Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs. Cardinals: Full positional grades and analysis for San Francisco

Oct 28, 2018 at 5:07 PM


The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals didn't exactly get out to a high-scoring affair in Week 8, ending in yet another woeful loss and a 18-15 defeat. Let's break down the positional grades for each 49ers unit.


If you were looking for an offensive feature, the Week 8 contest between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals wasn't for you. But if you were looking at yet another Niners fourth-quarter collapse, well...

Quarterback C.J. Beathard looked nothing like a signal-caller moderately capable of putting his team in a position to win. Three first-half sacks, of which at least two were on Beathard, indicated his pocket presence hadn't improved at all and the game would be a struggle for him under center over all four quarters. He finished the game having taken four sacks overall.

Yet the story of the game will be how Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen, along with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, combined to extend the Niners' losing streak to Arizona -- one that dates back to 2014. Fifteen fourth-quarter points ensured San Francisco's 15-3 lead wouldn't hold.

Bad teams figure out ways to lose games, even if those games are to other bad teams. And it likely points to the 49ers being the NFL's worst through eight weeks. Ouch.

Quarterback


Beathard was 14-of-27 for 190 yards and a touchdown -- all for a passer rating of 87.0.

Yeah. At least he didn't toss any interceptions.

It seemed as if Beathard was trying to avoid turning the ball over more than he was attempting to make key passes. And his poise within the pocket hasn't improved at all. That said, he managed to hit wide receiver Marquise Goodwin for a 55-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.

Grade: D

Running Back


Despite being questionable with an ankle injury, running back Matt Breida managed to churn out 42 yards on 16 carries. Those aren't impressive numbers, however, and he was held to just 2.6 yards per carry before being removed late with another injury setback against a Cardinals defense that entered the contest allowing more rush yards than anyone else in the NFL.

No. 3 running back Alfred Morris had 28 yards on six carries. And 26 of those came on one attempt.

Grade: D

Wide Receiver


With veteran wide receiver Pierre Garçon (knee) out, Beathard looked to get second-year pro Kendrick Bourne more involved in the passing game. It worked, sort of, as Bourne netted a team-leading 71 yards on seven receptions. Meanwhile, No. 1 wideout Marquise Goodwin managed the first touchdown of the game by both sides despite being blanketed by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. Goodwin's 55-yard touchdown score helped provide a key spark to San Francisco's second-half offense:


Goodwin finished the day with just that catch, though. Fellow receivers Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor were non-factors in the game against one of the poorer secondaries in the NFL.

Grade: C-

Tight End


Tight end George Kittle continues to be the 49ers' top weapon through the air. But the Cardinals did a good job of limiting him, holding Kittle to just 57 yards on five catches.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line


The Niners were also without center Weston Richburg (knee), which gave Erik Magnuson the start. Despite the four total sacks allowed to Beathard, many of those were on San Francisco's quarterback.

Still, the 49ers offensive line wasn't quite as potent in run support in the first half as it had been in recent weeks, largely due to Arizona loading the box trying to take away the run. After Goodwin's touchdown, though, it appeared as if the Cardinals needed to respect the pass game more. This certainly helped San Francisco's run-blocking efforts, which culminated in 107 total yards on the ground.


It didn't last, however. And remember how Magnuson had to start at center? The last snap of the game when the 49ers were desperately trying to tie things up is all you need to look at:


Grade: D+

Defensive Line


EDGE Cassius Marsh arguably had his best game for the 49ers this season, finishing with three tackles and a solid effort against both the pass and the run. He also generated the pressure on Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen in the end zone that resulted in an intentional-grounding call, giving the Niners a safety and their first points of the contest:


But Marsh isn't an every-down edge rusher, and the lack of a pure pass rush certainly led to Arizona's fourth-quarter comeback. Rosen had all the time in the world with which to work on those two touchdown drives.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Arik Armstead managed to pick up a sack. Fellow defensive tackle Ronald Blair continued to impress too, registering a sack and three tackles in the game. And it's pretty clear defensive end Solomon Thomas needs to stay inside instead of being on the edge.

Grade: C

Linebacker


Missed tackles weren't quite as big a problem for this crop as they had been in recent weeks, but rookie linebacker Fred Warner missed his ninth tackle of the year late in the second quarter. He made up for it later by recovering a key lost fumble by Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham in the fourth quarter. Fellow linebacker Reuben Foster also suffered a hamstring injury late in the first half and was replaced by Elijah Lee, who played well.

Foster was also flagged for a 26-yard pass-interference penalty, which hurt and led to a Cardinals field goal.

Grade: C+

Secondary


With safety Adrian Colbert (ankle) on injured reserve, the 49ers elected to place defensive back Jimmie Ward at free safety. It seemed to work, as Ward looked far more comfortable in this center-fielder role and managed a total of three tackles. Meanwhile, strong safety Jaquiski Tartt also recorded only the second 49ers interception of the year, which led to a field goal at the 1:41 mark of the second quarter.

Tartt later exited the game with a shoulder injury and didn't return.

Richard Sherman also logged a sack on a cornerback -- the first of which he's had since 2012. But he allowed a 37-yard pass to Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald too, although that was more on just how good Fitzgerald is than anything Sherman did wrong.

Fitzgerald found the end zone shortly thereafter, beating backup safety Tyvis Powell in coverage. And wide receiver Christian Kirk's go-ahead touchdown with just under a minute in regulation also was pegged on Powell.

Want a scapegoat? There you go.

Grade: D

Special Teams


Punt returner Dante Pettis muffed a punt midway through the third quarter, which would have been disastrous if 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee hadn't recovered it.

Kicker Robbie Gould made both of his field-goals. And kick returner Richie James had 52 yards off two kickoffs.

Grade: B

There's no other way around it. The 49ers are that bad right now. When one thing appears to be going well, especially no turnovers lost, other issues rear their ugly heads. San Francisco's defense fell apart late in the fourth quarter, although one has to always tip the cap to the perennial Niners killer, Fitzgerald.

Blame whatever you want, San Francisco doesn't have the talent. It's roster isn't deep. Coaching has been questionable and injuries have hurt beyond just the obvious pun.

And with this loss to what is still a terrible Cardinals squad going through its own turmoil, the Niners' 2018 campaign has now hit a new low.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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