49ers collapse against Cardinals only magnifies question marks surrounding coaching staff and personnel

In a season full of lows, loss to Arizona feels like rock bottom

Tommy Call
October 28, 2018 - 7:47 pm

There’s been loud negative buzz surrounding the 49ers these past few weeks — Is defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s job on the line? Who is on the trade block? Is C.J. Beathard Jimmy Garropolo’s backup for the future? Against one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers could’ve silenced a lot of the outside noise.

Instead, they turned the volume up to a deafening tone after collapsing in one of their worst losses in a season full of losses.

The 49ers had a 12-point lead against a rookie quarterback, rookie head coach and first time offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich in the fourth quarter. The 49ers couldn’t close — even with the Cardinals trying their best to give the 49ers the game.

After scoring to cut San Francisco's lead to five, the Cardinals fumbled the ball back to the 49ers on their next drive with under five minutes to play. The 49ers only managed one first down, that was gifted to them on a hands-to-the-face penalty by Patrick Peterson. The 49ers couldn’t seal the game as Beathard took a sack on third down forcing San Francisco to punt with 2:28 remaining, putting pressure on their defense to make a stop.

Throughout the game the 49ers defense played well, harassing Josh Rosen for three sacks on the day. It was a bend-but-not-break day for the 49ers defense who’ve dealt with a bevy of injuries, but on the final drive of the game they broke.

The disastrous fourth quarter ended in a fitting way with a snap from Erik Magnuson sailing by Beathard as the clock hit zero with the Cardinals winning 18-15.

It was the Cardinals second win of the season— both wins have come against the 49ers.

Some fans may say this loss helped the 49ers in the long run, advancing their draft position. Say that to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Tell that to Joe Staley. Mention that to Richard Sherman. This loss was a shot to the heart for the 49ers' coaching staff and locker room. This loss only added to the 49ers' outside noise. Questions will need to be addressed starting with Shanahan.

Play calling has been a double edged sword for Shanahan in his career.

At one moment it seems like he’s an offensive guru, and other times he leaves you scratching your head. Instead of grinding the clock with the run game Shanahan elected to throw the ball six out of 15 plays in the fourth quarter with the lead. Running the ball has been one of the better things the 49ers have done this season and Shanahan wouldn’t commit to it with the lead. The 49ers only managed three first downs with the lead in the fourth quarter. There were sacks, incompletions and negative plays.

It’s easy to use the excuse of Garoppolo’s injury when discussing Shanahan’s downfalls, but his 1-15 record without Garoppolo is becoming hard to ignore. It may be a mix of bad quarterback, bad play calls and bad luck, but whatever it is, it’s a problem that will be monitored with eight games left on the schedule — all without Garoppolo.

With the trade deadline coming, the 49ers will likely head into liquidation mode, which could be a tough pill to swallow for general manager John Lynch who brought veterans here to mentor this young team and hopefully compete for a playoff spot. Those feelings are long gone. The season is officially lost.

The next eight games will be an evaluation period of who will be in Santa Clara for the future. Coaches and players will be on notice — including guys like Sherman, Salah, defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley and defensive line coach Jeff Zgonnia to name a few.

Before we close the book on the Cardinals-49ers series, we need to put how bad the Cardinals are into perspective. They lost 45-10 last week to the Denver Broncos, who are only 3-5. After the game the Cardinals fired their offensive coordinator and they still managed to put together a fourth-quarter comeback. In a season of lows for the 49ers, this is officially rock bottom.



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