The 49ers battled through 5 quarters of football with the Arizona Cardinals tonight in Phoenix. San Francisco had a number of opportunities to pull out their first win of the season, and to their credit, they did take the game into overtime. But at the end, they allowed Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald to work their magic once more, scoring a touchdown with less than 2 minutes left in the overtime period. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly for Week 4.
Trent Taylor: The Louisiana Tech product and rookie wide receiver got 5 receptions for 47 yards, and was just more present in the offensive schemes in almost every series. When he was given a hard suplex-style tackle out of bounds by Tyrann Mathieu in the second quarter, Taylor bounced right up and exchanged some in-your-face words with Honey Badger, and would have gone after him if a 49ers assistant hadn’t held him back. Considering Brian Hoyer isn’t exactly a marksman at passing, Taylor was a standout.
Pass Rush: The 49ers sacked Carson Palmer six times, hit him more than twice that number of times, and hurried him nearly into double digits. Of special note here is Solomon Thomas finally getting his first NFL sack, and Elvis Dumervil getting his 100th and 101st career sacks. DeForest Buckner got some steady hits on Palmer as well, and even Arik Armstead combined with K’Waun Williams to bury the Cardinals’ QB in the second quarter (it’s about damn time). I saw Robert Saleh celebrating several times during the course of the game, which tells me that he is very proud of the work his men have been doing.
Robbie Gould: What can I say? The man connected on all of his field goal attempts, and was the reason for every point the 49ers put up, for better or worse. I hasten to add that the fact a kicker has to score all our points is a sad commentary about our offense, and I wish he had been called upon to kick at least one PAT. But when it comes to this particular 49ers team, we have to take the good along with the bad. Cut to…
Penalties: 13 of them, for 113 yards. Most of them were legitimate offenses, rather than poor officiating as we saw last Thursday against the Rams. Daniel Kilgore was an especially obnoxious object lesson, being called for at least two holds and one hands to the face; an even worse example comes later in this piece. This issue has not gotten better since the preseason; the 49ers are simply making too many dumb mistakes that are costing yard, points, and games. That those mistakes are utterly avoidable makes it even more embarrassing.
Brian Hoyer: Yes, a week ago my colleague Matt had Hoyer in the “Good” section, but the mighty has fallen. Hoyer’s throwing was at best mediocre and at worst appalling; he has given up interceptions in each of our four regular season games, and he once again couldn’t throw for a touchdown. He went 24/49, was sacked 3 times, eked out a rating of 54.3, and ran for exactly 3 yards. Social media was going crazy on Hoyer during the game, and the chanting of “Beathard, Beathard” has reemerged as a theme. (Note to Kyle Shanahan: do we have anything to lose by giving that nice young boy from Iowa a shot?)
Pass Defense: The weaknesses of Saleh’s zone defense were on display, glaring as brightly as a Toys R Us window on Christmas Eve. Palmer continuously threw short passes to running backs, getting completions underneath the San Francisco linebackers time and time again. Palmer finished with 357 passing yards, which says as much about our inability to defend against the short pass as it does about the ability of Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, and Jaron Brown. At times Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson and K’Wann Williams were making plays, but other times they just got beaten or got called for silly penalties. Which brings us to…
Rashard Robinson: It wasn’t that he was awful, it was that he was consistently in the way of defensive success. Pass interference calls, blown coverages, tipped passes that should have been interceptions (including one that would have lost the game for the 49ers, had the referees not ruled there inefficient evidence to overturn the on-field incomplete call) — put it together, and it’s understandable that people were calling for his ouster across social media. Add in the wiry frame and the ongoing questions about his maturity, and we have a gaping hole where there should be a competent player. Asa Jackson, you’re on in 5 minutes.
Injuries: Every week, we see more players headed to the locker room in the middle of the game and not returning to action, which makes a body wonder how strong our depth chart really is. This week’s victims included WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion and possible eye injury), LB Dekoda Watson (groin) and S Adrian Colbert (hamstring). Even Brian Hoyer had to leave the field for one play after a particularly violent hit.
The Really Ugly
We had the game within our grasp, and we showed that we could hold our own (sort of) by taking the game into overtime. If we had gotten into the end zone during OT, we would be talking about our first win, rather than trying to put lipstick on this pig of a defeat. So close. And still, so far.
Losing is an ugly thing. Heartbreak is a really ugly thing, which is why I took some artistic license by adding it to the end of this piece. We’re making progress, but we can’t truly say we have righted the ship until we have one in the win column. On to Indianapolis.
Image courtesy of 49ers.com