Great start. Unfortunately, there were 55 more minutes. The 49ers managed just 10 points after scoring that many on their first two drives and their lack of wide-receiver firepower certainly played a role. It also didn’t help that their top pass catcher, George Kittle, wasn’t targeted after he suffered a leg injury late in the first half. They went 2-for-11 on third down and allowed three sacks, with much of the pressure coming from the interior where third-string center Hroniss Grasu made the start. Jimmy Garoppolo had some fourth-quarter success before three of his final four passes fell incomplete.
Arizona QB Kyler Murray plus wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins equals a problem for the 49ers, perhaps for many seasons to come. The two combined for 14 receptions and 151 yards, and Murray added 91 rushing yards and a rushing score. Cover Hopkins? OK, see Murray run. The 49ers managed just two sacks as Murray escaped endless near takedowns. Arizona had 29 first downs, 404 yards, converted 7 of 14 third downs — and had TD drives of 71 and 75 yards on its final two full possession to win the game against last season’s second-ranked defense.
This unit had a breakdown that changed the tenor of the game. The Cardinals scored a TD one snap after they blocked Mitch Wishnowsky’s punt while trailing 10-0 midway through the first quarter. Cornerback Dontae Johnson, in the role of protector, was forced to attempt to block two defenders who came free. That’s not supposed to happen. Robbie Gould made field-goal tries of 52 and 24 yards. Wishnowksy fared well on his other four kicks, forcing Arizona to start at its 6-, 12- and 14-yard lines.
From the Easier Said Than Done Dept.: Robert Saleh’s defense needs to do a far better job of finding ways to keep Murray inside the pocket. Cornerback Richard Sherman has stayed on the left side in his career, but perhaps they need to mix things up so he isn’t consistently covering Christian Kirk while Hopkins torments corner Emmanuel Moseley when they meet again in December. Kyle Shanahan was hamstrung with Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis as his top wideouts, but the mastermind is paid big bucks to solve such dilemmas.
The 49ers are 0-2 in their past two games, losing 10-point leads in each while being overwhelmed in the end by a dynamic young QB. In other words, they’re also not enjoying 2020. This is probably not cause to panic because five-win Arizona gave them fits last year. The good news is they get the Jets on Sunday.
— Eric Branch