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49ers 20, Cardinals 24: Grades

The 49ers lost their opening game of the 2020 season at home to the division-rival Arizona Cardinals by a score of 24-20.

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers lost their opening game of the 2020 season at home to the division-rival Arizona Cardinals by a score of 24-20. The 49ers had every opportunity to win, but didn’t. And now, the 49ers are in last place in the NFC West. Here are their grades.


Based on his numbers, you’d think he played well. His quarterback rating was 103, he threw two touchdown passes and committed zero turnovers. Plus, he didn’t have starting center Weston Richburg, backup center Ben Garland, starting wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. And Kittle injured his knee and was ineffective in the second half. So Garoppolo was playing short-handed -- not his fault.

But it was his fault Kittle injured his knee. Garoppolo sailed a simple screen pass to Kittle, who had to leap to catch it, then took a shot and appeared to hyper extend his left leg. Once Kittle got injured, Garoppolo fell apart. Completed only 8 of 17 passes in the second half. And he was terrible on third down and in the red zone all game.

Despite all of that, Garoppolo had a chance to beat the Cardinals on the final drive of the fourth quarter. But on first and 10 from the Cardinals 21-yard line, Garoppolo underthrew Kendrick Bourne who was wide open in the end zone. Garoppolo’s throw gave cornerback Patrick Peterson time to recover and knock away the pass. Garoppolo hasn’t made strides since last year. It always was a fantasy to think he would make a giant, magical leap from Year 1 as a full-time starter to Year 2, because he had no OTAs, minicamp or preseason this year. His maturation will take more time.


Collectively, the 49ers running backs gained 108 yards on the ground and 161 yards through the air. The 49ers might have scored zero points in this game if not for Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Kyle Juszczyk. Mostert and McKinnon scored the 49ers’ only touchdowns, and Juszczyk caught a 41-yard pass -- the longest of the day for the 49ers. They should have thrown a pass to Jeff Wilson Jr. He beat the Cardinals last year with a touchdown catch in the red zone. He got zero touches today.


Started the game with just four healthy wide receivers -- Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor and Richie James Jr. Ended the game with only three, as James pulled his hamstring. You think the 49ers could use Emmanuel Sanders? Kendrick Bourne played well and caught two of five targets. He probably should have gotten more targets. But he got open in the end zone on the final drive and Garoppolo couldn’t get him the ball. Not Bourne’s fault. Still, the 49ers offense will continue to struggle until Samuel returns. He’s crucial.


Kittle had four catches for 44 yards in the first half, but essentially was a decoy in the second half as he played through a left-leg injury. His backup, Jordan Reed, caught just two passes for 12 yards. You could tell he hadn’t played football for more than a year.

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Third-string center Hroniss Grasu had to start because the 49ers are so banged up. And first-string right guard Daniel Brunskill gave up a sack. Pass protection was such an issue, the 49ers put Garoppolo in the shotgun for most of the game. And he seemed concerned with the pass rush. He wore a big, bulky brace on his left leg, a brace he didn’t wear in training camp, and seemed skittish at times in the pocket. The offensive line did him no favors.


They pressured Murray the first three quarters and forced the Cardinals to call lots of screen passes. But then the 49ers defensive line got tired, as expected -- none of these teams are in shape yet. And then the 49ers defensive linemen couldn’t contain Kyler Murray. Kerry Hyder and Arik Armstead repeatedly rushed wildly up field and created huge escape lanes for Murray, who rushed 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers knew they had to contain Murray in the pocket and failed. Strange for such a dominant defense that had all offseason to prepare to stop him.


Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander combined to make 19 tackles. But when it was time for them to spy Murray, they couldn’t run him down. Alexander was the primary QB spy and he repeatedly ran himself out of the play or got blocked. The 49ers need a better QB spy -- ideally, someone fast enough to chase down the quarterback.


They gave up 14 catches on 16 targets for 151 yards to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. They knew they had to stop basically just one receiver, and they couldn’t. He caught a whopping 88 percent of his targets. The 49ers like to use Cover 3, or three-deep zone defense, because it suits Richard Sherman. But it leaves the rest of the defense exposed. Hopkins ran through it like a kid strolling through sprinklers at his birthday party.


Allowed the Cardinals to block a punt, which led to an Arizona touchdown one play later. The 49ers beat themselves.


Shanahan’s offense averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per play, but it couldn’t stay on the field because it was 2 for 11 on third down and 1 for 4 in the red zone. This is the fourth-straight season his offense has struggled in its debut. In 2017, it scored three points. In 2018, 16 points. And in 2019, 17 points. You’d think an offensive guru like Shanahan would have his unit ready to go when the season starts -- other offensive gurus certainly have their units ready. And then there’s 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. He knew all offseason he had to keep Murray in the pocket and find an answer for one wide receiver -- Hopkins. But Saleh accomplished neither objective. So the 49ers lost to an inferior team at home, and now will have to work hard to catch them in the standings. Some start to the “Revenge Tour,” whatever that freaking means.