As if blowing a 10-0 lead wasn’t bad enough, the San Francisco 49ers may have also lost one of their key defensive pieces.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed what happened to the young linebacker, who had missed various parts of Thursday night’s 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Shanahan announced in his post-game press conference that the 24-year-old linebacker will be undergoing an MRI on Friday.
Coming into Thursday, Al-Shaair was battling an elbow injury and it wasn’t clear if he’d be ready. But as the team came out for pre-game practice, so did the linebacker.
Per Pro Football Reference, he totaled 6 tackles and registered half a sack. That marks his third straight game with a half-sack or better, which makes the timing of the knee injury sting even more.
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San Francisco 49ers Linebacker’s Season
It’s been a pleasure for 49ers fans to watch Al-Shaair grow after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2019. After playing a bit role in the run to the Super Bowl that year, he stepped into a slightly more prominent role in 2020.
However, it’s been 2021 where the Florida Atlantic product has the job his own. He hit 102 combined tackles on the season against the Titans, and now has 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
There’s no question that Fred Warner is the team’s leading linebacker, but Al-Shaair growing into his role this year was encouraging. San Francisco’s front seven is highly regarded thanks to names like Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa, but it’s what guys like Al-Shaair are doing consistently that has made it so successful.
Now, the 49ers will have to hold their breath as they await the results of the MRI.
Defense Good, but Not Great on Thursday
It’s hard to blame the Niners defense for allowing 20 points, especially when seven of those points were given on a short field after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s second interception in the third quarter.
That being said, San Francisco’s defense did not force a single three-and-out in the second half. After the Titans were forced to punt on all four drives in the first half, Tennessee only punted once in the second half.
The difference was the electrifying play of wide receiver AJ Brown. Brown totaled 112 yards and a touchdown in the second half, as the Niners simply didn’t have an answer to the physical pass-catching threat.
However, Brown didn’t have a single reception during Tennessee’s final drive to kick the go-ahead field goal. Instead, quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 23-yard scramble flipped the field and set up the Titans for a relatively easy field goal try.
Again, it’s hard to put the blame squarely on the defense’s shoulders when considering the 49ers offense’s struggles. But the fact of the matter is that San Francisco’s defense could not find a big play or stop to seal out the game in the second half.