These 2 issues have plagued 49ers the most over 3-game losing streak

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) forces a fumble while sacking San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13)
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) forces a fumble while sacking San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) / Albert Cesare/The Enquier / USA TODAY

The 49ers have plenty of reasons why they're slumping right now, but none are bigger than these two glaring problems.

The last three weeks have revealed plenty of issues the San Francisco 49ers need to correct.

It seems like an eternity ago when the Niners would easily roll up 30-plus points on an opponent without much of a challenge. However, over the recent three-game losing streak that now has head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad at 5-3, the offense hasn't crested a mere 20 points.

On the opposite side, San Francisco's defense has looked not like a top-three group but a bottom-three unit, which is puzzling when thinking about the talent at coordinator Steve Wilks' disposal.

What's wrong?

If it was an easy fix, Shanahan and Co. wouldn't have lost three in a row. The solutions can be complex, but some of the root causes are easy to identify.

Especially these two items that have dogged the 49ers since their first loss of the season three weeks ago.

49ers problem No. 1: Turnovers

Failing to score on offensive possessions is tough, especially when the defense is reeling. But a punt can actually be a pretty good play, particularly when it flips the field and pins an opponent deep in its own territory.

Turning the ball over, however, is brutal. And the Niners have grown accustomed to that a lot as of late.

Quarterback Brock Purdy, who didn't toss an interception over that five-game win streak, now has thrown five picks in his last three contests, including two brutal ones apiece in back-to-back losses at the Minnesota Vikings and versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We have an offense with explosive players all over the football field, and we can win these games," tight end George Kittle pointed out to the press after last Sunday's loss versus Cincy. "And we had an opportunity down there where it's 17-10, and hey, we have a turnover.

"Turnovers really hurt you. And there's no pointing of fingers like that. There are plays that can be made all over the football field, but it's hard to win football games when you have three turnovers."

Over their last three games, the Niners have turned the ball over seven times against four defensive takeaways, all for a minus-3 turnover differential.

The offense had turned the ball over only twice over the first five weeks.

49ers problem No. 2: Missed tackles

Protecting the ball is one thing. Being fundamentally sound on defense is another.

And San Francisco is failing in that category, too.

Check out the number of missed tackles by the 49ers over the last three games, according to the numbers provided by Pro Football Focus:

  • Week 6 @ Cleveland Browns: 10
  • Week 7 @ Minnesota Vikings: 9
  • Week 8 vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 13

Related story: Kyle Shanahan, Brock Purdy reveal the gaffe that led to costly red-zone INT vs. Bengals

Putting things into contrast, against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, the Niners missed just two tackles.

Wilks can draw criticism, and a lot of it is merited. But he can't control tackling and missed tackles.

"At the end of the day, players are going to be the reason why we win games," linebacker Fred Warner pointed out after the game. "We've got to execute at a higher level."

If San Francisco wants to get back into the win column, focusing on the fundamentals by protecting the ball and not missing tackles would probably go a long, long way.

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