Team Grades: 49ers Get Throttled By Cardinals On Way To 'F' Performance
By Sam McPherson
It's official: The 2015 San Francisco 49ers are in deep trouble. In their last two games, both on the road, the team has given up 90 points total and lost by a combined 65 points. Last week, the 49ers were down 29-3 at halftime. This week, San Francisco trailed 31-7 midway through the game. The team is coming out of the locker room outmatched and outwitted, and it's showing on the field. Clearly, there is an issue with talent deficiencies, but there may also be an issue with the coaching staff as well (see below).
Losing 47-7 to the Arizona Cardinals today, the 49ers fell behind 14-0 before the opponent's offense ever took the field. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw two pick-six interceptions on the team's first two possessions of the game. When the Cardinals added two offensive touchdowns in the early second quarter, it was 28-0. The 49ers are not equipped to pull themselves out of a hole like that—the S.F. offense is at its best when grinding it out on the ground and playing with a lead. They never had that chance against the Cardinals on Sunday.
Starting with Kaepernick's four interceptions is fair, since the first two buried the 49ers in a hole from which they never recovered. The S.F. quarterback completed just nine of 19 pass attempts for a mere 67 yards in this game. Wide receiver Torrey Smith had no catches, and tight end Garrett Celek led the team with three receptions for just 29 yards. Overall, the 49ers had just 156 total yards.
The 49ers held the ball for a mere 23:28 in this game, going just 4-for-12 on third downs. Carlos Hyde ran for only 51 yards on 15 carries, and the running game overall was ineffective. Of course, when the opponent's defense stakes itself to a 14-0 lead right away, it becomes very hard to run against that defense. Generally, we know Kaep isn't capable of leading a comeback with his arm. He hasn't done that successfully in a very long time.
While the S.F. defense can only take the blame for 31 of the points scored against the 49ers on Sunday, it can take the blame for these two key stats: 446 yards of offense for the Cardinals along with 36:32 of possession time. That's a lot of plays for the defense to be on the field. Even so, the 49ers had no answers for Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona ran 70 plays and averaged 6.4 yards per play.
Palmer threw for 311 yards and two TDs, while Johnson ran for 110 yards on 22 carries. Fitzgerald dominated the game, catching nine balls for 134 yards and two TDs of his own. Overall, the Cardinals earned 28 first downs as they put together TD-scoring drives of nine, 10 and 13 plays during the game. The 49ers defense just had nothing in its playbook to stop Arizona.
Special Teams: A
This is more of a default grade, in the sense the special teams didn't make any mistakes on Sunday. Sure, Phil Dawson was all but invisible and unneeded against the Cardinals, hitting just the one extra-point attempt after Kaepernick's TD run. Bradley Pinion averaged 44.8 yards per punt, even though it didn't really matter where on the field Arizona took possession. Jarryd Hayne had a very nice 37-yard punt return, though, to set up the 49ers' only score of the game. The team could use more of that spark in the weeks to come, obviously.
For the second week in a row on the road, the San Francisco 49ers came out flat and looked unprepared for the mighty team on the other sideline. This is not a good pattern for head coach Jim Tomsula; he clearly looks overmatched on the sidelines and via the results on the field. The team has a rabid fan base after Jim Harbaugh's four-year run of success, and if the 49ers want to keep the "Faithful," they need to figure this out fast. It doesn't get any easier next week with the Green Bay Packers coming to town and a road trip to face the New York Giants in Week 5.
Tomsula needs to find a solution immediately, because Aaron Rodgers will be licking his chops in anticipation of shredding this defense, and Clay Matthews will get some payback for past embarrassments against Kaepernick.
49ers Staring At 1-4 Record If They're Not Careful
The Packers are among the best teams in the NFL, and the 49ers clearly are not. Green Bay's strengths match up well against San Francisco's weaknesses. The Packers surely have been looking forward to this game against the 49ers, since S.F. eliminated them from the playoffs in both 2012 and 2013. Those losses sting guys like Rodgers and Matthews. After Week 4 at home against Green Bay, San Francisco will face Eli Manning and the Giants the following week on the road. While no powerhouse defensively, the Giants can still move the ball well enough to beat this 49ers defense. San Francisco may be on the brink of the precipice already.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.
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