In their first meeting the San Francisco 49ers dominated the Arizona Cardinals in almost every category except in the win column. This Sunday the 49ers will have another opportunity to best Arizona and separate themselves from last place in the NFC West.
The loser of this contest could very well be playing for the number one pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, while the winner is playing solely for respect. Both teams have struggled mightily this season and share the same 1-6 record. Only the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders have as many wins.
C.J. Beathard had a bad day last Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, finishing 15 of 27 for only 170 yards, with 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and passer rating of 56.1. Beathards’ lack of production has centered around his pocket presence and ball security, as most of his sacks and turnovers are from holding on to the ball too long.
Adding to the dysfunction is Beathard’s lack of open targets. Wide receivers have been struggling to get open, but hopefully that can change against Arizona. Rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis looks like he’ll be back on the field this Sunday. Combine Pettis’ zigzag ability with fellow receiver Marquise Goodwin’s speed and tight end George Kittle’s big play ability and things could open up.
With a few questionable calls late in games, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s play calling has been exceptional. He’s still one of the best play callers in the league. It’s the mistakes that have been holding the young team back. If the offense can get out of their own way and Beathard can get into a rhythm, the offense should play good enough to win.
The defense, on the other hand has been all over the place. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has been good at making adjustments, but his initial game plans have been poor, giving up big plays early in games. The miscues, penalties, and missed tackles are all coaching red flags. If this continues for the remainder of the season, Kyle Shanahan will have to reevaluate his coaching staff.
Special teams started out strong, but has since regressed. Richard Hightower has been the 49ers special teams coordinator for the last 2 seasons and previously served as assistant special teams coach with the team in 2015. In 2017 under Hightower’s guidance the unit excelled, the lack of depth might be responsible for the unit’s decline. As players recover and digest the system things should stabilize.
The underlying fear in every 49er fans’ mind is that the team will find a way to lose. The usual culprit of those fears have been turnovers and the inability to create them. The 49ers need to turn that around this Sunday against the Cardinals or things could get even more ugly. In the NFL there is a fine line between winning and losing, the 49ers need to walk that line with better discipline and an eye for the ball.
What we have been accustomed to seeing this season is a team that can’t finish. The 49ers have to stop finding a way to lose and find a way to win, it’s just that simple. Against Arizona this Sunday the 49ers have one last chance to reverse their fortunes. Otherwise Niners fans will be more excited about the draft than watching games this season and that’s not good for business.