The 49ers, ahead by 12 points in the fourth quarter, found a way to lose Sunday on the road against the Cardinals. Arizona’s offense, led by rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to take a three-point lead with :39 seconds remaining. A botched snap by the 49ers’ offense would dash any hope of a last-second game-tying field goal, sending Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers home with a record of 1-7.
Here are our winners and losers from the 49ers’ 18-15 loss to the Cardinals:
Winner: CB Richard Sherman
Yes, Sherman ate a small piece of humble pie on Sunday. The 49ers’ veteran cornerback, after allowing only one reception over five games, was brought back down to Earth, giving up a handful of receptions on the day to include one to rookie Christian Kirk during the Cardinals’ game-winning drive.
Sherman finds himself in the win column because on the very next play, Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen decided to test Sherman again, this time to J.J. Nelson deep downfield in the end zone. Sherman was beat off the line but recovered and broke what would’ve been the game-winning play. Yes, the Cardinals went on to win anyways, but the 1-7 49ers can use some of the resilience Sherman displayed on that series.
Loser: WR Pierre Garçon
On the other side of the ball, veteran Pierre Garçon was sidelined against the Cardinals after being ruled out earlier in the week with knee and shoulder injuries. In addition to being inactive, the 49ers receiver now finds himself at the forefront of trade rumors as Tuesday’s deadline approaches. Both general manager John Lynch and Shanahan acknowledged the interest in Garçon, and it seems plausible that he may be on another team before the 49ers play the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.
Winner: WR Kendrick Bourne
Rookie receiver Dante Pettis returned to action against the Cardinals after missing three games to a knee injury suffered in the early stages of the 49ers’ Week 4 matchup against the Chargers. It seemed obvious Pettis would receive an expanded role in Garçon’s absence. Instead, it was second-year undrafted free agent Kendrick Bourne that saw the uptick in snaps. Bourne reeled in seven receptions on 10 targets for 71 yards, all a respective best among the offense. Despite the loss, Sunday was a significant step in the right direction for Bourne and his place among the 49ers’ offense.
Loser: LB Reuben Foster
The season couldn’t be going much worse for Foster. The 49ers’ promising linebacker began 2018 with a two-game suspension stemming from marijuana possession and illegal weapons chargers. Once back on the field, Foster has been a shell of his rookie self and is among the league’s worst linebackers, per Pro Football Focus.
Perhaps related, Foster’s shoulder injury that was a concern pre-draft has resurfaced and is clearly impacting his performance. On Sunday, Foster added an injured hamstring suffered in the first half against the Cardinals and didn’t return. The severity of the injury is unclear, but Foster’s stock, already at a low point, took another small hit against the Cardinals.
Winner: OT Mike McGlinchey
Among the few positive takeaways from the 49ers’ disappointing loss to the Cardinals was McGlinchey, the 49ers’ rookie offensive tackle taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. McGlinchey has been a bright spot so far this season and prior to Week 8 was PFF’s top graded rookie offensive lineman. McGlinchey’s highlight play on the day was on an outside run right in which he got to his man and drove him all the way to the sideline and off the field, springing running back Alfred Morris for a 26-yard gain.
Loser: The 2018 season
The Cardinals are now 2-6 on the year and both of their wins are over the 49ers. Arizona has been beaten handedly by every other opponent this year aside from the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers’ inability to best one of the league’s worst feels like a final nail in the coffin for positivity in 2018.
There may be excitement from time to time, even wins, but Sunday’s loss was a reminder of just how far the 49ers have to go if they hope to compete, even after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo makes his 2019 return from a torn ACL. For now, take solace in knowing the 49ers are one of the favorites for the No. 1 pick in 2019 NFL Draft. Right behind them? The Oakland Raiders. The two teams meet Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium.