Kyler Murray believes Cardinals 'should've' beaten undefeated 49ers

Kyler Murray believes Cardinals 'should've' beaten undefeated 49ers

It had trap game written all over it, and the Cardinals damn near sprung it on the 49ers.

Entering Thursday night's game at 7-0, Kyle Shanahan's club just a few days to prepare for rookie sensation Kyler Murray and the Cardinals' Air Raid offense, and had a prime-time NFC West showdown with the Seahawks looming after their trip to the desert.

So, if ever there was a time for the 49ers to let one slip, it was Thursday.

Sure enough, Murray drove the Cardinals right down the field on their first possession, aided by a horse-collar tackle penalty, and took an early 7-0 lead. The 49ers responded with 21 unanswered points to end the half, the final seven of which came after the Cardinals stuffed the 49ers on fourth-and-goal from the inch line, only to have it negated when Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury called a timeout before the ball was snapped. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 1-yard score on the ensuing play, and it looked like the 49ers would roll to 8-0.

But the Cardinals didn't quit, and an 88-yard touchdown pass from Murray to fellow rookie Andy Isabella, plus a two-point conversion, cut the 49ers' lead to 28-25 with under five minutes to play.


Arizona's defense, however, couldn't get the ball back, as Garoppolo hit tight end Ross Dwelley for 11 yards on third-and-9 on the other side of the two-minute warning to send San Francisco into victory formation.

Asked after the game about his team's performance, Murray believed the Cardinals deserved a better fate. 

"I feel like we should have won the game," Murray told reporters after the game. "Obviously, they are a great team. At the end of the day, I'm confident in us, and I feel like we should have won the game. I'm not really satisfied with coming up short."

Despite the loss, Murray showed well against a 49ers defense that had held four straight opposing quarterbacks to 158 yards or less. The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 34 yards. He did not turn over the ball, and he showcased both his arm and legs -- something the 49ers must deal with for years to come.

The Cardinals took Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, allowing defensive end Nick Bosa to fall to the 49ers at No. 2. Bosa has been outstanding so far this season, but he was a virtual non-factor in the first battle between the top picks. The Ohio State product registered only one tackle and did not sack Murray. 

But he left State Farm Stadium at 8-0, while Murray and the Cardinals dropped to 3-5-1.

That record, however, doesn't paint the whole picture for Year 1 of the Murray-Kingsbury duo. There were a lot of questions surrounding Murray and Kingsbury's ability to succeed in the NFL, but the two have had moments of brilliance, overcoming a porous offensive line and a shaky defense to become a team that's a real pain to face.

[RELATED: Grades for 49ers' offense, defense in win vs. Cardinals]

Murray had the 49ers on the ropes Thursday night, showing he'll be an issue for the 49ers.

Round 1 went to Bosa and the 49ers. Round 2 comes in two weeks at Levi's Stadium.

Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route


Old 49ers-Odell Beckham trade idea shows NFL draft was better route

NFL draft season prompts plenty of outlandish trade scenarios to fill airtime and word counts, many of which never come to fruition.

Dallas Morning News reporter Joseph Hoyt dug up one such scenario Thursday, and it's a (hypothetical) trade the 49ers are (hypothetically) glad they didn't (hypothetically) make.

The 49ers would've had to pay a pretty penny for then-New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the proposal put forth in a "Good Morning Football" segment nearly two years ago. Beckham was months away from signing a contract extension, so San Francisco would've traded a lot of draft capital for a star entering the final year of his contract. The picks the 49ers made in those slots formed the backbone of the 2019 NFC Champions.

Beckham's arrival would've changed things, though. The 49ers would've entered the season with arguably the best receiver in football as well as George Kittle, who'd emerge as arguably the best tight end. Kittle might not have set an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end playing alongside Beckham, but he surely would've benefitted from the extra attention opposing defenses paid the receiver rather than him.

Do they still go 4-12 that year? The 49ers were 3-5 in games decided by six points or fewer in 2018, and Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL) missed all but one of those games. Beckham crossed the 1,000-yard threshold in just 12 games catching passes from Eli Manning in 2018, so it's -- at the very least -- conceivable he could've moved the needle in at least one of the 49ers' close losses.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should trade down from both first-round picks]

The 49ers would've picked no sooner than No. 4 overall with a 5-11 record in 2018, and any additional wins would've dropped them further down the draft order. Acquiring Beckham under the parameters "Good Morning Football" likely would've prevented the Niners from selecting all of Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, but not all three of them would necessarily be Giants, either.

San Francisco would've been a better team in 2018, thus pushing the 49ers out of the slots they used to draft Bosa and Samuel. That's a different opportunity cost to consider than trading all of those players straight-up for one of the game's best receivers, but it's one the 49ers probably are glad they didn't have to pay.

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

The 49ers had only six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft before trading Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco owned the No. 31 pick, and no others until the fifth round.

That trade brought in the No. 13 pick, but the 49ers probably aren't done dealing. Trading down to acquire more, much-needed draft capital is the likeliest scenario.

While much of the 49ers Faithful drool over what the top wide receivers in the draft would look like in coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, it's far from a given that the team will use that first pick on a receiver. For one, the 49ers still don't own any picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. For another, receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft and the 49ers arguably have a bigger need.

Joe Staley is under contract through the 2021 season, but the veteran left tackle was understandably emotional after the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl LIV. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey indirectly indicated that Staley’s decision to return for the 2020 season was not set in stone.

The 49ers would be best served in hedging their bet that Staley returns and using one of their first-round picks on a left tackle. Even if Staley returns, the 49ers will need a replacement for him in the not-so-distant future. 

The draft's top tackles likely will be taken before the 49ers' first pick, but there still should be quality options available in the 20s or later. The 49ers could trade down, while Houston's Josh Jones or USC's Austin Jackson is still available, and then acquire another pick.

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Let's say trading the No. 13 pick nets the 49ers a first- and early second-round pick. Dealing the No. 31 pick would also come into play.

The 49ers drafted Deebo Samuel No. 36 overall in 2019. Samuel proved to be very productive in Shanahan’s system, catching 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards. He ranked second on the team in receiving yards only behind First Team All-Pro tight end George Kittle. 

Shanahan's staff had an advantage in getting to know Samuel while at the Senior Bowl, but they have shown that a second-round receiver can become a key contributor. 

[RELATED: Buckner's exit could influence 49ers to trade down in draft]

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson's draft trade value chart lists the No. 31 pick as worth a mid-second-round pick and a high third-round pick or a high second-round pick and a mid-fourth-round pick, among other permutations. Trading both first-round picks could give the 49ers three additional picks in rounds where they currently have none.

The 49ers would end draft weekend with nine selections in this scenario, as opposed to their original six. They'd also have fresh, valuable talent at important positions on their roster.