NBC Sports

Grades for 49ers' offense, defense in bad loss to Cardinals

NBC Sports

SANTA CLARA — The real 49ers stood up on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

The real 49ers then stumbled around and fell flat on their faces.

The Arizona Cardinals came to town without their star quarterback, All-Pro wide receiver and, likely, first-ballot Hall of Fame defensive lineman.

And they still thumped the 49ers and left little doubt of their superiority over a team that has been unable to back up their words of confidence this season.

The Cardinals swept the season series with a 31-17 victory over the 49ers, who wrongly thought they had turned the corner a week earlier with a strong showing in a victory over the Chicago Bears.

The 49ers snapped a four-game losing streak last week. On Sunday, they started a new one, as they dropped to 3-5 on the season and 0-3 within the NFC West.

Here are the grades from the 49ers’ Week 9 loss to the Cardinals:

Rushing offense

Going up against the Cardinals’ six-man defensive line, the 49ers opened the game with an emphasis on the passing game. When they did run the ball, Elijah Mitchell had mixed results. He gained 36 yards on eight rushing attempts. Three of his carries gained 34 yards. He managed just 2 yards on his other five attempts.

Mitchell played despite a ribs injury that had him listed as questionable for the game.

As a team, the 49ers averaged 3.5 yards on just 11 rushing attempts.

Grade: D

Passing offense

Jimmy Garoppolo’s stat sheet was not bad. He completed 28 of 40 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns. But the 49ers’ two critical first-quarter turnovers came on pass plays. Tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk lost fumbles. Kittle had six catches for 101 yards, and Aiyuk had a season-best six receptions for 89 yards.


But those giveaways were critical. Also, Garoppolo threw a late-game interception and was sacked five times for minus-28 yards. There were a lot of reasons the 49ers lost this game. Turnovers played a major role.

Grade: F

Rushing defense

The Cardinals rushed for 163 yards and manhandled the 49ers from start to finish. Arizona running back James Conner had 96 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushing attempts.

Eno Benjamin added 39 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts. He posterized 49ers cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick when he plowed over him on a 21-yard touchdown run.

The 49ers did an atrocious job of tackling throughout the game.

Grade: F

Passing defense

Quarterback Colt McCoy was at the controls of his ninth NFL victory in 31 career starts since the 2010 season. He completed 22 of 26 pass attempts for 249 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 119.4.

Arik Armstead and Arden Key registered sacks, but the Cardinals kept the 49ers off-balance with a variety of screen passes. This was such a poor performance from the 49ers after holding the Cardinals (with Murray and Hopkins) to 17 points just four weeks ago.

Grade: F

Special teams

There really was not much to talk about on special teams. Aiyuk averaged 11.3 yards on three punt returns with a career-long of 27 yards. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky and the coverage unit had a respectable 40.3 average on three punts. Robbie Gould returned after a three-week absence and made a 26-yard field goal and two extra points.

Grade: C


The messages did not hit the mark. Coach Kyle Shanahan expected the 49ers to play well after what he described as a good week of practices and meetings. Wow, was he ever wrong. The 49ers had no juice on Sunday — and that has become an all-too-familiar theme.

RELATED: Shanahan "extremely disappointed" by 49ers in loss to Cardinals

Everything the coaches try seems to fail. Shanahan opened with a lot of passes to beat the Cardinals’ six-man line. They had some success, but a couple of fumbles short-circuited their early chances. Simply put, they are unable to sustain success with anything they try.

Grade: F


The description of a loss as “embarrassing” is probably over-used. But we’ll defer to 49ers linebacker Fred Warner, who said, “It’s pretty embarrassing and it’s unacceptable.” There you have it.

The 49ers thought they were a good team. That is a laughable thought nowadays. This is a team that cannot beat a playoff caliber team — even when that team does not suit up a handful of their best players.

Grade: F

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast