Throughout California, skies were hazy due to the multiple fires raging throughout the state and along the west coast of the country. For the San Francisco 49ers, it looked like the hazy conditions applied to more than just the air quality. Today we take a look at the disappointing loss at home, to the rival Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers entered Sunday’s game without wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Essentially, the wide receiver group consisted of Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, and Richie James Jr. Of Jimmy Garoppolo’s 19 completions on Sunday, a total of four receptions came from the wide receiver group. Kendrick Bourne was the game’s most productive 49ers receiver with two receptions for 34 yards. Bourne should have added a touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter but a slightly underthrown ball deflected off the back of the helmet of Arizona cornerback, Patrick Peterson. Bourne to his credit, took responsibility for the play as he later tweeted about the need to attack the football.
I Gotta attack the ball! 😤 sorry faithful we gonna bounce back!
— Kendrick Bourne Poly (@BournePoly11) September 14, 2020
Head coach, Kyle Shanahan, stated at the post-game press conference that the game plan did not call for many looks at the wide receivers. The lack of trust in the position group could be seen often as the offense sputtered without bonafide receiving threats outside of tight end George Kittle. Of course, a bad game by the receiving corps wouldn’t be complete without another disappearance of Dante Pettis. The third-year wideout was listed as available and played 73% of the offensive snaps. He was targeted just once.
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Defense Loses Itself
The defensive gameplan against the Cardinals seemed to be to play coverage and protect against the deep ball to DeAndre Hopkins. The plan itself worked as the Cardinals’ biggest pass play came from an underneath route that resulted in a 33-yard game. However, Hopkins and quarterback Kyler Murray feasted on the short game against the San Francisco defense. Hopkins finished with 14 receptions for 151 receiving yards. Were it not for a scoring review that ruled him a half-yard short, Hopkins would have added his first touchdown as an Arizona Cardinals player.
Arizona utilized quick throws to negate a 49ers pass rush which routinely pressed the pocket. This was helped by the soft coverage often played on the outside against Hopkins and other Arizona receivers. Then came the elusiveness of Kyler Murray. The second-year quarterback slipped out of a handful of sacks on the day, often finding enough time to spot an open receiver or throw the ball away. He also gashed the 49ers defense on the ground for a total of 91 yards on 13 carries, including a 22-yard scoring run which gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game. Further compounding the issue was a handful of ill-timed penalties on the defense, keeping scoring drives alive for the Cardinals. It has been a poor performance for the defense in the last two games.
Not So Gucci
The first half performance from the 49ers’ offense was quite effective. There was a failure on one goalline attempt but it was an otherwise smooth first half. That was until an errant throw that changed the entire landscape of the game. Jimmy Garoppolo missed high on a throw to the flat to tight end, George Kittle. The throw forced Kittle to jump into the air and when he landed, he was immediately tackled by Arizona safety, Budda Baker. Unfortunately, Kittle landed a bit flat-footed and his left knee buckled due to the impact. Kittle missed the next play and went directly to the locker room after that.
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Although he returned after halftime and missed only a single offensive snap, it was clear to see that Kittle was not fully healthy. It was later revealed that he suffered a sprained knee. Kittle’s injury further crippled an already anemic passing game for San Francisco. In the second half, Garoppolo struggled with errant passes and was unable to move on to his other reads. He was saved late in the game by a pass interference call that negated an interception. On the play, Garoppolo forced a throw near the sideline to Jerick McKinnon. However, McKinnon was surrounded by three Arizona defenders. The final mistake came on an underthrow to an open Kendrick Bourne. While Bourne has taken accountability for the incompletion, saying he should have attacked the football, Garoppolo’s underthrow allowed the defender to close the space and make the deflection. It would have given the 49ers a 27-24 lead with roughly 30 seconds remaining in the game.
On to the Next
In the end, it was a poor performance from all phases of the game, which sealed the fate for the 49ers. Special teams surrendered a blocked punt on a missed assignment, the defense committed stupid penalties and struggled to stay in their lanes, and the offense converted on just two of eleven third-down attempts. Arizona is a tough opponent and San Francisco let them hang around. If the 49ers intend to go on a revenge tour this season, they will need to fix the leaks on their tires or they’ll find themselves stranded on the side of the road.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covered the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada