Jim Tomsula begs to differ with left tackle Joe Staley and linebacker Ahmad Brooks that the 49ers overlooked Cleveland in Sunday’s rock-bottom loss to the Browns.
Still, the question begs to be asked: How could a team with one road win possibly be overconfident?
The first-year coach planned to speak informally with the players about their concerns following the embarrassing 24-10 loss at FirstEnergy Stadium that allowed Cleveland (3-10) to snap a seven-game losing streak. The Niners (4-9) traveled to northern Ohio having won their first road game in six tries the previous Sunday at Chicago and looking to build some momentum for the final three games.
Instead, they flopped.
Afterward, Staley noted: “We can’t take anyone lightly. We’re not in a position to take anyone lightly.”
Brooks’ thoughts were: “Maybe we took them for granted. … Maybe we got a little big-headed this week and thought that things were just going to happen.”
Tomsula insists he reinforced those very ideas all week leading up to the game about being prepared despite the Browns’ long skid and 2-10 record entering the matchup.
“I’d have to disagree with Joe on that. Maybe he was speaking from a personal note, I don’t know, but that was something that was addressed all week,” Tomsula said Monday. “No. 1, we have no right to overlook anyone. Number two, in the NFL, I don’t care if you’re 14-0, you better not overlook anyone. I don’t see that as a factor. And again, it’s a group that comes to work and they work. But, I didn’t see that. I saw a game where we didn’t, and I don’t use this word a lot, but we didn’t execute. I didn’t see an effort problem.”
When it came to execution, among the most glaring concerns was quarterback Blaine Gabbert taking a franchise-record tying nine sacks.
“The numbers are not good. We didn’t play well,” Staley said. “It wasn’t that we overlooked, I felt like in the game, we just didn’t give our best effort. That’s not anything on the coaches, it’s not just on players. It’s everybody. It’s collectively. It says just as much about me as it does about your leaders. I didn’t do a good enough job and make sure everybody was prepared. So it was just a frustrating day yesterday.”
So, what might motivate the 49ers for their final three games in a lost year? The 49ers host AFC North-leading Cincinnati (10-3) on Sunday.
“Just pride,” Staley said. “Everybody has to have the same mindset in playing for one another — not get in a position where you’re trying just to take care of yourself. I think that’s kind of human nature for everybody in this situation. The season didn’t go the way we wanted it to, so make sure you take care of yourself and I don’t think that’s really the correct way.”
Staley and some teammates found a festive, welcome distraction from the football losing Monday: They visited a nearby Target store to help children shop for their families for the holidays.
The offensive lineman has been participating in this community event for the past four or five years.
“Spending time with the kids and seeing them really be able to purchase gifts for their family members, they deserve it,” Staley said. “They’re able to say thank you for what they’ve done and show appreciation for others.”
NOTES: LG Alex Boone was undergoing an MRI exam on his injured right knee and the expectation is it’s not worth the risk for him to play again this year. “That’s a huge blow,” Staley said. “It’s kind of a bummer situation to go down at the end of the year. He’s not particularly happy about that.” … RB Kendall Gaskins sustained a concussion and is in the league’s concussion protocol. … WR Torrey Smith experienced back spasms Sunday while DB Jimmie Ward has an elbow contusion.