There is no sugarcoating Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals. It was maddening. The San Francisco 49ers scored one touchdown on their final nine drives of the game. I don’t care who they play or how many players were hurt. That’s not acceptable for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Now that the expectations are higher, you better believe every team is going to give the Niners their best shot every week. There will be plenty of finger-pointing from fans as to who is to blame for the loss. The players and coaches made it clear that there was a lack of execution and communication on both sides of the ball after the game. Here are six overreactions from Week 1.
The 49ers shouldn’t have traded DeForest Buckner
Kyler Murray threw the ball 40 times on Sunday, and the 49ers only had two sacks, both were coverage sacks, and one QB hit. That led to some comments regarding DeForest Buckner and how the Niners should have never made a move to deal him. Those comments weren’t from Niners fans but fans of other teams around the NFL, including the Cardinals.
Talk about an overreaction.
The Cardinals spread the 49ers out, and there’s no doubt the number of plays took a toll on the defense. In 2019, the most plays the defense played during the regular season was 73. Sunday, they were on the field for 78 plays. I haven’t rewatched the game yet, but Dee Ford and Arik Armstead didn’t do nearly enough. The 49ers invested a ton of money in both players, and they can’t afford to no-show in games.
The 49ers still need help at wide receiver
As painful as it was to watch the passing game on Sunday, it’s important to remember that the 49ers were without their top two threats. Kyle Shanahan’s offense is built on timing throws and receivers that can create after the catch. Without Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco didn’t have anyone to challenge the Cardinals’ secondary. We spend all offseason praising the likes of Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne, but those two combined for four catches on 42 yards an 10 targets. Was it all their fault? We know the answer to that question. What stood out was that neither of those two are receivers that move the needle.
The 49ers don’t need another receiver. They need to get healthy, so Taylor and Bourne can be WR3 and WR4.
The 49ers need to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo’s QB rating was 35.3 on Sunday. Kyler Murray’s was 85. One player looked like a second-year quarterback that hasn’t seen pressure, and the other looked like he’s been in the NFL for over a handful of seasons. Garoppolo struggled mightily with accuracy and decision making. Worst of all, he left a lot of yards on the field. If he hits one of his several misses, the 49ers likely win. I saw some calling for Nick Mullens, while others went as far as to say the team should sign Colin Kaepernick.
The in-game reactions are priceless. Garoppolo did not play well in Week 1. That does not mean the team should move on from him. It’s a long season, and after a couple of matchups against the New York teams, I imagine the tune on Garoppolo will change. I want us to be honest about the play of players all season. If Garoppolo’s struggles continue, we’ll address them. One game at a time, though.
The 49ers have no answer for a No. 1 WR
Sunday felt a lot like Week 15 last year when Julio Jones did whatever he wanted. The 49ers knew DeAndre Hopkins would get the ball. Yet, Hopkins continued to get open. Hopkins had 11 more targets than the Cardinals’ next wide receiver. Whether it was Richard Sherman or Emmanuel Moseley, or when Hopkins was over the middle of the field, it seemed like he was open.
I put that on Robert Saleh. The 49ers defense made life way too easy on Hopkins at the line of scrimmage as they allowed free release after free release. The hope is that the defense can learn from this film and put together a plan to stop the wideouts moving forward. They’ll face Hopkins again, but the Niners are sure to run into a No. 1 receiver when it matters the most in the playoffs.
San Francisco can’t stop a mobile quarterback
Murray carried the ball 13 times for 91 yards. He had a couple of electric runs, including a 22-yard rush for a touchdown. His agility and speed were serious issues for the 49ers. I was surprised we didn’t see the 49ers run any dime defense and use Tarvarius Moore. There were a few plays where the defense was caught in their base defense when the Cardinals were spread out. That put the linebackers in a tough spot, and we saw how that worked out.
It’s easy to say in hindsight, but Moore as a possible spy or underneath zone player as someone to attempt to slow down Murray or match Arizona’s speed, felt like the right move. Then again, tackling and blown coverages are tough to coach around.
Shanahan still doesn’t know how to ride the hot hand
I disagreed with the decision to kick the initial field goal. Yes, Robbie Gould made a 52-yarder, but the only reason the 49ers were behind the chains was due to a bad play call that resulted in a loss of six on a carry. Going for it on 4th & 3 on the opponents 34-yard line should be a no-brainer if you’re Shanahan. That will instill confidence in your offense. The Cardinals ended up punting from their 35-yard line, and the Niners scored on the next possession. I can already tell Shanahan’s decisions are going to drive me crazy all season.
Early on, the Niners seemed to get whatever they wanted over the middle of the field. Mostert had the long touchdown catch, but that route was open all day. George Kittle and Jordan Reed were running free over the middle as well. It seemed like, as the game went on, Shanahan got away from what allowed the offense to move the ball: easy throws over the middle.
It’s one week. Take a deep breath. The loss was disappointing. Think about how many mistakes the team made. They were endless, yet, the 49ers still should have won the game. There are no moral victories, but it’s hard to imagine the team having as many miscues as they did on Sunday.