49ers

Instant Analysis: 49ers suffer five more injuries, lose to Cards, fall to 0-9

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Instant Analysis: 49ers suffer five more injuries, lose to Cards, fall to 0-9

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA – Losses and injuries continue to appear in great abundance for the 49ers this season.

The 49ers on Sunday remained winless with a 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals while also taking on another handful of injuries to their depleted game-day roster.

The 49ers lost five more players due to injuries in the first half: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk (neck), safety Jaquiski Tartt (wrist), wide receiver Trent Taylor (ribs), tight end Cole Hikutini (knee) and special-teams player Elijah Lee (knee).

Moreover, six of the 49ers’ seven inactive players were not available for the game due to injuries: offensive linemen Joe Staley (eye) and Garry Gilliam (knee), defensive linemen Solomon Thomas (knee), Aaron Lynch (calf) and D.J.. Jones (knee), and defensive back K’Waun Williams (quadricep). The 49ers also placed wide receiver Pierre Garçon on injured reserve Saturday with a neck injury.

The losses in the standings are piling up, too. The 49ers last week became the first club in franchise history to start with eight consecutive losses to open the season.

Now 0-9, the 49ers own the NFL’s worst record because the Cleveland Browns (0-8) were on their bye week.

Juszczyk gift-wrapped the Cardinals their first points of the game in the first quarter.

While struggling for extra yards at the end of a 5-yard reception, Juszczyk was stripped by Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Patrick Peterson scooped it up and returned it 47 yards.

Three plays later, the Cardinals scored on Drew Stanton’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown between 49ers linebacker Brock Coyle and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.

The Cardinals increased their lead to 14-3 in the second quarter when tight end Jermaine Gresham got inside position against Witherspoon to catch an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stanton in the second quarter.

The 49ers pulled to within four points on C.J. Beathard’s 1-yard run to cap a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

QUARTERBACK WATCH
Newly acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo warmed up intermittently on the 49ers’ sideline during the game but never got into action. But there were many close calls along the way.

Beathard was under pressure throughout the game behind the 49ers’ makeshift offensive line that consisted of Trent Brown at left tackle and undrafted rookie Erik Magnuson at right tackle.

Beathard was sacked five times and absorbed 16 hits from the Cardinals pass rush.

Beathard completed 24 of 51 pass attempts for 294 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 57.1.

Running back Carlos Hyde was the 49ers’ leading pass-catcher with nine receptions for 84 yards. He added 41 yards rushing on 12 carries.

FIGHT AND EJECTIONS
Hyde was ejected, along with two Cardinals defensive players, after a fight erupted when Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea was called for a personal foul for a high hit on a sliding Beathard.

Arizona linebacker Haason Reddick and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker were ejected for their actions during the scuffle.

THIS ‘N’ THAT
--On Tuesday, the 49ers traded Rashard Robinson, who started the first seven games before Witherspoon replaced him. The Cardinals on Sunday did not waste any time before going after Witherspoon. Stanton hit John Brown on a double-move for a 52- yard reception on the Cardinals’ first play of the game.

--Undrafted rookie Kendrick Bourne hauled in his first career reception – a 25-yard catch in the third quarter.

--Eric Reid, who moved back to safety after a couple of weeks at linebacker, recorded an interception in the end zone in the second quarter. It was Reid’s first interception this season and the ninth in his five-year career.

--New defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was credited with fumble recovery after Earl Mitchell forced an Adrian Peterson fumble late in the fourth quarter. Peterson finished with 159 yards on a career-high 37 rushing attempts.

49ers unclear on what constitutes penalty under new NFL helmet rule

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49ers unclear on what constitutes penalty under new NFL helmet rule

HOUSTON -- In two preseason games, the 49ers have been penalized three times under the new NFL rule that prohibits any player from lowering his head to initiate contact with the helmet.

Around the league, there appear to be different interpretations of the rule being enforced by different officiating crews through two weeks of the exhibition season. Count 49ers Kyle Shanahan among those who is not sure what defines a penalty.

“We’re all still trying to figure it out,” Shanahan said following the 49ers' game Saturday night against the Houston Texans. “We’ll see how it goes.”

In the exhibition opener, 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee was penalized for a tackle on Dallas running back Bo Scarbrough. Lee appeared to use his shoulder and helmet to make simultaneous contact with the back of Scarbrough, as he turned away from contact.

Lee told NBC Sports Bay Area that not only was he not fined for the play, but the NFL informed a representative of his that referee Ron Torbert’s crew incorrectly threw a flag.

While the three penalties called on the 49ers surprised the three players flagged for infractions, Lee said he understands the purpose behind the rule. He said he is determined to improve his technique to keep his head out of tackling as much as possible.

“It shouldn’t have been a penalty, so it makes me feel a lot better to know that,” Lee said of the play on which he was penalized. “But at the same time, I watched the play, and I do have to keep my head up. I have to keep playing safer and practicing to keep playing safer.”

On Saturday, the 49ers were called for two more questionable interpretations of the rule from referee Walt Anderson’s crew.

Raheem Mostert, who was the gunner on the left side on a punt, lowered his body as he approached Houston return man Tyler Ervin. Mostert appeared to turn to avoid a direct helmet hit on Ervin but might have made glancing helmet contact with the arm in which Ervin was holding the ball after fielding the punt.

“They said it was bad form, but I thought it was good technique by me,” Mostert said. “But I got to go look at the film. I know I tried to keep my head up, but I got to go check out the film.

“It is tough, but that’s why we have film, so we can go watch it and learn from that.”

Defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu was called for unnecessary roughness, lowering his helmet to initiate contact while rushing the passer against Texans right tackle Chad Slade. But Attaochu appeared to extend his arms first. He appeared to initiate contact with his hands before any his helmet made contact with Slade's helmet.

“I had no idea, actually,” Attaochu said. “I just tried to put my hands on his chest and turn into him, trying to stay underneath him. I didn’t understand it.”

Taking the helmet out of tackling has been a major emphasis for the NFL as a safety issue. And there are almost certain to be more complications and controversy as officiating crews must make important and, in some cases, game-changing calls in a split-second.

“It’s whatever they call it, and at the end of the day, we can’t argue with what they call,” Lee said. “I guess we’ll see after we get out of the preseason if they change or how it will change or how it will effect us.

“At the same time, you can’t play hesitant because a big play might happen for the offense. You just got play your game and hope it’s not a penalty.”

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

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Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

HOUSTON -- Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Week 2 of the exhibition season...

Interior D-line has Depth

The 49ers still don’t really know from where their outside pass rush is going to come, but the interior of the defensive line looks to be in good shape. Veteran Earl Mitchell is a solid presence at nose tackle. And DeForest Buckner could become one of the league’s better defensive tackles.

Behind Mitchell and Buckner are a couple of young players who have put together strong training camps. Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones continued their impressive play on Saturday with strong showings against the Texans.

Day recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, while Jones came up with three tackles and a forced fumble, too. Day is in his first summer with the 49ers after the club claimed him off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has made tremendous strides since his rookie season. He said he lost 20 pounds from the end of last season when he regularly found himself on the inactive list for games.

“I feel like it’s been a big turnaround, the way I changed my body in the offseason,” Jones said. “Toward the end of the season when I wasn’t playing, the way I practiced, it got me prepared for this season.”

In the Right Slot

Second-year player Trent Taylor missed most of the offseason program after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his lower back. He has slowly been working back into form during training camp.

Taylor clearly made a lot of progress during this week in Houston. He was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target during the two days of practices against the Texans. And Garoppolo looked for Taylor again on Saturday with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap the 49ers’ first drive of the game.

“I’m starting to get stronger and get my legs back under me,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to feel improvement as you work. I still have a little ways to go, but it definitely felt great being out there tonight and getting my first catch as a TD.”

Taylor, the team’s primary slot receiver, had only two catches for 7 yards. But his other reception was a 5-yard catch to extend the 49ers' second drive on a third-and-4 play.

Penalties Galore

The 49ers certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to avoiding flags. Kyle Shanahan’s team was called for 15 penalties, totaling 140 yards.

What always gets to Shanahan most are the pre-snap penalties. Joe Staley (false start), Kendrick Bourne (illegal formation), Darrell Williams (false start) and Cedric Thornton (neutral zone infraction) were called for those kinds of infractions.

The worst sequence of penalties, however, went to veteran center Weston Richburg. He was guilty of a rare double-penalty on the first play of the second quarter when he was flagged for holding, then another 15 yards for his ensuing dialogue with the official.

Two of the penalties might have been excusable, though. Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu were called for strict interpretations of the NFL’s new rule on lowering the helmet to initiate contact.