San Francisco had all the potential to make noise in the "Music City," but mistakes ultimately led the 49ers to fall to an injury-ridden Tennessee Titans team. After a late score in the fourth quarter, a last-minute field goal by the Titans closed the door on any potential comeback for the 49ers. Turnovers and penalties ultimately dictated Thursday night's game as San Francisco dropped their season record to 8-7.
Here are a few takeaways from the 20-17 loss.
San Francisco got off to a hot start but quickly faltered in the first half. Jimmy Garoppolo orchestrated a beauty of an opening drive that moved 75 yards on nine plays. Garoppolo was a perfect 5-of-5 for 59 yards on that opening touchdown drive, completing passes to Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
After a Tennessee punt, San Francisco followed up with another promising drive, as Garoppolo was a perfect 8-for-8 for 104 yards knocking at the door of Tennessee's end zone. On a throw in the end zone intended for Kittle, cornerback Jenoris Jenkins positioned himself in front of the tight end to come down with the interception. Per Kittle, Jenkins had the "outside leverage" to make the play in the end zone over the tight end. That marked the first 49ers turnover in the red zone this season and the first Titans takeaway in the red zone this year.
San Francisco crossed into Titans territory for a third time in the first half but was held to a field goal following a questionable face mask call against Trent Williams.
Following the scoring drive, the offense appeared discombobulated. False start penalties, drops and stagnant drives limited San Francisco to getting anything going. Garoppolo opened the 49ers first series of the second half with an interception on a pass intended for Samuel. Four plays later, Tennessee capitalized off of the turnover with a 3-yard touchdown carry by running back D'Onta Foreman to tie the game.
The 49ers managed to tie the game up with just over two minutes on the clock. Garoppolo was 5-of-7 for 91 yards on the game-tying touchdown drive. He connected with Samuel on a slant pass that went for 56 yards to set the 49ers up at the Titans 6 yard line. Two plays later, Garoppolo connected with Aiyuk wide open in the back of the end zone to tie the game up at 17.
"I feel like we had some mistakes out there on offense," Kittle said postgame. "Defense - they had a couple third and longs that they completed. They were able to stay on the field a lot. Left a lot of mistakes out there that did not allow us to score points.... We turn the ball over, we don't force any turnovers. It's hard to win. We are still in a position to be in there at the end overcoming those turnovers but we didn't do it enough."
A.J. Brown Has a Day
San Francisco's defense started off strong, holding Tennessee scoreless for the entirety of the first half. The 49ers defense allowed 2.6 yards per play and limited the Titans offense to three first downs and 55 total net yards.
Coming out of the half, Tennessee managed to put up all 20 of their points, by way of extending drives. After holding the Titans offense on early downs, Tennessee managed to convert five third-and-longs, including an offsides penalty on 3rd-and-23 just before the end of the third quarter.
In his return from Injured Reserve, wide receiver A.J. Brown posted 145 yards on 11 receptions, including a 42-yarder allowed on the aforementioned free play from the offsides penalty.
After a first half of completing 10 passes for 43 yards, Tannehill finished the night 22-of-29 for 209 yards and a touchdown.
Special Teams Woes
San Francisco's special teams unit had its share of struggles on Thursday. The unit allowed a kick return of 37 yards to start Tennessee's drive off at their own 39 yard line.
Mitch Wishnowsky muffed a punt giving the Titans field position inside 49ers territory. That drive resulted in three points for Tennessee. Aiyuk let a punt roll inside of the 49ers 5 yard line on San Francisco's final offensive drive. Fortunately, the team managed to drive down field 95 yards for the game-tying score.
After missing Week 15 with an elbow injury, Azeez Al-Shaair suffered a knee injury on Thursday and did not return. Per Kyle Shanahan, the linebacker will undergo an MRI when the 49ers return to the team facility on Friday.
D.J. Jones exited the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. The nose tackle did, however, return in the second half.
After his impressive 56-yard pickup, Samuel was down on the field momentarily. Per Shanahan, the receiver had the wind knocked out of him.
Samuel finished the night leading the 49ers with 159 yards on nine receptions. He also added 32 yards rushing.