Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Lost in Loss to Cardinals

Gilbert Brink
Sep 14, 2020 at 7:18 AM


Wake up, Kyle Shanahan. As of September 14th 2020, Super Bowl 55 looks like a distant pipe dream.

Yesterday, the San Francsico 49ers fell to the Arizona Cardinals in the opener of the 2020 NFL season. After getting off to a blazing start, jumping out to a 10-0 lead, the 49ers couldn't keep the heat on and lost at home to a team that accumulated only 5 wins in 2019. This Cardinals team isn't special. Often fans can find solace in a loss by heaping praise upon the opponent. Not today. Arizona signal caller QB Kyler Murray will be praised in the media for his efforts, but in reality, Murray was inaccurate often and relied heavily on newly acquired star WR DeAndre Hopkins to carry him through this one. Murray threw the ball 40 times for 230 yards, registering a measly 5.8 yards per attempt.

As a passer, Murray didn't impress. As a runner, he did. The 49ers struggled badly in 2019 against running quarterbacks. New season, same problem. The 49ers were puzzled again by a running quarterback and it was too much for them to handle this time around. Another issue from 2019 plagued the 49ers as well: interior pass protection. Week 1 of 2020 felt like the 4th quarter of Super Bowl 54. QB Jimmy Garoppolo was consistently pressured up the middle and couldn't find the time or the composure to find receivers down the field. If the 49ers are going to make another run at the Super Bowl, they can't continue to be haunted by the issues they couldn't fix a year ago.

Overall, the 49ers looked lost. Whether it was the lack of fans in the stands, the lack of WRs on the field, or the lack of fire on the sideline, the 49ers couldn't answer the bell against a lesser opponent. Here are my key takeaways from the 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

What Went Right


No Blunders for Jimmy (sort of) - One of the maddening aspects of the Jimmy Garoppolo experience is the 1 or 2 inexplicable, awful, and turnover-worthy throws per game by the 49ers quarterback. Garoppolo wasn't stellar Sunday, but he avoided those types of mistakes, which is a sign of progress. He did make one terrible throw late in the game to RB Jerick McKinnon, who was covered by 3 Cardinals. That pass was intercepted, but wiped out by a pass-interference call. So, Jimmy looks improved in this category, sort of.

Pass Catching Backfield - This can be seen as a positive and a negative. The 49ers backfield recorded 9 catches for 162 yards and 2 TDs (Mostert 4 for 95, 1 TD; Juszczyk 1 for 41; McKinnon 3 for 20, 1 TD; and Coleman 1 for 6). HC Kyle Shanahan wants backs who can catch the ball and it appears he has them. The negative part of this? 49ers WRs accounted for only 4 catches and 41 yards.

Return of the Jet - After 2 long years, the 49ers finally got to see RB Jerick McKinnon play a meaningful down for the team. Jet got the ball 6 times and gained 44 yards; 24 on the ground and 20 through the air. It appeared at one point that he may have scored the game-winning touchdown, but unfortunately the defense couldn't help give McKinnon his magic moment.

What Went Wrong


Kinlaw is a Ghost - The 49ers' 14th overall pick, DT Javon Kinlaw, was a complete non-factor in Week 1. He isn't ready to play and the 49ers know it. Kinlaw was rarely seen on the field. Instead, the 49ers opted for UDFA Kevin Givens, journeyman Kerry Hyder Jr., and former first-round bust Solomon Thomas. While the 49ers love to rotate their defensive line, Kinlaw was not a featured player in these rotations. It's the first game of his career, but even Solomon Thomas made more of an impact in his first start. When he was on the field, Kinlaw made no impact at all. Not only did he fail to make a play, he didn't even bring any pressure. Meanwhile, WR CeeDee Lamb, picked 17th by the Cowboys, had 5 catches for 59 yards on Sunday Night Football. Boy, I'd trade Kinlaw for Lamb in a heartbeat.

Scorched Secondary - Cardinals QB Kyler Murray threw for only 230 yards, but WR DeAndre Hopkins had a career-high 14 catches for 151 yards. In big spots, the secondary consistently failed to show up. The Cardinals were 7 for 14 on 3rd downs, much better than the 49ers' 2 for 11. 49ers up-and-coming CB Emmanuel Moseley was routinely beat by Hopkins leading to the latter's career day. On 3rd and 6 from the SF 34 trailing 20-17 with 5:18 left in the 4th quarter, the secondary blew a coverage, which resulted in a 33-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins and set up the Cardinals inside the 49ers' 1-yard line. The 49ers had the #1 ranked pass defense in 2019. Where was that unit yesterday?

Wide Receivers' Lost Opportunity - With top WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk sidelined, the 49ers had a gap at the pass catching position. Against a poor pass defense (Cardinals ranked 31st in pass defense in 2019), the opportunity was there for WRs Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, and Trent Taylor to step up and have big games. No one did. Bourne played the best out of the group, but a returning Trent Taylor disappointed (2 catches, 7 yards) and the much maligned Dante Pettis contributed nothing (aside from the low-light of failing to dive for a deep ball from Garoppolo). The 49ers desperately need a receiver to step up. Deebo Samuel will be out until at least Week 4 and Aiyuk cannot be relied on due to a hamstring injury. With the interior o-line failing to protect the QB, wide receivers are going to have to win early and get open for this offense to stay on the field.

What's Next


49ers @ New York Jets Sunday September 20th @ 1 p.m.

Thankfully for 49ers fans, the New York Jets are the next opponent. The Jets were destroyed by the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 and played like one of the worst teams in football. Jets QB Sam Darnold doesn't present the challenges that the shifty Kyler Murray did in Week 1. The 49ers front 4 should be able to harass Darnold into making bad plays often. The Jets WRs may somehow be worse than the 49ers WRs who took the field in Week 1. There will be no DeAndre Hopkins to worry about and the 49ers defense should roll over the XFL's New York Jets offense. On offense, the 49ers won't need much to put up points against this Jets team. Expect a heavy dose of the run game and a 49ers offense getting fat off of short fields coming from NYJ's big mistakes. The 49ers get healthy in this one and put up a lot of points against a very bad team. Don't let this game fool you, the 49ers still have a long way to go to set this ship right.
The views 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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