Santa Clara – The 49ers lost their opening game of the 2020 season at home to division-rival Arizona Cardinals by a score of 24-20. The 49ers had every chance of winning, but did not. And now, the 49ers are ranked last in the NFC West. Here are their grades.
Based on his numbers, you think he will play well. He had a quarterback rating of 103, threw two touchdown passes and had zero turnovers. In addition, he did not have starting center Weston Richburg, backup center Ben Garland, wide receiver Debo Samuel and Brandon Ayuk. And Kaitel injured his knee and was ineffective in the second half. So Garapolo was playing short-handed – not his fault.
But it was his fault that Cute injured his knee. Gerappolo gave Kaitel a simple screen pass, which he had to leap to catch, then took a shot and appeared to hyper extend his left leg. Once Kaitel was injured, Garoppolo split up. Only 8 out of 17 passed in the second half. And he was terrible in third place and in the red zone all game.
Despite all this, Gerappolo had the chance to defeat the Cardinals on the final drive of the fourth quarter. But before the Cardinals 21-yard line and at 10, Garapolo overtook Kendrick Bourne, who was wide in the end zone. Garoppolo’s throw gave cornerback Patrick Peterson time to regain the pass and knockout. Garoppolo has not progressed since last year. It was always a fantasy that he would make a huge, magical leap from year 1 as a full-time starter in Year 2, as he had no OTAs, minicamps or presses this year. Their maturity will take longer.
Running Back: B-Plus.
Collectively, the 49ers running back gained 108 yards on the ground and 161 yards through the air. The 49ers may have scored zero points in this game, if not for Rahim Mostert, Jaric McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Kyle Zuszski. Mostert and McKinnon scored 49ers for only touchdowns, and Juszczek caught a 41-yard pass – the 49th longest for the day. He should have given a pass to Jeff Wilson Jr. He defeated the Cardinals in the Red Zone last year with a touchdown catch. He got zero touch today.
Wide Recorder: d.
Started the game with only four healthy wide receivers – Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor and Richie James Jr. finished the game with only three, as James pulled the hamstring. Do you think the 49ers can use Emanuel Sanders? Kendrick Bourne played well and caught two out of five goals. He probably should have scored more. But he opened up in the final field on the final drive and Garapolo could not deliver him the ball. Not Bourne’s fault. Nevertheless, the 49th crime would continue until Samuel returned. that’s important.
Tight NDS: C-Plus.
Kastle had four catches for 44 yards in the first half, but was essentially a noose in the second half as he played with a left foot injury. His backup, Jordan Reid, caught just two passes for 12 yards. You can tell that he had not played football for over a year.
Government line: d.
Third-string center Hronis Grasu had to start as the 49ers have been banged up a lot. And first-string right guard Daniel Brunsil gave up a sack. Pass protection was one such issue, with the 49ers putting Gargopolo in the gun for much of the game. And he seemed worried by the nearby crowd. He wore a large, heavy brace on his left leg, a brace he had not worn in training camp, and seemed to be scylish at times in the pocket. The offensive line did him no favors.
Inactive line: B-minus.
He pressured Murray in the first three quarters and forced the Cardinals to call a lot of screen passes. But then the 49ers’ defensive line was exhausted, as expected – none of these teams are in shape yet. And then the 49ers defensive lineman could not have Kylar Murray. Kerry Hyder and Eric Armstead repeatedly raced up the field wildly and made huge rushing lanes for Murray, who ran 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers knew that they would have to keep Murray in the pocket and fail. Strange for such a major defense that he was all aggressive to prepare to stop.
Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander together performed 19 tackles. But when it came time for him to spy on Murray, they could not take him down. Alexander was the primary QB detective, and he repeatedly called himself out of the play or was blocked. The 49ers need a better QB spy – ideally, someone fast enough to chase the quarterback.
Sensitive Back: C-minus.
He gave up 14 catches on 16 goals for 151 yards. They knew that they would basically have to stop just one receiver, and they could not. He met 88 percent of his target. The 49ers prefer to use Cover 3, or a three-deep zone defense, as it suits Richard Sherman. But it highlights the rest of the defense. Hopkins drove it like a child walking through a sprinkler at his birthday party.
Special Teams: D.
Allowed the Cardinals to block a punt, causing a play by Arizona to be touched later. 49 people beat themselves up.
Shanahan’s offense averaged 6.8 yards per game, but it could not last on the field as it was 2 for 11 in the third and 1 for 4 in the red zone. This is the fourth-straight season when his offense struggles in his debut. In 2017, it scored three points. In 2018, 16 points. And in 2019, 17 points. You would think that an offensive guru like Shanhan would have his unit ready to go when the season started – other offensive gurus would certainly have their unit ready. And then there’s 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. He knew he would have to keep Morena in the pocket and find an answer for a wide receiver – Hopkins. But Saleh served neither purpose. So the 49ers lost to an inferior team at home, and now they have to work hard to hold on to the standings. Some people embark on a “revenge tour”, whatever that means.