Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan ‘very surprised’ at team’s performance in loss to Cardinals

Nov 7, 2021 at 5:49 PM--

Count 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan as being among those who were taken aback over the lopsided 31-17 home loss his team took at the hands of a depleted Arizona Cardinals team on Sunday.

The 49ers were slight favorites in the game, despite heading into the day with a losing record (3-4) while the Cardinals sat atop the NFC West at 7-1. That's because the Cardinals were without a number of key players, including quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle), wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), wide receiver A.J. Green (illness), and defensive end J.J. Watt (shoulder).

Those absences didn't make a difference in the end, as the Cardinals rode a strong performance from quarterback Colt McCoy (22-of-26, 249 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions) to put the 49ers in a 31-7 hole before cruising to the victory. The short-handed Cardinals rolled up 437 yards of total offense and held the ball for over 36 minutes while converting seven of 15 third downs.

Not many people saw that result coming, including Shanahan. He told reporters after the game he felt his team was well-prepared, and he seemed genuinely caught off-guard by the result.

"I was real disappointed," Shanahan said Sunday. "Thought we'd play really well. Had a good week of practice. I thought we'd even improve from the week prior. But obviously it didn't go that way."

Shanahan's sentiments on how the team felt before the game were echoed by the players, who agreed the team was in a good place mentally throughout the week.

"We had a great week of practice. We felt it," wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said following the game. "We felt the energy coming out earlier today. We felt it pretty much the entire week. But we started out turning the ball over, so it kind of goes that way."

Shanahan and the players also agreed that their performance on Sunday didn't come as a result of taking their foot off the gas after realizing they might not be facing Murray and the other key Cardinals players who were unavailable. Shanahan said he reminded his team before the game to maintain their focus and intensity regardless of who they might be facing at quarterback, but it didn't make a difference.

"I would hope not," Shanahan said. "That's something I aggressively talked about last night. For those guys to let down on it -- I think it came down to, you guys saw how we tackled out there. We didn't stop the run and we didn't stop those screens, which when you're giving up some explosive screens and all that free yardage, it didn't matter who was playing quarterback. We made it extremely easy on him."

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead was among those insisting there was no change in focus despite the injury issues the Cardinals had, especially considering where the 49ers were record-wise heading into the game.

"No, not at all," Armstead said. "That was something we talked about before. We knew all week that that might be a possibility. We can't take our foot off the pedal for anything. We were 3-4 at the time so we're trying to win every game we can."

The 49ers need to bounce back in a hurry with the 7-1 Los Angeles Rams coming to Levi's Stadium for next week's Monday Night Football matchup. Tight end George Kittle expects the team will be itching to put their latest defeat behind them and get the season back on the right track.

"If guys aren't inspired coming back next week, they're doing something wrong, and we're going to fix that," Kittle said.

But as of Sunday evening, the 49ers seemed to be at a bit of a loss over their latest performance. As Shanahan said, everything on their end seemed to be where they wanted it to be heading into Sunday, which won't make it any easier to pick up the pieces in the coming days.

"That's why I'm extremely disappointed," Shanahan said. "I'm obviously wrong, but I was very surprised that we didn't play well today. I thought we had a great week of practice. I thought guys were on it in the meetings all week, and I felt their energy before the game. I was very caught off by how we played."

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