The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the 49ers’ 28-18 Loss to the Cardinals

Photo credit: @49ers

By: Joe Lami

SANTA CLARA–Any optimism left in the 2018 season for the 49ers walked out of Levi’s Stadium disgusted on Sunday after the Arizona Cardinal’s picked up their first win of the season with a 28-18 victory over San Francisco.

The Niners can’t seem to shake the constants in their season that continue to cost them games. Injuries, penalties, turnovers, and missed tackles continue to be the Achilles heel of the red and gold, and there’s no sign of the bleeding to come to an end. On Sunday, injuries and turnovers once again delivered the knock-out blow.

The Ugly
Statistics show that when a team is minus-one in the turnover differential mark, they have an 80% chance of losing the game. On Sunday, the 49ers coughed up the ball five times, while the Cardinals didn’t lose the ball once.

Four of them came from C.J. Beathard with two interceptions and two strip sacks, including a scoop and score that gave Arizona a 21-12 lead and ended the game.

The other turnover came on Raheem Mostert’s first carry of the season before Patrick Peterson returned it 49 yards, setting up Arizona’s second TD.

The only reason Mostert even touched the ball was due to injury. After rushing eight times for 56 yards, including a long of 17 yards, it looked like Matt Breida was once again off to an explosive start. That is, until his eighth carry of the game, when he went down with a left ankle sprain that prevented him from returning.

The Bad
After the Niners scored first, they, of course, missed the extra point attempt due to a bad snap. Robbie Gould didn’t even attempt to kick it.

Arizona didn’t take long to come right back in it. On his best play of the day, Josh Rosen immediately went deep and hooked up with Christian Kirk on a 75-yard play action pass that found the end zone. The Cardinals did make the extra point to go up 7-6.

The 49ers pass rush remains one of the worst in all of football. Despite, holding Rosen to an abysmal 10-of-25 for 170 yards, the Niners were only able to sack him once and hit him four times.

The lone sack came from Cassius Marsh, caused by a bad snap that Rosen had to pick up. The three other QB hits came from DeForest Buckner, who remains the only playmaker the defense seems to have.

With a rookie quarterback that is struggling on the worst team in the league, the defense needs to be better. Instead, they let him walk in and collect the first win of his career throwing only nine completions for 95 yards after his first play of the game.

David Johnson found the end zone twice for the Cardinals. Thanks to excellent field position, he was held to a total of 55 yards, but still finished with a productive day with his second coming in garbage time in the fourth quarter to extend Arizona’s lead to 28-12.

On top of the missed PAT from Robbie Gould, he also missed a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that ended his franchise-long 33 straight field goals made.

The Good
There aren’t too many positives to take from San Francisco’s most embarrassing loss in recent memory, especially when you have five turnovers. However, on the drives where San Francisco didn’t turnover the ball, it wasn’t completely awful.

On the opening drive, Beathard found rhythm with Kyle Juszczyk connecting on two big plays for a combined 44 yards that led the team down the field. The Niners cruised down the field before Breida found paydirt on a quick shovel pass from Beathard for the opening score.

Juszczyk caught six of the seven passes sent his way for 75 yards.

Beathard’s numbers looked okay too (of course, minus the turnovers). He threw 34-of-53 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. He once again worked well with George Kittle, who’s beginning to look like the only weapon left on defense. Kittle caught five passes for 83 yards, including the Niners’ biggest offensive play of the day at 45 yards.

The Niners racked up 447 yards of total offense and held the ball for an astonishing 40:12, but again gave the ball up five times.

Of course, there’s no silver lining when your team loses at home to the worst team in football, except for the fact that the Faithful will give up on the season and pull for a better draft pick.

Hey, the Niners just moved ahead of Arizona on the draft board.

49ers seek sixth straight win in regular season finale in Arizona

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (11-4) will be facing off with the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) in the regular season finale, at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers are in second place in the NFC West, one game behind the Seattle Seahawks. They will clinch a division title with a win Sunday and a Seahawks loss. They have already sealed a playoff birth. The Cardinals are in third in the NFC West, one game back of San Francisco. To get into the playoffs Arizona must win, along with a New Orleans Saints loss.

Last weekend the 49ers outlasted the Atlanta Falcons, winning 34-24, in Candlestick’s swan song. The game remained close throughout, with a huge NaVorro Bowman 89-yard interception return with 1:10 remaining in the game hammering the final nail in the coffin. Colin Kaepernick completed 13-of-21 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 51 yards on the ground and a rushing score. Frank Gore rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Michael Crabtree continues to shake the rust off, and had five receptions and 102 yards. Vernon Davis was uncharacteristically held without a catch on three targets.

San Francisco had more trouble than some expected last weekend with the struggling Falcons, but still got the job done. They have won five straight and are looking to make it six before heading into the playoffs. To get to number six they’ll have a tough task, having to beat one of the league’s hottest squads in the Cardinals. They’ve won three straight, including a big upset over Seattle last weekend, and are 7-1 in their last eight contests.

Arizona’s offense has been very middle of the road this season. At quarterback veteran Carson Palmer can still make plays, but is mistake prone. He is among the league leaders with 21 interceptions. At wide receiver he has the always dangerous Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. He has been slowed due to injuries this season, but remains a threat. Michael Floyd has emerged as a strong secondary threat, and leads the team in receiving yards. Rashard Mendenhall has been their go-to back for much of the season, but Andre Ellington has proven to be an explosive change of pace option. As a unit they rank 16th in the NFL in points per game.

The Cardinals defense is far and away their strongest asset. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is having a great season, Patrick Peterson has stepped into his own in the secondary, and the pass-rushing two-headed monster of Calais Campbell and John Abraham have been a force. They allow the sixth fewest points per game, and are especially stout against the run. Surrendering just 84.5 rushing yards per game, they are the league’s best.

This matchup will be a classic case of great running game going up against a great run defense. In their week 6 meeting, Frank Gore still managed to run for 101 yards on 25 carries, but the Cardinals have been at their best recently. Look for Kaepernick and an ever-improving Crabtree to make some significant moves in the passing attack, where Arizona is much more vulnerable.

49ers seeking revenge against Seahawks

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (8-4) face off against their division rival Seattle Seahawks (11-1), at Candlestick Park. The 49ers are in second place in the NFC West and currently sit in the sixth and final playoff spot out of the NFC. The Seahawks are in first place in the NFC West, three games up on San Francisco.

Last weekend the 49ers won their second consecutive game, a 23-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams. The 10 point win makes the game look closer than it was, as the game was largely dominated by San Francisco. The Rams didn’t score a touchdown until garbage time, with 18 seconds left in the game. In an outing that was a little out of character, it was the 49ers passing attack that did most of the damage. Colin Kaepernick completed 19 of 28 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. Michael Crabtree made his 2013-14 debut, catching two passes for 68 yards. Anquan Boldin led the team with nine receptions for 98 yards, and Vernon Davis hauled in his 10th touchdown catch of the season. Frank Gore had a relatively quiet afternoon, rushing for 42 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Kaepernick’s play has seen an uptick in recent weeks. The 275 yards through the air are the most he has compiled since Week 1. With Crabtree still working his way back into the fold, their pass offense should only get better from here.

Gore, on the other hand, has struggled a bit to get things going. He hasn’t rushed for more than 48 yards over the past three weeks, with just one touchdown over that stretch.

Both will need to be on their A games this week, as the extremely tough Seahawks come into town. On Monday Night Seattle made one of the better teams in the league, the New Orleans Saints, look like a JV squad. Thankfully for the 49ers, the Seahawks don’t play quite as well on the road, but they are none-the-less one of the best teams in football. Back in Week 2 when these teams played in Seattle, San Francisco was overwhelmed, losing 29-3.

The Seahawks offense is led by impressive sophomore QB Russell Wilson. Like Kaepernick, he is just as likely to hurt you with his arm as he is with his legs. He has been on a hot streak, throwing for two or more touchdowns in six consecutive games. He spreads the ball around, but his favorite targets this season have been Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. They are a run-first team, however, with most of the work going to powerhouse Marshawn Lynch. As a unit they have scored the second most points per game in the league this season.

It is their defense that really makes them such a daunting task, however. Seven different players have recorded two or more sacks this season, and eight have at least one interception. Richard Shermon is the stalwart in the secondary, and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennet are the big pass rushers. They have allowed the fewest total yards in the NFL, and allow the second least points per game.

Their defense does have an Achilles heel, and that is their run defense. They are a very pedestrian 16th in the league, which is going to be an area the 49ers need to key in on in order to revenge their Week 2 loss. In Week 2 they ran the ball just 20 times, compared to 28 pass attempts. Nine of those 20 came from Kaepernick scrambles. For a team who thrives the most when playing a ground and pound game, and features Gore, that can’t be the same ratio this time around.

Look for Crabtree to try and open up some things through the air, but the Seahawks are so elite at defending the pass, that San Francisco’s success hinges on their ability to run the ball.

The injury report hasn’t change much since last week, but one of the few changes is a big one. Tackle Joe Staley left last weekends game in the first quarter, and has since been diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He will miss the showdown with the Seahawks, and his timetable for recovery beyond that is uncertain. Kaepernick, Gore, and company will certainly miss him up against the leagues best defense.

49ers at Seahawks, week 2 preview

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday, September 15 at 5:30 PM, the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) will be taking on their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Last season the Seahawks surprised many by finishing the season 11-5 just behind the 49ers in the NFC West, and clinched a Wild Card birth. In the playoffs they were eliminated by the Atlanta Falcons in a tightly contest divisional playoff matchup, losing by a final score of 30-28. The upstart Seattle squad, led by QB Russell Wilson, brings an extremely talented team back this season who most expect to once again challenge San Francisco for the NFC West division crown.

Last weekend the 49ers came away with a victory over the Green Bay Packers in what turned into another high scoring affair, 34-28. These two NFL powerhouses traded scores four times before San Francisco managed to grab onto the lead for good with just under six minutes remaining in the game. Colin Kaepernick and new wide receiver Anquan Boldin were the unquestioned stars from this one. Kaepernick, who is perhaps known best for his running ability, showed that he can beat you with his arm as well, throwing for a career high 412 yards and three touchdowns. Boldin, who was acquired via trade this past offseason from the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth round draft pick, clearly wanted to make a good first impression in his debut. He hauled in 13 receptions for an incredible 208 yards and a touchdown. That total was just nine yards shy of his career high.

The 49ers hope to carry their momentum from the big win in their season opener into week 2, which presents another tough matchup. Kaepernick already appears to be living up to the hype and then some in his sophomore season. In addition, their offense seemed to barely miss a beat despite the loss of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Their defense didn’t perform like most have gotten used to seeing, but Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense isn’t one that any time will have an easy time totally keeping in check. They limited their run game, managed to get to Rodgers for a couple of sacks, and rookie safety Eric Reid had seven tackles and an interception in an impressive debut.

Despite Wilson’s talents, the Seattle offense isn’t as explosive as Green Bay’s, but their defense is stronger. So they will prove to be a very different puzzle for coach John Harbaugh and company to solve. Last weekend the Seahawks struggled more than most expected they would against the Carolina Panthers, losing for much of the game before squeaking out a victory with a late come back. It remains to be seen whether it was more of a statement about Seattle or Carolina, but regardless a hard fought game should be expected this weekend.

For these two teams who had almost identical records last season and split the season series, expect more fireworks to fly when they renew this budding rivalry, even if they are more of the gritty hardnosed variety rather than the highflying action seen last week.