49ers 28, Cardinals 25: Grades

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 28-25 Thursday night. Here are the 49ers’ grades:

GAROPPOLO: A. He has two sides — Good Jimmy and Bad Jimmy. Against the Cardinals, he wasn’t merely Good Jimmy. He was Super Jimmy. He played the best game of his career. Threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Bad Jimmy never made an appearance. Super Jimmy played the whole game, and performed particularly well on third down, when he completed nine of 12 pass attempts. And we’re not talking easy passes. Super Jimmy frequently made subtle moves in the pocket under pressure and converted third-and-longs. All four of his touchdown throws came on third down or fourth down. Clutch. We hadn’t seen him carry the 49ers to victory yet this season, and we wondered if he could. The answer is clear: Hell yes, he can.

RUNNING BACKS: B. Matt Breida was excellent — he ran 15 times for 78 yards (5.2 yards per carry) even though he had an injured ankle. He’s so tough and fast, and he runs surprisingly hard between the tackles for a small running back. He is one of the best running backs in the league. Tevin Coleman didn’t play particularly well — he averaged 1.9 yards per carry. But, he had no room to run most of the game.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A-minus. The 49ers may not have won without Emmanuel Sanders. He roasted the Cardinals’ No. 1 cornerback — Patrick Peterson. Made him look old, slow and just plain bad. Sanders finished with seven catches for 112 yards and one touchdown. He is the best wide receiver the 49ers have had since Anquan Boldin. The rest of the wide receivers played well, too. Kendrick Bourne caught a seven-yard touchdown pass, and Dante Pettis caught a 21-yard touchdown pass. Rookie Deebo Samuel dropped two passes, but redeemed himself by making clutch catches during the second half.

TIGHT ENDS: A. George Kittle appeared to hyper-extend his left knee on the 49ers’ first offensive play from scrimmage, but he stayed in the game and caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. He is one of the toughest and best players in the NFL. And his backup is good, too. Ross Dwelley made four catches, including an 11-yard catch on third-and-nine to put away the Cardinals. The 49ers have an elite tight-end tandem.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B. They didn’t create much running room — the 49ers averaged just 3.3 yards per carry as an offense. But, the offensive line gave up just one sack, and repeatedly gave Garoppolo just enough time to make long passes on third down. And the starting offensive tackles still aren’t healthy. This unit will get much better when Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey return.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B. The Cardinals ran for 153 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per carry — they took advantage of the wide gaps between the defensive linemen in 49ers’ “Wide 9” defense. But, the D-line successfully caged Kyler Murray in the pocket and did not let him scramble for big gains — he ran five times for just 34 yards. And DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford each sacked Murray once. The defensive line did what it needed to do.

LINEBACKERS: D. Fred Warner recorded nine tackles, but dropped a pick-six and frequently found himself out of position. Kwon Alexander injured his pectoral muscle and did not finish the game. He will have an MRI to see if he tore his pectoral muscle. Neither he nor Warner could stop Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake, who led Arizona with 162 yards from scrimmage.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: C. Murray’s quarterback rating was 130.7, and he completed 17 of 24 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Drake, his running back. But, he also completed an 88-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella in the fourth quarter. During that play, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley got beat, and cornerback Richard Sherman missed a tackle. The 49ers’ secondary seems ordinary when the pass rush isn’t dominant.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Rookie Mitch Wishnowsky landed three punts inside the Cardinals’ 10-yard line, and Richie James Jr. averaged a solid 8.3 yards per punt return.

COACHES: B. Defensive coordinator fulfilled his No. 1 task — stop Murray from running. He kept Murray in the pocket, made him play quarterback and made the Cardinals drive methodically. And the defense would have given up just 17 points had Sherman not missed a tackle near midfield during Isabella’s 88-yard touchdown run. Saleh isn’t responsible for Sherman’s missed tackle. Saleh coached well. Kyle Shanahan coached even better. With the game on the line, he called a pass for backup tight end Ross Dwelley, an extremely brave and daring call. Dwelley had just three catches coming into the game. Shanahan gets better every week.

This article has 26 Comments

  1. This was a statement game from Jimmy G. I’m not sure if you can teach him not to make the occasional ill-advised pass. But he has so many assets that CAN’T be taught–the composure, the subtle adjustments in the pocket, the WAY above average arm talent. What a game from #10!

  2. The kwon injury is concerning. They really need to put an end to this TNF bs. Exploitation of these athletes is egregious with this.

  3. Yea…Saleh coached well…..

    Saleh isn’t responsible for Sherman’s missed tackle. 

    But Saleh is responsible for calling man coverage on the play.

    People need to relax about Saleh..yea he his good and flexible to change…..we have good positions coaches that have had much input on what the defense is.

    These 4-7 Dline men are what is winning the games….no cap

  4. D Line got a B. They kept the QB in the pocket-good. but Murray seemed like he was rarely rushed-not as good. The secondary has holes that are evident when rush not as effective as Grant says.

  5. I would give the coaching a B-. KS kept the Niners running into the teeth of the defense, and did not respond well to the Cards stacking the box.
    This was supposed to be an easy win, but became a nail biter. I wonder if Sherman could move to safety, once Witherspoon returns, but he took a very poor angle on Isabella, to let him score, so that may not be a good strategy.
    They seem to burn time outs too easily. They should never have to burn one to prevent a delay of game penalty, by just being efficient, and getting the play off in time. Luckily, Kingsbury was even worse with his time out management.
    There were way too many unforced errors. This game should not have been as close as the final score, but the Niners did manage to finish the game well. JG was clutch, and Sanders was a good pickup.

    1. There’s no need for the minus

      There are some attributes to this game that made it bit tougher for Shannahan’s success to be apparent:

      A couple plays where he “had ’em” with scheme should have resulted in big gainers but didn’t: the screen pass that Coleman didn’t catch; and Deebo getting wide open in the end zone over the top and dropping one. And he had the stones to go back to those guys, forcing the Cardinals to focus on multiple threats.

      The Cardinals came out to stop the run; and were trying to force the “replacements,” Brunskill and Skhule to play as blockers in the pass game; and the Niners did beat them with the pass. Rather than run to set up the pass, Niners passed to set up the run, and it worked. The nine yard run on 2nd and 11 on the critical drive was important, and right up the gut. Kept ’em honest.

      The 4th and goal pass for a touchdown to Sanders was really creative. NIners hid Emanuel by lining up quickly with him as fullback. Peterson was nowhere near him when he caught that touchdown. If Niners had went for three after getting a “second chance,” the game would have been completely different.

      Consider too that Shannahan used Kittle’s substitute successfully to seal the deal, in Arizona. . He had a 14 point lead at the half; the offense played well, overall; and the run worked good enough to control the ball, with short passes on third down, at the end of the game.

      Cardinals got lucky to make it close, especially considering the jersey tackle that was flagged as “horse collar.”

  6. “Bad Jimmy never made an appearance”. This is just petty on your part, Grant.

    Sooner or later you’re going to have to admit you were wrong about Garoppolo. It will be so much easier if you start your backtracking now. You will look a lot less foolish down the road.

    1. Agreed NinersGirl. It’s time to put away this Bad Jimmy BS. All it provides is Grant reminding that he’ll unload on him if Jimmy makes some mistake, that all QBs do.

  7. This is substantiated but it almost seems like the QB gets into a better rhythm when they expect they’re going to have to drop back into the pocket, scan the field and pass the ball. Almost like a steady diet of handing the ball off to backs, play action with mostly defined/limited reads and screen passes do not allow the QB to get into the rhythm for full field pocket passing. It was good to see Jimmy look like a classic pro QB when he needed to be.

  8. The injuries to Kwon and Kittle are concerning.
    Kittle being in enough pain to keep him on the sideline with the game on the line. Hopefully it’s just some swelling and no damage.
    The injury to Kwon could be devastating. He might not be the best player on the defence, but he’s the heartbeat of it.
    Costly win on another stupid Thursday night football game.

  9. That was an impressive win man. Jimmy G is so LA. He’s all zen and calm back there. He threw passes with the trust of the universe. Whatever happens — happens. Whatever is meant to be, is meant to be. He didn’t even care that Debby dropped that TD pass.
    He made throws that were elite. The TD to Pettis was right on the money. And that back foot throw on 3rd down was money.
    The Defense had an off game. Credit AZ for a good game plan. Alot can happen in the next 8 games. The team has already it can win any time of game.

    1. “Jimmy G is so LA”

      What does that even mean? So calm and collected is LA, smh. Montana was the coolest I’ve ever seen, but I wouldn’t characterize him as “LA”….

      The Cardinals partially developed a blueprint to compete with the Niners on both offense and defense. The good part of this is the Niners were able to see how to gameplan against this. AZ’s offense neutralized the pass rush as much as they could by going with quick reads; Saleh has some great film to work with and adjust. On D, they did what other teams have tried to do, stack the box, and KS certainly was prepared for this. Jimmy G just showed any naysayers out there that the Niners have a passing game that needs to be respected.

  10. I’d say that most DBs will look ordinary without pass rush help, its symbiotic.

    Also, from last year to this year, prior to the season, we all would have been perfectly fine with just “ordinary” DB play compared to what we had seen the past 5 seasons. The fear was this group was awful and would be the downfall. So far, one ordinary game and this team is 8-0.

    Its the pass rush that helps the DBs, makes ordinary good, good great, and great excellent.

  11. I’m Back!!!!!!! and so are the niners. After one of the most stressful weeks of my life ( an active shooter on my campus followed by a 7 hour trip to Napa and being evacuated for three days by the fire) I needed that win last night, although I could have lived without the late drama. I’m very concerned with our run D. The Rams gashed us on their first drive as did Carolina and Ariz. did it all game long. It worries me that there is too much film accumulating out there showing teams how to run successfully Vs. the wide 9 especially if we lose Alexander for any extended time. Lastly my undying respect and thank you to all the first responders.

    1. Old Coach, welcome back.
      My son went to In/n/Out, and their staff went all out to help the tired fire fighters, refusing to accept any money. They fed bus loads of heroes, which is what they were. The regular patrons did not mind having to wait, because they all wanted the fire fighters to get a well earned, hot meal.
      The Niners are undefeated. It reminds me of the Glory Years. I hope the Niners can be resilient, and withstand the body blow that losing Kwon has done to the Niners.

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