Undisciplined 49ers caught offside, in neutral zone too many times

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Not even coach Jim Tomsula was sure of how many times his San Francisco 49ers were called for offside/neutral-zone infractions in their 32-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

“What did we have, six?” an exasperated Tomsula asked in his postgame media conference, before being told the actual count was seven.

“Seven? There’s no excuse for that. None,” Tomsula said. “We’ve just got to go back and look at that. But I can’t, for the life of me, give you any excuse for that. It’s inexcusable.”

Then upon whose shoulders does that blame rest?

Is it coaching, or lack thereof? Lack of focus by the players in Week 16? A combination of both?

In any event, the Niners were flagged six times for those penalties in the first half Sunday, the first team since the 1993 Houston Oilers to be flagged that many times before halftime.

The culprits: outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (offside), inside linebacker Gerald Hodges (neutral zone), defensive back Jimmie Ward (neutral zone), defensive end Arik Armstead (neutral zone), defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie (neutral zone), outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (offside) and outside linebacker Eli Harold (neutral zone).

You might think the Niners' blitz-happy defense was simply too aggressive. But it was not effective, either.

Per ESPN Stats & Info, the 49ers allowed Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to complete seven of eight passes with two touchdowns when they blitzed. The Niners’ 67.2 completion percentage allowed while blitzing this season is tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for worst in the league.

Pro Bowl inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman said Stafford was doing a good job of mixing up his cadence and hard counts, while others said Lions center Travis Swanson was moving the football before snapping it.

“That just comes down to discipline and focusing on your assignment,” Bowman said.

Bowman also said he told his teammates to simply watch the ball “50, 60 times” during the game.

“They’re trying to make a play, I understand that, but we have to be disciplined,” said Bowman, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles, including half a sack.

What else is there for the 49ers (4-11) to play for in Sunday’s season finale against the St. Louis Rams (7-8) at Levi’s Stadium?

“Just trying to finish the season with the same amount of effort we went in with,” Bowman said. “Just want to finish strong.”

And without so many lack-of-discipline penalties.