49ers fumble away opportunity in 31-17 loss

The 49ers are a sloppy football team.

As has been the case throughout much of this season, the 49ers were their own worst enemy. Fumbles after big gains from George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk took potential points away from the 49er offense

After losses to the teams ahead of them in the race for the final playoff spot in the NFC earlier in the day, San Francisco (3-5) went out and fumbled away a golden opportunity, losing to the Arizona Cardinals 31-17.

The mistakes weren’t limited to the offense. Extending drives with penalties has been a problem for the 49ers defense all season, and it bit them again today. In the first quarter Arik Armstead came up with a sack of Cardinals quarterback Colt McCoy, however he was called for a facemask penalty, giving Arizona a first down. Arizona would cash in on the opportunity with a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead only two plays later.

Arizona came into this game without quarterback Kyler Murray, starting wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green and lost starting running back Chase Edmonds after their first possession. None of that mattered however as the Arizona offense would overpower the 49ers defense on its way to 437 yards.

Here are the answers to the five questions I asked on Saturday.

1. Can Jimmy Garoppolo back up his performance against Chicago? NO

Garoppolo was anything but the problem in this game for San Francisco, completing 28 of 40 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and an interception which came late in the game. This marked the first time since Garoppolo’s first season with San Francisco in 2017 that he threw for 300 or more yards in back-to-back games.

In the first half Garoppolo had the 49ers offense moving, however fumbles by George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk in Arizona territory ended scoring opportunities.

Garoppolo would bounce back late in the first half, leading the offense on a nine play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a touchdown throw to Kittle to pull within 10.

In the second half the game was put out of reach early when Arizona scored a touchdown on their opening possession. After a quick three and out, Arizona would score again, and the 49ers offense became one dimensional.

2. Can the 49ers take advantage of the Arizona run defense? NO

The 49ers ran the ball a total of 11 times and gained only 39 yards on the ground. Against the second worst run defense in the league.

The 49ers offense opened the game by throwing on nine of its first 11 plays, and never really tried to get it going. In the first half the 49ers ran 26 offensive plays, only eight of them were rushing attempts. By the time they got the ball for the first time in the second half they were down by 17 points and running the ball became an afterthought.

3. How will the return of George Kittle impact the 49ers offense? Good and Bad

While Kittle’s numbers look good, 6 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, his fumble to open the 49ers second possession of the game was a sign of things to come for the 49er’s offense.

Kittle was expected to make an impact with his blocking as well, however Kyle Shanahan’s game plan from the start was pass heavy and they never tried to get the running game going.

4. Who will be the quarterback for Arizona? Colt McCoy

Kyler Murray was held out due to an ankle injury, giving the start to Colt McCoy. The backup quarterback completed 22 of 26 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown.

This is nothing new for McCoy. In his first start last season he led the New York Giants to a win in Seattle.

The scary part for the 49ers is they’ve been shredded in back-to-back weeks by McCoy and Justin Fields. It’s kind of scary to think what might happen when they face Matthew Stafford next week.

5. Can the 49ers offense hold onto the football? NO

On this day it was the 49ers receivers that could not hold onto the ball. First it was George Kittle fumbling after a gain of 18 yards on the first play of the 49ers second possession. The ensuing Arizona drive would result in a touchdown.

Two possessions later, the 49ers drove the ball deep into Arizona territory only to have Brandon Aiyuk fumble after a gain of 18 yards. This time the Cardinals would drive down for a field goal and a 17-0 lead.

Jimmy Garoppolo would add a late interception with the game already over.

Even good teams won’t win many games when they turn the ball over as often as the 49ers have this season. It doesn’t appear that the 49ers are a good team.

This article has 28 Comments

  1. Anyone who picks the 49ers to beat the Cardinals and still holds out hope the
    49ers can be and/or are playoff bound is delusional. Just plain delusional. This team
    under this coach, this management and this ownership is going nowhere — not now, not

  2. I feel like our picks in this years draft combined with their lack of playing time show what this regime is doing.

    I don’t see Kyle or Lynch being on the hot seat. The 49ers have been bad the majority of my life so I am not as upset as some with all the losing.

    1. Bad drafting
      Bad free agent signings
      Focusing on QB when CB is your biggest weakness
      Poor decision making
      Fixation on certain players and over pay them
      Arbitrary dog house

      This is as bad as it gets.

  3. I believe Kyle Shanahan is a good coach.
    I believe John Lynch is a good GM.
    I believe the 49ers have a very good roster.
    I believe the 49ers can make it to the playoffs this year.

    That was preseason. Now I must add a “d” to believe.

  4. Jim Harbaugh took the team to the playoffs immediately for the first three years which included one Super Bowl. Then the team stumbled and Harbaugh was quickly, and quite rudely, shown the door. This time around, Shanahan slow walks us to a Super Bowl appearance in his third year with what everyone describes as a hugely talented team but immediately thereafter the team turns into the clown car we now watch each week. But there is no reaction by Mr. Jed whatsoever. If there is ever any lingering doubt that Harbaugh’s firing was 100 percent personal then I can’t see how it could be…and that’s the problem! Jed has surrounded himself with his guys. The go-along to get-along group that meets regularly for Kumbaya. He has the narrative and winning is not as important as the 49er “family”. I visit the blog as regularly as always but rarely post because being told I’m an idiot is just not that fun. But it is clear to me that Jed is a narrative guy and that narrative is heavily focused on getting along and watching the bottom line scrupulously. Why did that immensely talented team fall apart after the Super Bowl? Jimmy G got hurt and couldn’t play. Gee, did anyone notice that Kyler Murrey got hurt and couldn’t play yesterday? Look around the league and see how many “franchise” QBs have been hurt this year. But the other teams have backup QBs, not guys who you call out from the union hall when you need someone. So add my name to the list of those who blame the top ownership and management because, as the saying goes, the fish rots from the head. All we’re going to get from Jed is a narrative (aka excuses) of why he needs to make so much money while fielding a second rate team.

    1. +1. Building a new stadium that forces half the fans to take refuge in the bars and restaurants was the giveaway for me. The Yorks care about us only when it hits their profits, like when game attendance nosedived during two years of Tomsula/Kelly. They really do suck.

  5. Jack,

    Will be very interested in your breakdown this week. Would love to see you do an offensive and defensive film breakdown. From what I saw during the game Azeez Al Shaair was absolutely terrible. He had the one glaring missed tackle on the 3rd & 18 but he also took a bunch of terrible angles and seemed lost on so many other plays. DLine, which was supposed to be a strength of this team, was terrible against the run. They didn’t occupy blockers which allowed O’lineman get to the 2nd level to seal off LBers. Blown containment on the edges. Poor tackling. Weak at the point of attack. Not sure how long DeMeco Ryans can keep his job with those types of performances.

  6. Jack your question is: “Can Jimmy Garoppolo back up his performance against Chicago?”
    Your conclusion is: “Garoppolo was anything but the problem in this game”
    I think you mean that to say that JG was NOT the problem for losing and you prove that with the stats of his performance.
    Therefore your answer should be YES, since your question is about JG’s performance NOT about the team winning.
    Your writing is getting better but the devil is in the details…

    1. I went back and forth quite a bit on that one. I finally decided on no because they didn’t win the game, even though I don’t feel like it was on him. Probably should have just rode the fence with a “yes and no”

  7. Defense was supposed to be the Niners strength, but clearly that’s not so. The Niners need to replace Ryans with a defensive coordinator that can both build a plan for the upcoming game and then make adaptations as the game goes on. Ryans has shown he cannot do either task.

    Sure, mistakes by the offense were serious but it’s the defense that has let down the team. There is talent among the defense players but no effective leadership. When a team continually plays defensive schemes that are not working, adjustments must be made—and Ryans cannot do that.

  8. This is KS show, its his players, its his offense, its his coaches, its his decisions, its his team. There is no one else in the mirror looking back at him. The QB was not at all the problem with the loss. You all watched it, bad decisions, bad ball handling, a DC who can’t DC, but what stood out the most was the lack of DISCIPLINE.

  9. Jack,

    Very curious about the response from the NFL on the personal fouls against Norman and Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury runs onto the field of play during the play and the official throws a flag on him. Then well after the play Josh Norman gets a flag after he engages with some Cardinals O-lineman. The way it looked to me the Kingsbury flag should have been a flag during the play and the Norman flag should have been a dead ball foul. No way that should have been handled the way it was handled giving the Cards a 1st down. That was an egregious screw up by that crew. To me, Kingsbury should get a massive fine for his actions on that play. Norman is just an immature idiot who should get cut. The Ref crew should all be relegated to high school games after that nonsense. That was terrible football in every aspect.

    1. Wouldn’t the net result be the same? They would mark off half the distance and award an automatic first down on the 49ers defense on the dead ball violation.

      As far as Kingsbury’s foul- the yards marked off would be the same and the penalty happening during the play wouldn’t matter as the 49ers dead ball foul would award an automatic first anyway.

      I could be totally wrong about this but I think the only thing that would change is the yardage potentially. It would still result in a first down.

      So maybe instead of First and 25 they get First and 10 and possibly be further backed up depending on how the half the distance part plays out (vs 15 yarder) after moving the Cards back, which could move them out from beyond the 20.

    2. @1.6 Patriot: I can’t miss an opportunity to agree with you as rare as that might be. You left out the “broadcast official’s” inability to explain how the “on field officials” concocted the outcome. He had to reverse the order of events in order to come up with any explanation at all.

  10. McGlinchey likely out for the season with torn quad.

    Not great from a depth perspective but perhaps Moore learns the position and winds up being a better tackle. Who knows.

  11. I honestly don’t know the answer. The Kingsbury foul occurred during the play. The Josh Norman foul occurred after the play. Both fouls were unsportsmanlike conduct. It’s not like a personal foul so I don’t know if that’s an automatic first down. If they ruled the fouls were during the ‘after the play’ altercation then why not offsetting fouls? First off, Refs got the sequence totally wrong in such a way that it helped the Cardinals after Kliff Kingsbury came on the field of play during a play. No way in the world that should result in a 1st down for the Cardinals. The Cards came away with 3 points which is what would have happened with no fouls called but the Refs improperly gave the Cardinals 3 more chances to score a TD that they shouldn’t have been awarded in my opinion.

  12. 49ers have drafter 40 players in the Shanahan era. Of those 14 players are no longer on the team. 5 players are on IR. 11 players are on the team but play very little or not at all. 10 players are starters and that includes 1 punter. Kind of curious if that level of production is good or bad relative to other NFL teams. 10 starters drafted over 5 drafts doesn’t seem very good to me especially when you consider 5 of those starters were drafted in the 4th round or later.

      1. Very interesting analysis. All of those cuts of data show the 49ers are better than average at drafting. I really did not expect that given all the Reuben Fosters, Dante Pettiss, Jalen Hurds, and Aaron Banks.

      2. Interesting and it seems odd that the Cards were the worst in all categories. I don’t have the desire (after the game Sunday) to check or even understand exactly how the authors came up with their charts/results.

    1. And we decimated next years draft to get a QB we don’t really need. Well, on second thought, maybe given the track record you described, it’s better we gave them away instead of wasting them.

    2. I don’t know the league average but this regime has missed a lot in the 1st two rounds of the draft. Yikes! And I hope Lance is not one of them misses.
      They might as well do what the Rams does with the higher picks and just trade them for a known talent and build with the lower drafts behind it, which this team is good at for some reasons.

  13. Evaluations:

    Kyle Shanahan – Stubborn to a fault, arrogant not confident, does not have “all” players back, childish doghouse concept, unable to motivate players using best way for individual player and the team as a whole, lies to reporters, which in turn is like lying to the fan base as information gets disseminated. Never thought he was an offensive genius, but starting to doubt whether he is even good at play calling. Has he ever developed a quarterback?

    Has had almost 5 years with plenty of cap space and early draft choices the first 3 years. Time to move on.

    John Lynch – Don’t know as I am not sure if he has much say over player personal. Why did it take so long to consider not adding injury prone players to the team as the previous regime left plenty of bad examples to learn from. Can’t tell if some of his statements are wishful thinking, exaggerations, or true.

    Has had almost 5 years with plenty of cap space and early draft choices the first 3 years. Time to move on.

    Paraag Marathe – Should only be allowed to work player salaries to fit within the salary cap to allow GM/Coach to get desired players. Should have no other duties or be the President of 49ers Enterprises and EVP of football operations. Not a genius as most teams in the NFL have someone who handles this duty as well or better than he does.

    Based on title and power, not providing leadership that would be expected. Time to move on.

    Jed York – Look at Rams new stadium versus Levi’s stadium and all I can say is “what the heck, we got snookered”.
    Continued bad decision making with team President, GM, and Head Coach. Winning only seems to be a talking point without much actual intent.

    Time to move on but never going to happen.

  14. Jeff Deeney
    The highest-graded starting quarterback (83.8) in the NFL over the last two weeks?

    Yep, this guy.

    [image of Jimmy G.]

    1. The logic goes like this: Kyle Shanahan is an offensive genius. The team is playing poorly and losing. Therefore, the quarterback must be the problem and be replaced. QED. In order to subscribe to this logic, one must believe that the offense is so dominant in the scheme of things that poor execution of all other aspects of the game (defense, special teams, game management, etc.) can be overcome by the offensive genius.

      1. Kyle Shanahan is an offensive genius

        … when Jimmy Garropolo is playing? How else to square the teams W-L records when he’s playing vs when he’s not?

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