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49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in sloppy Week 1 loss to Cardinals

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The 49ers began 2019 with eight consecutive victories.

It’s a new year -- in case you required a reminder -- and Kyle Shanahan’s club is 0-1.

Three teams in the NFC West won their season-openers, including the Arizona Cardinals, who came to Levi’s Stadium and left with a 24-20 victory in front of zero fans.

Here’s a look at the 49ers’ grades from Week 1:

Rushing offense

OK, the good news is the 49ers have to feel very strongly about their stable of running backs. Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and fullback Kyle Juszczyk all made contributions. And the 49ers also have Jeff Wilson in reserve.

Mostert checked in well shy of his output of last season, as he averaged just 3.7 yards (15 carries, 56 yards), and he was stopped just short of the goal line on a key fourth-down play at the beginning of the second quarter. Overall, the 49ers gained 123 yards on 25 rushing attempts for a 4.9 average.

Grade: C-plus

Passing offense

Jimmy Garoppolo was neither as good as his stats (19 of 33 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 103.0) nor as bad as the immediate reviews of his performance. He knows he should play better than his Week 1 outing. But there is no question his worst throw was the high toss to the left side that forced George Kittle to leave his feet, thus contributing to the injury that limited the All-Pro tight end’s effectiveness the remainder of the day.

 

Garoppolo and Kendrick Bourne had a couple of nice hookups, but Garoppolo was a tad late and his throw for the corner of the end zone was wobbly on what could’ve been a late go-ahead TD. The 49ers got nothing from their other wide receivers. Garoppolo tried to hit Dante Pettis deep. The throw was not bad at all, but Pettis did not make much of an effort to haul it in.

Mostert was the top pass-catcher with four catches for 95 yards, including a 76-yard catch-and-run early in the game. The 49ers were just 2 of 11 on third downs, and that’s a reflection on the passing game.

Grade: D-plus

Rushing defense

We’re going to give the rushing defense decent marks because we are choosing to count of all Kyler Murray’s rushing yards against the passing defense. None of Murray’s scampers were on planned running plays; they were on breakdowns on discipline with the 49ers’ pass-rush lanes.

Kenyan Drake had success against the 49ers last season. On Sunday, he gained 60 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for a 3.8-yard average.

Grade: B

Passing defense

It was a rough day for 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley. But, hey, what do you expect when he is matched up for most of the game against DeAndre Hopkins?

Hopkins showed why he recently became the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL. According to NextGen Stats, Hopkins had 10 catches (on 11 targets) for 96 yards against Moseley. Moseley also was called for pass interference on the Cardinals’ game-winning drive against Christian Kirk. Murray rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown -- and continually frustrated the 49ers -- before two end-of-game kneel-downs. He also coaxed two unnecessary roughness penalties with late slides – showing his baseball skills.

Nickelback K’Waun Williams was called for defensive holding on a third-down play that enabled a 14-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that gave Arizona its first lead in the fourth quarter. The 49ers managed only two sacks, and those came from Kerry Hyder and D.J. Jones.

Grade: F

Special teams

The 49ers were up 10-0, and the Cardinals needed something -- anything. They got it when Dontae Johnson, the protector for punter Mitch Wishnowsky, got blown up while trying to prevent what ended up happening. Johnson was standing straight up at the time of the snap and kept a high center of gravity when trying to block two Cardinals. Ezekiel Turner plowed through him to block the punt. One play later, the Cardinals had a touchdown.

Other than that, specials teams were a wash. But that play was a big one that flipped momentum and got the Cardinals back in the game when the 49ers were threatening to blow them out.

 

Grade: D-minus

Coaching

The 49ers were playing without two of their top three wide receivers. Deebo Samuel is out for at least three weeks, and Brandon Aiyuk was inactive. Shanahan had a difficult time pushing the right buttons to get anything going on offense. The difficulty on third downs prevented the 49ers from establishing any kind of rhythm.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph implemented a good plan to take away a lot of the throws Garoppolo wanted to make, including to Kittle in the second half. Defensively, it is obvious coordinator Robert Saleh is trying new things, such as asking veteran cornerback Richard Sherman to cover the receiver on the wide side of the field. Saleh is trying to expand the 49ers’ defense to become less predictable. But that cuts both ways.

A blown assignment -- the result of a miscommunication in the secondary -- allowed Hopkins to shake free for a big play on the Cardinals’ game-winning drive. The 49ers admitted they lacked discipline.

Grade: D

Overall

The Cardinals are not a bad team. They could be in playoff contention throughout the season. But this was a game of missed opportunities for the 49ers. Defensively, they got roasted by Hopkins’ hands and Murray’s feet. Offensively, the 49ers squandered too many opportunities on third downs and within the red zone, where they scored just 10 points on four trips inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line.

The expectations this season are much greater for this team. And on Sunday, they did not take care of business against a team they should have beaten.

Grade: D-minus