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Winners and losers from the 49ers/Cardinals: It was a rough day for Josh Norman

D.J. Jones and Arik Armstead were outstanding

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For the third week in a row, the 49ers had ample opportunities to win and came up short. Whenever I re-watch the game, I always learn or pick up something I missed on Sunday. The defensive effort was great, but far too many missed tackles bailed the Cardinals out.

Trey Lance performed better than I initially thought, while the offensive line was much worse. Lance shouldn’t have to worry about running for his life. Let’s say it’s Jimmy Garoppolo. No matter who is under center, the line must be better in pass protection.

Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s game.


D.J. Jones

Jones was arguably the best player on the field for a 49ers defense that played well. Jones had the first sack of the game that put Arizona behind the chains. He had two “wins” as well as two stops. He was hustling all over the field (he had a tackle on a screen down the field where he ran through DeAndre Hopkins), and when the Cardinals ran it at him, they couldn’t budge Jones.

Arik Armstead

Armstead would be a close second if he weren’t the top player on defense. Armstead had three “wins” on 42 snaps, including a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, and a holding penalty that was as close to a safety as it gets.

The play wasn’t called a safety because the offensive lineman initiated contact outside of the end zone.

I want to highlight the way Armstead is winning. It’s happening quickly, and Armstead is doing so with a variety of moves. Thanks to playing against upper-echelon quarterbacks, Armstead’s play hasn’t translated into sacks. He’s playing outstanding, though.

Trey Lance

Lance had 16 carries for 89 yards. That can’t be ignored. Lance had five scrambles that went for 45 yards. He ran for three first downs and had three runs of 10+ yards. He didn’t go down easily, either. Lance had 42 of those 45 yards after contact.

Time and time again, the 49ers’ offense crossed midfield. They also kept the defense fresh by sustaining drives. Lance threw an interception, failed to convert a 4th & 1, and had his fair share of mistakes. I’m not ignoring those. I’m acknowledging his effect on the entire team and how the 21-year-old looked promising in his first career start.

Lance will figure it out, and once the game slows down for him, he’ll have a fantastic quarterback. Lance ran out of multiple sacks on a day where his offensive line failed him. That’s a big reason why he’s a “winner.”

For what it’s worth, Lance’s PFF grade Sunday was the highest for a 49ers quarterback this season.


Josh Norman

I said that Norman’s physicality would match up well against Hopkins. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here’s Norman’s game:

  • 23-yard pass to Hopkins for a first down (defensive pass interference declined
  • Let’s Hopkins run free on a shallow route in the end zone that should’ve been an easy TD
  • Missed tackle on completion to Hopkins that led to a first down
  • Surrendered another first down on a slant to Hopkins
  • Missed tackle on Rondale Moore touchdown
  • Hopkins touchdown in the end zone

To his credit, Norman competed every down, came up with a pass breakup and was mostly in position. Most cornerbacks are against Hopkins. That wasn’t enough.

Mike McGlinchey

McGlinchey was flagged for three penalties. Those were the start of McGlinchey’s problems. J.J. Watt got the best of Mike, as did Chandler Jones. He gave up a sack, two quarterback hits, and four pressures. That doesn’t take into account a couple of missed blocks that killed the running play and forced the offense into third and long. This was the worst version of McGlinchey on the season.

Daniel Brunskill

Brunskill’s PFF grade was lower than McGlinchey’s. I don’t agree with that, but I understand why that’d be the case. Brunskill gets pushed back far too easily. His stalemates are often losses, and too often, there isn’t a crease or running lane when running behind Brunskill.

The issue is when Brunskill is beaten in pass protection, it’s bad. Whenever you’re ready, Aaron Banks.

Other thoughts

Nick Bosa had a sack and was in the backfield on a few plays, but he also flew up the field and helped create running lanes on a couple of other occasions for the Cardinals. Bosa’s a great player, but he can’t get upfield and leave other guys out to dry.

Missed tackles were a huge problem for the defense. I understand the Cardinals are fast at the skill position. However, Rondale Moore and Christian Kirk shouldn’t be making a team like San Francisco miss multiple times.

I loved Kyle Shanahan going for it on fourth down. Those decisions give your team confidence and go a long way in that game and moving forward. We can debate the play-calls to death, but the decisions were correct.

Trent Williams has played so well this season that when he misses three or four blocks on 65 snaps, you wonder what’s wrong. That’s the sign of a superstar.

Ross Dwelley’s PFF grade was 46.5, but he played much better than that. Dwelley gave great effort every down and executed some difficult blocks.

Whenever Travis Benjamin was in the game, the Cardinals knew a deep route was coming. That’s on Shanahan. Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming next. Arizona’s cornerbacks would bail, and the shot play to Benjamin was dead before the ball was snapped.

Talanoa Hufanga played five snaps, but the play where he kept Kyler Murray inside of the pocket was huge. Most rookies would dive inside, lose contain, and Murray would run around him. If you didn’t know any better on that play, you would have thought Hufanga was the athlete who ran a 4.3.