49ers had chances in loss to Saints but injuries have erased margin for error

Given the names that dot their lengthy injured reserve list, the San Francisco 49ers will enter just about every game the rest of this season at a disadvantage when it comes to firepower.

That alone makes winning games -- especially on the road against an NFC contender like the New Orleans Saints -- a difficult proposition. It also means the 49ers aren't able to overcome the kind of self-inflicted errors they made Sunday.

Absent the likes of George Kittle, Nick Bosa, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman, the margin for error for these Niners is razor thin. That point was hammered home Sunday against the Saints as the Niners fell 27-13 in a game that was there for the taking.

The first quarter couldn't have gone much better for the Niners, who jumped out to a 10-0 lead and held the ball for more than 13 minutes. If there was a blueprint for an upset, the 49ers were following it. Alas, the 49ers couldn't get out of their own way.

Holding a 10-3 lead and set to get the ball back with 9:30 to go in the second quarter, Niners punt returner Trent Taylor called for a fair catch at San Francisco's 22. But Taylor inexplicably declined to make the catch, as it bounced, hit 49ers cornerback Ken Webster and the Saints recovered at the 21.

Five plays later, with the help of an abysmal roughing the passer penalty that nullified a sack, the Saints scored to tie it at 10. New Orleans soon took the lead and never trailed again.

It was the kind of error that a full-strength Niners team likely would have been able to overcome. It also wasn't the only costly mistake, as quarterback Nick Mullens threw a pair of interceptions and punt returner Richie James, replacing Taylor, muffed a return of his own in the fourth quarter.

In the 49ers' injury-ravaged new reality, there's no room for such miscues.

At 4-6 heading into a much-needed bye week, the Niners' season hangs by a thread. The time off should bring some reinforcements but even if it does, these 49ers have no chance to overcome their opponents and themselves.

QB breakdown: Mullens seemed to have a good rhythm in the early going as the Niners converted multiple third downs on the game's first drive. That didn't last long. He finished 24-of-38 for 247 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 68.7 as the Niners never found the end zone again after the opening drive.

Silver lining: Although his numbers haven't shown it, rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw has had some solid games in his first season. After a long wait, Kinlaw's talent turned into production Sunday against the Saints. Kinlaw registered his first career sack to kill a Saints drive in the third quarter, stuffed a third-down run to force a punt and threw off an early screen pass to end another drive. His final line: three tackles, 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits.

Kinlaw's development is important to San Francisco's future, so getting some results should only help his confidence moving forward.