The San Francisco 49ers (2-3) received a stellar effort from their defense only to see an inept offensive performance result in a 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers will go into their bye on a three-game losing streak.
Despite outgaining Arizona, the 49ers would be held to only 10 points, their lowest total since being held by Washington to 9 points in a game played during a downpour on 10/20/2019.
As has been the case throughout the start of this season, the 49ers offense would move the ball only to fall up short in critical situations. San Francisco actually outgained Arizona, but going 1-5 on fourth down to miss points or end drives would prove to be the difference.
Here are the answers to my questions from Saturday.
1. How will Trey Lance handle his first NFL start? Some good. Some bad.
Making his first NFL start, Trey Lance was clearly the focal point of the 49er’s offense. Of the 49ers 59 offensive plays Lance had the ball in his hands for 47 of them, 31 pass and 16 run. The rookie would put up decent numbers going 15-29, 192 yards, 1 interception through the air and gaining 89 yards on 16 carries.
After opening the game with a 14-yard scramble and 16-yard completion to Kyle Juszczyk, Lance would make his first big mistake two plays later. Facing second and nine from the Arizona 44-yard line, Lance would step into the pocket to avoid pressure only to throw high to Travis Benjamin and have the pass intercepted by Cardinal’s safety Budda Baker.
As his numbers would suggest, the performance from Lance was about what you’d expect from a rookie. Lance’s up and down play, a number of offensive penalties and some questionable play calls and strategic decisions from Kyle Shanahan would be too much to overcome.
2. Can the 49ers defense contain Kyler Murray? Yes
3. How will the San Francisco secondary hold up? Good
4. Will the 49ers hold the Arizona offense under 30 points? Yes
The issue for San Francisco today was not the defense. Coming into this game Arizona had averaged 35 points per game and 6.6 yards per play. Despite struggling early on, the 49ers defense would hold Arizona to only 17 points and 5 yards per play.
It wasn’t a perfect effort. The defense struggled with the pace of the Arizona offense on their first possession, allowing the Cardinals to go 66 yards on eight plays to grab a quick 7-0 lead.
From that point on the 49ers defense would stiffen up, holding the Cardinals to only a field goal until late in the fourth quarter when DeAndre Hopkins was able to make a spectacular grab of a Kyler Murray throw to give Arizona a 17-7 lead.
For the most part the 49ers defense did a very good job of containing Kyler Murray and holding up in the secondary.
Murray would be held in check on the ground for most of the game, but still was able to show off his playmaking ability. On one play in the second quarter the 49ers defense would do a good job to keep him from running, only to see him fit a perfectly placed throw along the left sideline to Rondale Moore for a 33-yard gain. The play would help extend a drive that would put Arizona up 10-0.
5. Can the 49ers take advantage of Arizona’s run defense? Yes
The Arizona run defense came into the game allowing an average of 5.4 yards per attempt and the 49ers finished the day right on that number.
The 49ers ran the ball a total of 28 times on the day, 16 of those came from Trey Lance for 89 yards while Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Deebo Samuel and Kyle Juszczyk would combine to gain 63 yards on the other 12 attempts.
While the overall numbers look good, it was a number of failed short yardage attempts that would do the 49ers in on Sunday.
The first misstep would come on the 49ers second possession of the game. Already down 7-0, the offense drove the ball into Arizona territory. Facing fourth and two from the Cardinals 34, Kyle Shanahan would forgo a field goal opportunity, instead calling for a Trey Lance run to the right side. Cardinals defensive tackle J.J. Watt would penetrate and slow down Laken Tomlinson just enough to not allow him to get to his assignment, leaving Lance on his own and he would be stopped a yard short.
On the next 49ers possession, they would face fourth and goal at the Cardinals one yard line and once again go for it. After a play fake, Lance would roll out to his right and decide to take the ball himself. He would be dropped short of the goalline after a collision with Arizona linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Vallejo.
In the fourth quarter the 49ers offense would see another fourth and short play get stuffed by the Arizona defense. Kyle Shanahan tried to dig into his bag of tricks, and pulled out a play that worked in a similar situation two weeks ago against Green Bay. With Trey Lance in the shotgun, Kyle Juszczyk would go in motion and take the snap and try to sneak for the necessary yard. The Arizona defense sniffed the play out and shut it down for no gain and another failed short yardage attempt.
49ers 27 Cardinals 23
Too many mistakes and missed opportunities for the 49ers to beat a talented team.