto the Green Bay Packers, who they will face on Monday Night Football next week.
To do so, Shanahan says that San Francisco will take the next day-and-a-half to digest their current situation and put their latest loss behind them.
“That is what’s cool about the NFL,” Shanahan said. “No matter what happens you get a chance the next week to redeem yourself. If we don’t, it’ll be just as hard as it is now, if not harder. But, we don’t plan on that happening.
“We plan on getting this out of our system here over the next couple of days. We plan on manning up, coming to work, not worrying about things that we can’t control and focusing on getting better. I’ll be very surprised if our guys don’t do that.”
– The 49ers have confirmed that RB Matt Breida (ankle) did not suffer a high ankle sprain on Sunday, but rather a “serious sprain.”
San Francisco also noted that Breida will likely be listed as doubtful ahead of Monday’s matchup against Green Bay and he will not be practicing on Thursday.
– In the wake of Breida’s injury, the 49ers brought in “a number” of running backs to potentially add to their recently-depleted roster.
According to Shanahan, Jeff Wilson Jr. is one of the backs in the running for a potential roster spot, as he participated in San Francisco’s training camp in August.
While Shanahan did not disclose other running backs that were brought in, he did say that they will wait to check the roster’s health at the end of the week before making any moves.
– The 49ers have officially ruled rookie WR Dante Pettis out for Week 6 against the Packers with a sprained right knee.
Pettis, who also missed Week 5 with a sprained knee, was forced to exit in the first quarter against the Chargers after being rolled up on a punt return.
With WR Marquise Goodwin also listed as questionable to play on Monday, the 49ers could be short on wide receivers headed into Green Bay.