It was always going to be a different Week One for the San Francisco 49ers. Their home opener at Levi’s Stadium was without fans. The air quality was not good. Their play, on the other hand, was supposed to be Super Bowl revenge tour-level. It was not. Instead, penalties and a lack of execution on all sides handed them a 24-20 division loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
“…[T]hat’s how football goes,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “We had a number of chances to win that game. I thought we started out very well. Thought we had a chance to run away with it a little bit in the first half. Anytime you average eight yards a play and you’re holding them pretty good on the other side of the ball, thought we’d have more points to show for it than what we did. I know why we didn’t.
We didn’t convert one third down in the first half. We didn’t convert one fourth down and we didn’t convert in the red zone. So, no matter how well you do on first and second down, you’re not going to get many points when you are 0-for in all the other situational areas. Then we had a couple opportunities on defense and you just miss a couple plays when they’re there and that’s what happens. Last time we played these guys, it came down to the wire, just like this one did. We had a chance there to win it at the end.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was 19-0f-33 for 259 yards and two touchdowns, but, as always, stats don’t tell the full story and Garoppolo missed badly on key throws that made the difference. Late in the fourth quarter, after losing their lead (sound familiar?) and down, 24-20, Garoppolo and the offense were moving the ball. But after the two-minute warning, Garoppolo missed on a would-be touchdown to Kendrick Bourne. Then, on 3rd and 5 and 4th and 5 with under a minute to play, Garoppolo threw incomplete passes to wide receiver Trent Taylor and that was the game.
“You just want to eliminate errors, really, is what it comes down to. Just everyone being on the same page, seeing the same picture and I think we’ll be good from there, but I think it’s just when it comes to third down, red zone, things like that, we just have to execute at the end of the day.”
San Francisco was 2-of-11 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. These numbers are not ideal. Garoppolo was generally just off, which, in part, may be attributed to working with his third-string center, while missing his top wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. His general pocket presence and awareness left a lot of be desired, but it is game one, with no preseason, and we all have bad days at work.
Meanwhile, Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray had a better day at work, as he continues to be a conundrum to the 49ers defense. He threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 91 yards. To put that in context, the 49ers had 123 total rushing yards.
“It just comes down to executing down the stretch,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “Anytime you get a play, we’ve got to knock the rust off some things, some communication things we have to do better, but I think overall we feel good about where we are. They played a good game. They made some plays at the end. [Murray] made some plays with his legs that made it tough and compromised the defense. I think it was a great learning experience for everybody and it will help us in the future.”
Arizona wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 14 receptions for 151 yards, for those keeping track of who’s winning the Texans trade at home.
Back to the Niners and the word of the day. which is execute. They didn’t do that. The Cardinals didn’t beat them, as much as they beat themselves.
“…[W]e’re not too shaken up about this,” said defensive lineman Nick Bosa. “We know what we’re capable of doing and we’re going to come back strong.”
There was a scary first half moment when Garoppolo threw a pass about 27 feet (hyperbole) over tight end George Kittle’s head. Kittle tried to get it – bless him – and looked like he hurt his leg, when he came limping off the field after the play. But, he returned in the second half.
“I feel fantastic,” Kittle said after the game. “Fantastic. Not an issue at all.”
Shanahan said he believes the 49ers will know more today.
The Bright Spots
Yes, there were a few.
- In his first time since he played a game in 966 days, running back Jerick McKinnon had a five-yard touchdown reception.
- RB Raheem Mostert had a 76-yard TD reception.
- Defensive lineman Kerry Hyder Jr. recorded the 49ers first sack of the season.
- Nick Bosa had six tackles and a forced fumble.
- Jaquiski Tartt had an interception.
- And Emmanuel Moseley, who started opposite Richard Sherman, had a career-high 15 tackles.
On to New York, times two. Next up, the 49ers play the Jets and the Giants.