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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan says Jimmy Garoppolo, offense have to play better after 49ers’ loss to Cardinals

Sep 13, 2020 at 6:02 PM--

There's plenty of blame to go around for the 49ers' 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but one place the team will need to find some answers in a hurry is on offense, particularly in the passing game.

On the surface, the numbers the 49ers put up through the air on Sunday don't look too bad, with starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finishing with 259 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 103.0 rating on 19 of 33 passing. But on Sunday there were certainly some inconsistencies in Garoppolo's game, which showed up on third and fourth downs in particular.

The 49ers converted just two of 11 third-down opportunities on Sunday, while also falling short on each of their two chances on fourth down. One of Garoppolo's touchdown passes came on a third-and-five play to running back Jerick McKinnon, but he also fell short on multiple key opportunities at other points in the game, including third and fourth down attempts from the Cardinals' 16-yard line during the game's final possession.

In his postgame press conference, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan singled out those missed opportunities as a big reason the team ended up on the losing end Sunday. Shanahan assessed Garoppolo's performance by saying he needed to play better but also said the shortcomings on offense were a team issue -- one that included the head coach.

"He had some good plays in there, but just like the entire offense, just missed a number of opportunities that it was going to take to win that game," Shanahan said. "We had a couple there. He's got to play better. We've all got to play better on offense especially. It starts with me."

What went wrong for Garoppolo and the offense against the Cardinals? It was in large part a matter of consistency.

"I don't think we got into a very good rhythm," Garoppolo said following the game. "One drive would be great, one would be not so good. The consistency, that's what wins games in football, especially in the NFL. The more consistent you can be, starting with myself, it's going to make everything a lot easier."

It didn't help that Garoppolo was without two of his top receivers Sunday due to injury (Brandon Aiyuk, hamstring; Deebo Samuel, foot) and that a third (Richie James, hamstring) left the game early, leaving the team with just three active receivers in Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, and Trent Taylor. The 49ers were also playing under the unusual circumstances brought upon them by COVID-19, which include having no preseason and having no home stadium fans to cheer them on. But given what the team was able to do during its NFC Championship run last season, the failure to convert when the game was on the line still came as a big disappointment to all involved.

"We were in that situation plenty of times last year," Garoppolo said. "Obviously it was a little different today without the crowd. That gameday feel, it just wasn't there. But it just comes down to execution, like I said. Especially in the last couple minutes like that, every play's crucial, every yard's crucial. We just didn't execute when we needed to."

Sunday's loss might seem like a wake-up call for the 49ers, who are expected by many to compete for a Super Bowl berth this season after falling just short of winning that game in 2019. Shanahan shrugged off the "wake-up call" talk after the game by saying "That's how football goes," but also left no doubt that there's a lot of work to be done on offense for this team to get back to where it was in 2019.

"We didn't do good in any situation on third downs," Shanahan said. "It starts with obviously we didn't have a good enough plan, and then it goes to everyone else. When you're 0-for, it's never just one thing, it's a number of things. They did a good job on their defense, they did a good third down plan, but I know we can do better than that."

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