49ers' run defense slows down Cardinals' Johnson

49ers' run defense slows down Cardinals' Johnson

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The No. 1 step for the 49ers to remain competitive and in a position to upset the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday was to clean up the team’s most glaring deficiency.

And that’s exactly what the 49ers did.

The 49ers’ run defense, which entered the game allowing 193.0 yards per game, stiffened against running back David Johnson. Still, it was not enough to prevent the 49ers from their eighth consecutive loss.

Kicker Chandler Catanzaro hit a 34-yard field on the final play of the game for the winning score in the Cardinals’ 23-20 victory over the 49ers. After the 49ers tied the game at 20-20, Arizona drove 69 yards on 11 plays to set up Catanzaro’s kick.

“I just told them I was proud of how they competed, but we still have to . . . they’re not handing out participation trophies in the National Football League,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s about wins and losses.”

The 49ers’ defense snapped a streak of allowing seven consecutive opponents to rush for 100 yards or more. Johnson was held to 55 yards and a touchdown rushing on 19 carries. The Cardinals gained 80 yards on 23 run attempts on the 49ers’ last-ranked defense.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians said he knew it would be difficult to run against the 49ers, who stacked the box in an attempt to take away the Cardinals’ ground game.

“There was never a doubt,” Arians said. “And we didn’t block it very well at times. But he needs to stick it up in there and quit bouncing outside and putting the guys in jeopardy of holding penalties and losing yardage. A 2-yard gain is better than a 1-yard loss or a 10-yard holding penalty. When you get frustrated, you try to make big plays.”

Johnson entered the game as the NFL's No. 4 rusher with 705 yards. On Oct. 6, Johnson gained 157 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers in a 33-21 win at Levi's Stadium.

Kelly said the improved 49ers run defense was a result of the front getting lined up correctly and each player taking care of his respective assignment. The 49ers also received a big boost from veteran nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, who made his first start after being in and out of the lineup with a knee issue this season.

“I think our guys were where they were supposed to be,” Kelly said. “We had the right fits. Guys battled. We were lined up right.

“I think overall as a group the one thing that stuck out was our guys tackled well. There weren’t a whole lot of missed tackles with guys running around. And usually when you have those big plays, a lot of times the first guy there doesn’t make the tackle and get him down or slow him down so the rest of the guys can get there. But I thought our guys tackled well as a better.”

Defensive back Jaquiski Tartt said the 49ers brought a determined attitude into Sunday’s game after being scorched repeatedly during their losing streak.

“I would say it’s our mindset,” Tartt said. “It’s about time we stopped the run. Coming into the game, we knew they were going to try to run the ball on us. We just had the mindset, nobody is going to run the ball on us any more.

“It’s easier said than done, but that was our mindset.”

Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who had six tackles and a late-game interception that enabled the 49ers to tie the score late in the game, believes Sunday’s game signals a transformation with the defense.

“People get confused, thinking it was big problem when it was never really a big problem,” he said. “It was little details here and there that you have to tweak and fix. And this display shows you the kind of defense that we really are. It’s not a fluke or anything like that. We just have to make sure that everybody is hitting on all cylinders when we’re out there playing.”

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 38-27 loss to Chiefs

49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 38-27 loss to Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Things couldn't have gone much worse for the 49ers in their 38-27 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.

But the most devastating moment occurred late in the game when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with what the team believes is a torn ACL in his left knee. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday to confirm the season-ending diagnosis.

Here is a look at this week’s 49ers grades:

Rushing offense

Matt Breida and Alfred Morris again proved to be a good 1-2 punch, as both players enjoyed productive days. Breida followed his 138-yard performance against Detroit with a 90-yard day against Kansas City -- and he did his damage on just 10 rushing attempts. Morris gained 67 yards on 14 carries.

The offensive line did a good job of creating holes and cut-back lanes for the backs.

Grade: A

Passing offense

There were a couple of dropped passes, and Garoppolo missed a couple of throws, but the passing game still had a statistically productive day. Garoppolo completed 20 of 30 passes for 251 yards, with TD throws to Kyle Juszczyk and Marquise Goodwin. The 49ers struggled with the silent count, though, as the Chiefs' defensive front seemed to often beat the offensive line off the ball. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey gave up back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers also weren't very good on third downs, converting just two of nine opportunities.

Grade: B-minus

Rushing Defense

There still were way too many missed tackles, but overall, the 49ers’ run defense was very good. Kareem Hunt averaged just 2.4 yards per rushing attempt, as he gained 44 yards on 18 carries. The 49ers did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage in the run game, allowing inside linebackers Fred Warner and Reuben Foster to combine for 18 tackles.

Grade: A

Passing Defense

The 49ers have plenty of excuses with all of their injuries in the defensive backfield, but we grade performances here and don't soften the grade when starters are out of the lineup.

The pass rush wasn't very good, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was able to pick apart the 49ers' defense for 314 yards and three TDs. Tight end Travis Kelce caught eight of the 10 passes thrown his way for 114 yards. Cornerback Richard Sherman left the game near the end of the first half with a calf injury. But even before that, the 49ers’ secondary wasn't playing with confidence.

Grade: F

Special Teams

The 49ers’ strategy was simple: Punt the ball away from Tyreek Hill. Some of Bradley Pinion’s punts sailed out of bounds well shy of the intended mark. Hill returned just one of four punts and managed only 5 yards. Pinion’s net average was 35.8 yards. Conversely, Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt produced a 43.0 net average. Robbie Gould made two field goals but also missed an extra point.

Grade: D


The 49ers made a second-half push to sort-of, kind-of get back in the game. But there simply was no coming back from a 35-7 deficit after the Chiefs scored touchdowns on each of their five first-half offensive possessions. Not only did Mahomes lead the Chiefs into the end zone every time they touched the ball in the first half, they made it look absurdly easy.

But the worst part of this game for the 49ers wasn't the 11-point loss. It was the many injuries they endured along the way.

Grade: D

49ers confident in C.J. Beathard as starting QB with Jimmy Garoppolo injured

49ers confident in C.J. Beathard as starting QB with Jimmy Garoppolo injured

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It might be a cliché that C.J. Beathard continued to prepare since the end of last season as if he were the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

Beathard stood no chance of getting on the field for any meaningful playing time this season as long as Jimmy Garoppolo remained healthy. But after one devastating turn for the 49ers in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, Beathard will have as many as 13 games to show the results of his work in the offseason.

“I got a lot of confidence in him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Beathard. “He led us to our first win last year. He came in today and made a hell of a throw on that fourth down. No hesitation.

"C.J.’s a gamer. Everyone in here has a ton of respect for C.J.”

Beathard will make his first start of the season next Sunday when the 49ers travel to Carson to face the Los Angeles Chargers. And Beathard will be expected to play at a high level and give the 49ers a chance to win, according to his coaches and teammates.

“Coach Shanahan has the highest standards for every single person on this team, especially C.J. That’s why they took him in the third round,” 49ers tight end George Kittle said. “They thought so highly of him. He did his job last year, and he’s going to step up no matter what happens.”

In the immediate aftermath of Garoppolo sustaining a knee injury that was diagnosed as a torn ACL in his left knee (an MRI will be performed Monday to confirm the team’s fears), Beathard entered Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

Beathard threw what appeared to be a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kittle on a fourth-and-goal play. But fullback Kyle Juszczyk was called for offensive pass interference, and the 49ers settled for a field goal with five minutes remaining in the loss.

Now, the 49ers’ hopes for the season rest with Beathard, a second-year pro who started five games last season after coming to the team as a third-round pick from Iowa.

“We have a great deal of confidence in C.J., man,” 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin said. “He started for us a few games last year and did his thing, helped get our first win of the season last year against the Giants. And there’s no doubt he’ll come in and assume his role and study up and do exactly what he needs to do to help us win.”

Beathard completed 123 of 224 passes (54.9 percent) for 1,430 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions as a rookie. He was sacked 19 times.

“It’s huge having already played last year in six games,” Beathard said. “I feel like it will really help me going forward having had the experience. It’s not my first time in a live NFL game in the regular season. It is my second time around. I think it will be a little easier this time.”

“C.J. played a lot of games for us last year,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “We have a lot of confidence that he’ll be able to come in. He knows the offense. It’s just one of those things, we just have to step up. If C.J.’s rolling out there, we’ll be ready to go.”

The 49ers already have dealt with crushing blows on offense this season. In the team’s first practice after the end of the preseason, running back Jerick (Jet) McKinnon sustained a torn ACL and was lost for the season.

“You can relate it to us losing Jet in the week before we started the season,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “We had a lot of things schemed around him, same as we do with Jimmy. You just have to adapt, and I think Kyle [Shanahan] is the best in the business at that kind of stuff.”

Beathard said part of his duty for as long as he is the 49ers' starting quarterback is to be a leader and keep the team together through adversity.

“There is going to be every opportunity in the world for guys to be mad or down about certain things,” Beathard said. “But we have to keep the morale and stay positive and move onto the next week and get the [win] next week.”