49ers coach remains upbeat despite 1-4 start

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SANTA CLARA — On Monday, head coach Kyle Shanahan explained to reporters his message to the 49ers, how he plans to motivate them going forward and his goals for the rest of the season.

This was necessary because although the 49ers season isn’t officially over yet, it’s over.

Their record is 1-4. They’re beat up. And they just lost at home by 10 points to the Arizona Cardinals, who were winless and generally considered the worst team in the NFL. Now, the 49ers may be the worst team. They’re in the discussion.

Next Monday, they will play on the road against the Green Bay Packers, who are 10-point favorites. The next Sunday, the 49ers will play the Los Angeles Rams, who are undefeated. The Sunday after that, the 49ers will play the Cardinals again, this time in Arizona.

High degree of difficulty.

“I totally understand the frustration,” Shanahan said about his team’s disastrous start. “People did have higher expectations going into this year. So did we. It was a tough blow early in the year, as everyone knows, losing (running back Jerick) McKinnon. And then, losing our starting quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo). That takes a toll, and I think everyone understands that.

“But, that doesn’t mean we can’t win games. We have played two games now without Jimmy, and we have been more than capable of winning both of those games, and we haven’t gotten it done. There are lots of answers to what we could have done better to win, and that’s really all you can focus on.”

The 49ers beat themselves the past two games. Against the Chargers two weeks ago, Shanahan mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half. He called three-straight passes, possessed the ball for just 17 seconds, punted and allowed the Chargers to kick a field goal before halftime. The 49ers eventually lost by just two points.

Against the Cardinals, the 49ers beat themselves again. This time, the offense committed five turnovers. Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard was responsible for four of them. He fumbled twice and threw two interceptions.

Despite all of that, Shanahan found reasons to feel encouraged after Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals.

“For the most part, I felt like we were going the right direction in a lot of areas we have been focusing on and trying to improve,” Shanahan said. “That was the first time I’ve ever been on a team that ran more than 90 plays. We had a lot of first downs. Felt like we were moving the ball pretty well. I think we had our best game on third down, our best game in the red zone. And I thought our defense played very well, minus that first play.”

Shanahan was referring to the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage, when they completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to a wide open receiver, Christian Kirk. After that touchdown, the 49ers defense gave up just 145 net yards the rest of the game.

Shanahan continued. “I thought (the 49ers defensive players) tackled better. I thought they did better on third down. Then, you get to that turnover section of the stat sheet, and that wasn’t the right direction. Five turnovers to zero is a pretty catastrophic stat, and one that’s very hard to overcome.”

Shanahan sounded blunt, but not defeated or deflated. Quite the opposite. He was relentlessly positive and optimistic, made no excuses for himself or the 49ers. He projected leadership, exactly what the team needs.

“I know we have been through some adversity,” Shanahan said. “I know this is the hand we have been dealt, and I think we have the people in our organization, I think we have the players who can man up and find a way to win. It’s never easy. It definitely gets harder when you have injuries, but we have people in here that can win games. We could have won that game yesterday and we came up short. That starts with me.

“We have two days to work through all of it. When our players come in, we’ll be moving on to Green Bay, and we’ll have another chance to (win). That’s what’s cool about the NFL. No matter what happens, you get a chance the next week to redeem yourself. We plan on getting this out of our system here over the next couple days. We plan on manning up, coming to work and getting better.”


Running back Matt Breida has a sprained left ankle and is doubtful to play next week against the Packers.

“It wasn’t a high-ankle sprain,” Shanahan explained, “but it’s still a serious sprain. It was better news than anticipated, but still not great news. So, we’ll see over the next couple of days.”

The 49ers worked out several free-agent running backs on Monday; Shanahan declined to name them.

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