Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Rapid Reaction to the 49ers’ 24-20 Loss to the Cardinals

Matt Andruscavage
Sep 13, 2020 at 9:55 PM


1) The Cardinals are good


While the 49ers should have been able to get a win today, let's not lose sight of the improvements made by the Arizona Cardinals. DeAndre Hopkins dominated the secondary today with 14 catches for 151 yards. He was open a lot and the 49ers were not able to give much of an answer for his play today. Kyler Murray ran for 91 yards, passed for 230 yards, and had two total touchdowns. The ground game was good, their defense was scrappy, and their playcalling was not predictable.

San Francisco had a lot of opportunities, which I'll go into, but the performance by the Cardinals should not be discounted. They are a playoff contender and will not be an easy out this year. They still have weaknesses, especially if you can force Murray to throw on third and long, but Arizona is a team nobody will look forward to playing.

2) San Francisco - the Good


Since it's probably obvious there is more bad to talk about than good, I'll get it out of the way. After digesting the game, the screaming on social media, and then re-watching, I found a handful of positives that will come into play during the rest of the season.

On offense, Jerick McKinnon showed what has been missing in Kyle Shanhan's offense: a reliable receiving threat out of the backfield. It was great to see "Jet" catch three passes, including one for a touchdown. Once the offense gets going on all cylinders, McKinnon will be an "x factor" and a matchup problem.

Kendrick Bourne is still a legitimate target, especially on third downs. Trent Williams is a heck of an addition and kept Chandler Jones at bay. Raheem Mostert somewhat picked up where he left off last year, especially on his 76-yard catch and run touchdown pass.

The defense started off pretty strong and things looked like they were going to go in the right direction. There were more blitzes, more pressure, and it didn't look like the unit was going to be fooled by short passes and zone read plays. While it didn't last, we finally saw a safety get a regular season interception and there were no injuries to report.

As far as Jimmy Garoppolo, I'll get to him, but he did not turn the ball over and San Francisco was in a position to win after he led a drive to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter and then nearly led a game-winning drive that resembled last season's win at home over the same Cardinals.

San Francisco may not always play great, but the team doesn't panic and is usually in a position to have a chance to win the game, though it fell short today.

3) The Weird and Annoying


Before I break down the real cause of the loss, this was a frustrating game. The officiating was aggravating at best. It may be time to take a second look at the rule that protects quarterbacks when they slide. At least twice we saw Kyler Murray scramble and slide into a defender who was going full throttle. One time he lunged forward like a running back and the defender even let up. These 15-yard ticky-tack penalties extend drives and absolutely kill defensive momentum.

Arizona's first score seemed like the ball did not break the plane, but merely grazed the pylon. Then Kyler Murray committed, we all thought, an intentional grounding penalty in the endzone, which would have awarded the 49ers with a much needed two points. Instead, there was no real look at it as there was an illegal contact penalty on the defense. It seemed like it should have at least been offsetting penalties. Was I the only one who thought Kwon Alexander was completely held on DeAndre Hopkins' long run that took Arizona to the 49ers' one-yard line?

Ultimately, the refs did not cost the Niners the game, but there were some real head-scratching calls and there were times that San Francisco did not receive the same treatment. That said, Arizona did get flagged for a handful of holding penalties, so it's not like the officiating was lopsided.

This game was within reach, but there were a handful of key plays that kept Arizona in the game. The blocked punt was the turning point. Arizona looked like it was going to get run out of the building until the blocked punt set it up deep in 49er territory. Next was the failure to score in the second quarter from the one-yard line on 4th down. The offensive line had to make a lane for a yard and it didn't happen.

How could defensive coordinator Robert Saleh allow such a soft defensive approach at the end of the first half? The 49ers were up 13-7 with thirty seconds to go and Arizona was able to march right down and come away with 3 huge points. That should never have happened.

Lastly, the would-be touchdown to Kendrick Bourne should have at least ended up being a defensive pass interference penalty to set up San Francisco with first and goal from the one. Patrick Peterson did not play the ball after he got beat on a double move. The ball was held up by the wind (as tweeted out by Matt Maiocco) and floated, but all Bourne had to do was go for the ball instead of waiting for it. Peterson would have collided with him but since he wasn't playing the ball, it would have been a no-brainer pass interference call. The 49ers simply let this game slip through their fingers.

And finally, I'll just throw this out there: the simulated crowd noise was annoying. I realize what the NFL is trying to do and there aren't a lot of good options, but the game definitely didn't feel the same.

4) Jimmy Garoppolo


I'm not going to hold Garoppolo completely responsible for this game. Sorry, not sorry. Social media wants to largely claim he is a second rate quarterback and it's ridiculous, especially after one game. He had his problems today, but he was only part of the reason the 49ers lost.

He did miss throws, he did not throw to the open man every time, and there were times he looked mediocre. The one thing for sure that has to improve is his ball placement. There are too many times he is putting the ball behind the receiver and it has to get better. I will agree with the criticism on the final play. The ball should have come out faster.

I'll get to the rest of the reasons they lost, but while Jimmy Garoppolo was a part of the reason, he was not the sole reason. What is frustrating is that we all want to see him blossom into an elite quarterback. He is being paid like one and he has shown flashes. It has not all come together yet and this loss was difficult to take. It's one game and he gets part of the blame. This time. If we continue to see this, the heavy criticism will be valid and much harder to ignore.

5) Everything Else


Another big reason for the loss besides the injuries to the offensive line and receivers was the playcalling on offense. It seemed too basic and even predictable at times. There needed to be a way to get Kittle a few targets in the second half. With the offensive line woes, it seemed like the 49ers needed to take a page out of Arizona's playbook and get the ball out faster on screens and other high percentage routes to be able to win on first and second downs. Instead, we saw way too many drive-killing sacks and incompletions.

The offense simply did not have it today, whether it was the playcalling, the lack of receivers, the beat-up offensive line, or poor quarterback play. The offense put the defense in bad shape, keeping it on the field way too long. Arizona out-49er'ed the 49ers in long drives and keeping the offense on the bench.

All of this said, it's one game. San Francisco can right the ship next week and in the coming weeks, but everything has to get better quickly. Lastly, besides the George Kittle injury scare (which appears to be minor at best), the only other injury to report is to Richie James Jr., who left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. No word yet on its severity.

Next up, Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
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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