What happened to the 49ers against Arizona on Sunday? Hard to say it wasn’t predictable. Although I had hoped a win against the winless and lost looking Cardinals was possible, I knew the 49ers are not much better at this time. However, today made the future look a little more bleak.
The 49ers started hot, just as they did against the Chargers last week. They had a nice, smooth looking 8 play, 74 yard touchdown drive to start the game, with a good run/pass mix throughout. The touchdown play to Breida was a great play call; with a play-action fake forcing the defender to jump up to the QB, the shovel pass was wide open for an easy score. However, the positives mostly stopped there, as Gould missed the extra point, the Cardinals scored on a 75 yard pass play from rookie to rookie, and the Niners offense stalled for a majority of the day.
The defense, again, was abysmal. The tackling for the 5th straight week was nonexistent. Deforest Buckner has not looked the same as he did in the first two game of the season, although that may be at least partially due to all the attention he demands from the offensive line. Unfortunately, no one else on our front seven has proven capable of generating pressure or providing any consistent pass rush whatsoever. The young linebacker duo of Reuben Foster and Fred Warner, both of whom have been playing extremely well the last couple weeks, did not make as much of an impact today either.
This looked like a team that has given up, and it’s hardly easy to blame them. At one point today, this team was playing on offense without their opening day Quarterback Runningback, backup Runningback, and their top three Wide Receivers. On top of all that, the offensive line has been pretty banged up all season.
As pessimistic as my tone is here, it is extremely difficult to find a bright spot for this team right now. It seems the secondary is in need of a complete overhaul, and our pass rush has been lacking to say the least. This start for the 49ers has been somewhat shocking, even for those of us fans who knew to temper expectations for Garopollo’s first season as a starter. What’s even more disappointing than the play on the field itself, is the realization that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch thought we had the personnel to contend this year, and the product they have given us on the field has been downright terrible. No one could have foreseen the injury bug this team has caught, but there was reason to believe a Hall of Fame safety would have an eye for talent in the secondary. While Kyle Shanahan lost what was going to be one of his favorite toys in Jerick McKinnon before the season, he has shown no creativity whatsoever in the run game, and has not done enough to get the extremely talented Matt Breida out in open space. The gadget plays and smart designs he used in Atlanta with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman seem to have all but disappeared here in San Francisco. It’s hard to say the players quit on the coaching staff today, it only looked like it because of the lack of talent and production. It’s looking more and more like Robert Saleh will need to be made an example, as the defense has actually looked worse every week and shown no improvement since the start of the season.
At this point, the 49ers are clearly one of the worst teams in the league, if not THE worst. It will definitely be a long season…all we can hope is Shanahan and company can make some midseason adjustments, find some more diamonds in the rough in the secondary and receiving core as we did with Breida, and collect some momentum heading into next year. The staff who should be immediately on the hot seat is the 49ers training staff, as no other team has had the volume of injuries as the 49ers. This era still can be a great one in San Francisco, and a mass firing is NOT the direction to go right now, as Shanahan came in with a pedigree that demands respect, and John Lynch has shown to be a save, aggressive GM. But the clock is ticking, and there is a lot that needs to be proven in the foreseeable future.