All season long, penalties have hurt the 49ers' defense in the least opportune moments.
Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium was no different.
On the Cardinals' third drive of the game, 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead sacked quarterback Colt McCoy on 3rd-and-9, which appeared to end the Cardinals' drive. Instead, Armstead was called for a facemask penalty that ended up giving the Cardinals a first down on a drive that eventually resulted in a touchdown to extend Arizona's lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Down by two scores already, that Cardinals touchdown swung the momentum fully in Arizona's favor.
"I don't feel like it should have been a penalty," Armstead told reporters postgame. "It is unfortunate. I feel like that was a big moment in the game that shifted their momentum. The next play, they got a big play on the 1-yard line, and that was third down, where we would have been off the field. That was definitely frustrating. That was twice against the same team. I feel like I made a similar play last time that we played them that should have been a safety. It is what it is. I can't control the calls."
Armstead's arm certainly wrapped around McCoy's head and neck area during the tackle, as 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would agree, but it didn't appear as if he was grabbing onto the facemask.
"I saw it like the ref who saw it originally, who didn't call it a personal foul," Shanahan said postgame. "He said he got corrected by another guy who thought he had a better angle, and he thought he hit his helmet. I thought he hit his neck. That was a tough one."
Without a penalty, the Cardinals' drive would have ended there, and the 49ers' offense would have had a chance to march down the field and tie the game.
Regardless of the call, the 49ers were clearly outmatched Sunday and had zero answers for McCoy and the Cardinals offense.