Good and bad performances from 49ers deflating 41-33 loss to Cowboys

The last San Francisco 49ers open door that matters this NFL season has finally come to an end. Less than a year after reaching the Super Bowl, the defending NFC champions were eliminated from the postseason after losing between 41 and 33 to the Dallas Cowboys in week 15. While many players performed well, critical errors in all facets of the game proved too costly to overcome.
Good: Ahkello Witherspoon
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Ahkello Witherspoon has had his lightning bolts since the 49ers picked him in the third round of the 2017 draft. After fighting last season, he appeared to be stuck in head trainer Kyle Shanahan's kennel. As of Sunday, Witherspoon has only played six defensive snaps since early November. After Jason Verrett fell ill, Witherspoon played well and held his own. He was targeted by the Cowboys Offensive all day, only doing one tackle that day, recording two passes defended and not giving up major games.
Bad: special teams
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The only unit to hold their ground throughout the season, the 49ers special teams, had a disastrous day. After a threesome on the Cowboys 'first run, Richie James fiddled with the next boat and returned the ball to the Cowboys at the 49ers' 22-yard line. Dallas scored a touchdown and took a 7-0 lead. Then, late in the game, a poor onside kick from Robbie Gould allowed CeeDee Lamb to end the game for good with a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Good: Arik Armstead
(AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)
Armstead, the only starter left on the field by the 49ers-lauded line of defense last season, has received quite a bit of criticism this season. He was consistently rated highly by Pro Football Focus and other more advanced stats, but with far less talent this season, it has been harder for him to collect traditional scoring stats. That was not the case on Sunday. He led the team with eight tackles and only noted two sacks of the 49ers that day.
Bad: Marcell Harris
(Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
Safety Jimmie Ward had a concussion in the first half. After Jaquiski Tartt was eliminated, Defense Coordinator Robert Saleh was left with his backup securities Marcell Harris and Tarvarious Moore as the last line of defense. He's sent cornerback Richard Sherman to the free security area a couple of times, but Dallas has still found a way to take advantage of Harris' shortcomings in reporting multiple games in the field.
Good: Run Offense
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. had to leave the game with injuries at various points, but both combined 128 yards with 30 runs. As much criticism the offensive line deserved this year, the running game was constant, even if the defense responded to it. The offense could have used a big game and neither player had a game more than 17 meters long. Nevertheless, it is impressive in itself that they were able to cover an average of more than four meters per carry without a long run.
Bad: Richard Sherman
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Sherman is not the breakout corner he was during his peak with the Seattle Seahawks. With no Jason Verrett as the main option, Sherman had to bite off a little more than he could chew. He missed several open field tackles, including a two-meter touchdown, and couldn't make up for it with a groundbreaking game. He still has value on an NFL defense, but without the two best safeguards or the cornerback, there was too much on his plate and it showed.
Good: CJ Beathard
(Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
Beathard passed 5 for 7 with 100 yards and a touchdown. Granted, almost half of those yards came to Kendrick Bourne at the last minute after the game was decided. Even so, Beathard's throw went 63.3 meters in the air and is considered the third longest completion by air yards in the league this season. Nick Mullens' farthest completion was only 54.1 yards, and Jimmy Garoppolo's farthest air yard completion this season was only 43.1 yards. Shanahan's unwillingness to give Beathard an opportunity earlier suggests the 49ers would likely have released him by now had they not been concerned about wearing two quarterbacks amid COVID-19. Even so, it seems Beathard deserves another opportunity to play.
Bad: Nick Mullens
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
For the third time in a row, Mullens is on the wrong side of this list. There are just so many ways to say that Mullens doesn't own the physical tools most NFL quarterbacks have and hasn't shown the anticipation or touch he needs to be effective. The offensive line had some problems, but even in games, when it had time, the ball tended to lag behind the receivers and it couldn't open anyone. He finished with three turnovers (one fumble and two intercepts) and had several other litters that could also be picked up. Neither of his games were particularly egregious, both interceptions required good defensive play, but he did nothing to counter the uninspiring performance.
Good: Draft Dreamers
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
The loss cleared the 49ers from the postseason, but more importantly for those who saw the draft decision put them in a five-way tie for the eighth worst record in the league (when the Giants beat the Browns on Sunday night lose it will be a six-way tie). The 49ers play the Seahawks and Cardinals to end the year and could very easily end the season 5-11. While the Niners are still unlikely to finish in the top five, they are just one game ahead of the Panthers, Falcons and Texans, who set the fourth-worst record in the league. With BYU quarterback Zach Wilson moving up on most of the experts' draft boards, he, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, and North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance could be picked between the second and tenth overall wins. Needless to say, a Sunday loss helped the 49ers position themselves for a potential future quarterback.

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