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During the second matchup between these two squads last season, the San Francisco 49ers kept it competitive and lost a close game to the Arizona Cardinals. On Thursday night, they were not as competitive. Ugly and painful to watch does not begin to describe the performance that the 49ers showed during the primetime game. The Cardinals were without starting quarterback Carson Palmer and the 49ers had OLB Aaron Lynch returning from a four-game suspension. Drew Stanton got the start at quarterback for Arizona.
The game was considered by many to be a must-win for QB Blaine Gabbert. Having performed so badly for most of the season, many have been wondering if a change at quarterback might take place soon. The 49ers offense was looking to get out of their funk against the Cardinals. How did they do on their very first offensive possession? The Gabbert led 49ers offense lost a yard and went 3-and-out. Two incompletions and a loss by RB Carlos Hyde forced the 49ers to punt early.
Neither team was particularly impressive for most of the first half. Most of it featured a lot of dropped passes, a lot of bad quarterback play, and a whole lot of punting. In fact, it took nearly 26 minutes of play for the first points to get on the board. Luckily for fans at Levi's Stadium, it was the 49ers that scored first. With 4:17 left in the first half, Gabbert threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to WR Jeremy Kerley, the 49ers' leading receiver this season. The score capped off a 10-play, 87-yard drive that put the 49ers up 7-0.
With under two minutes left in the half, OLB Chandler Jones deflected a Gabbert pass and the football landed in the arms of DE Calais Campbell. It only took one play for the Cardinals to take advantage of the turnover, scoring on a 21-yard touchdown pass from QB Drew Stanton to WR Larry Fitzgerald to tie things up at 7 before the half.
During the first half, Gabbert was 8 of 16 for 96 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while Hyde was held 42 yards on 12 carries. The 49ers defense held the Cardinals to just 118 yards of total offense and just 53 yards passing.
CB Chris Davis kicked off the second half by fumbling the football on the opening kickoff. Arizona recovered at the San Francisco 14-yard line and after three plays, lost a yard and kicked a field goal. However, CB Rashard Robinson, the 49ers' highest-graded player (per Pro Football Focus) during the team's previous game, ran into the kicker and kept the drive alive. On the very next play, RB David Johnson ran into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown and gave the Cardinals a 14-7 lead to open the half.
The 49ers answered with something that has become all too familiar this season – a 3-and-out. Another good drive by Arizona ended with another touchdown pass from Stanton to Fitzgerald, increasing the Cardinals lead to 21-7. Following the score, the fans in the stands started chants of "We want Kap," referring to backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert remained in the game.
On the ensuing drive, the 49ers marched down the field, going 82 yards in 11 plays and scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard Hyde run to cut the Arizona lead down to a touchdown. Gabbert rushed for 44 yards on the drive.
The 49ers started off the fourth quarter with another turnover. Gabbert, trying to hit Kerley, was intercepted by CB Marcus Cooper. The Cardinals would capitalize on the mistake with a field goal, which extended their lead to 24-14.
Protecting their 10-point lead, the Cardinals ate 7:12 off of the clock in the fourth quarter with a 12-play, 76-yard drive, scoring at the end on a 2-yard touchdown run by Johnson. That put the game out of reach for the 49ers with the Cardinals now leading 31-14 with under 5 minutes to play. Much to the dismay of the fans in the stadium, Gabbert remained in the game for San Francisco.
With the game already decided, the 49ers were able to march down the field on a 75-yard drive and score with under 2 minutes remaining in the game. A 1-yard touchdown run by Gabbert got the 49ers within 10, but a safety against Gabbert would end the game with a 33-21 loss to the Cardinals.
17 of Arizona's 31 points came off of 49ers turnovers. The Cardinals did not give up a turnover. RB David Johnson gained 157 yards against the Jim O'Neil coached 49ers defense, which came into the game ranked as the worst defense against the run. Johnson's 157 yards were the most by a running back in any game so far this season.
|Penalties (Yds)||7 (50)||4 (34)|
|Punts (AVG)||9 (42)||7 (46)|
|Time of Pos.||31:06||28:16|
49ers WR Jeremy Kerley led the team in receiving with 102 yards. It was the first time that a San Francisco receiver had over 100 yards in 15 games. Gabbert ended the game 18 of 31 for 162 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Once again, Hyde was held to under 100 yards, gaining 78 on the ground with a touchdown. Hyde only has one 100-plus yard rushing game this season.
The 49ers next game will be on Sunday, October 16 when the team travels to Orchard Park, New York to face the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.
CB Chris Davis had a large brace on his leg and was on a single crutche following the game.
Notes and Quotes
49ers players are off until Tuesday.
49ers head coach Chip Kelly said that you're not going to win football games when you are -3 on turnovers.
"I don't think anybody (including Gabbert) played well," said Kelly.
Regarding a possible quarterback change, Kelly said they are not going to talk about that tonight, but they will look at everything.
Kelly said that there was no discussion during the game about a change at quarterback.
"They're hurting a lot right now and should be," said Kelly regarding the mood of the 49ers players following the game.
Kelly reaffirmed that Gabbert has outperformed Kaepernick in practice.
"I've got to do a better job protecting the football," said Gabbert following the game.
"Got to find a way to get a win next week," said Gabbert.