Week 9 recap: Cardinals beat flailing 49ers, 20-10

Neither Reuben Foster nor his 49ers teammates could stop Adrian Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals from embarrassing them on their home field.

Post-game review
The 49ers search for their first win of the Kyle Shanahan era will have to wait at least one more week. The team’s struggles in the trenches returned in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. A decimated offensive line couldn’t keep the Arizona defense out of the backfield, while the defense couldn’t keep Adrian Peterson in the backfield.

For the second straight week, the 49ers were forced to play with a makeshift offensive line. With starter Joe Staley and key backup Garry Gilliam out, the 49ers relied on Trent Brown at left tackle and rookie Erik Magnuson at right tackle. This, again, caused C.J. Beathard to take an absolute pounding, being sacked 5 times and hit 16 more times. Beathard hung in there as long as he could and slung the ball 51 times, but he couldn’t carry the team to a victory. The ground game was nonexistent, with the team going for 63 yards on 17 carries. The offense constantly stalled throughout the game, preventing the 49ers from reaching the redzone more than twice, and repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. The team’s only touchdown came on Beathard’s second career rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

It was a similar story regarding the 49ers defense today, as they played a “bend but not break” style of football. They allowed 167 yards on the ground, but only allowed two touchdowns, with one where the Cardinals offense started on the 49ers 6-yard line due to a Juszczyk fumble, and two field goals. For the most part, the defensive squad kept the offense in the game, they just couldn’t convert drives into points. But, for another game, it seemed the 49ers pass rush was a non-factor. Drew Stanton was not sacked once and made some key plays outside the pocket, such as his touchdown pass to Jaron Brown. This has been a problem throughout the entire season, and the 49ers need to start generating a consistent pass rush to slow down opposing offenses if they want to win games. The lack of pressure creates situations where breakdowns in coverage become almost inevitable and the QB can pick apart the defense.

The play that changed the game was Juszczyk’s fumble inside the 50-yard line. The offense was driving downfield after Phil Dawson’s missed field goal attempt, but as Juszczyk fought for extra yards, the ball was knocked out and recovered by Patrick Peterson. Peterson returned the ball to the 49ers 6-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown. This play kept the 49ers from potentially taking the lead, changing the whole dynamic of the game by giving easy points and all the momentum to the Cardinals.

This is the Reuben Foster game we have all been waiting for. The rookie from Alabama racked up 14 tackles, including 1 tackle for a loss. Foster looked a lot more explosive and instinctive than we have seen all season, and that could be a sign of him being fully healthy again. I had Foster pegged as a top 10 prospect in the 2017 draft class, and I fully expect him to put out more impressive performances like he did against the Cardinals.

I understand the offensive line had to move around a bit, but the unit was horrible. They held the offense back and prevented the 49ers from scoring more points. Beathard was under constant pressure, which not only forced sacks but also throwaways that killed drives. They couldn’t move defenders to open holes in the run game which, when combined with the deficit, made the offense wholly one dimensional. This has been another big issue that rears its ugly head nearly every game and makes it nearly impossible for the 49ers to win games.

Play of the game
This throw from C.J. Beathard to Marquise Goodwin didn’t have a huge impact on the overall game. However, Goodwin continues to show off his speed and elite deep threat ability. Beathard underthrows this ball, but imagine when Garoppolo takes the reins. There is a good chance that this pass goes for a touchdown, rather than just a big gain.

Next up
The 49ers continue their homestand next week against the 1-7 Giants. The Giants are coming off a blowout loss to the Rams at home (51-17). The Giants gave an uninspiring effort on defense, missing many key defensive players, and one must wonder if that will continue as long as Ben McAdoo is the head coach. On paper, this looks like the 49ers last, best chance to secure a victory.

The injury bug continues to bite the 49ers, as 5 more players (Juszczyk, Trent Taylor, Elijah Lee, Jaquiski Tartt, and Cole Hikutini) left Sunday’s game with injuries. The 49ers hope to have Jimmie Ward return next week, and desperately need Joe Staley back if they want to keep whoever plays QB next week upright. And on that note: I don’t want to turn this section into “Garoppolo Watch”, but it will be interesting to see when the 49ers let him take control of the offense. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers don’t let him play until the Bears game on December 3rd, so he can avoid Seattle.

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