Richard Sherman, 49ers' defense were 'humbled' in win vs. Cardinals

Richard Sherman, 49ers' defense were 'humbled' in win vs. Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 49ers' defense came into Thursday night's game in the middle of a streak in which they'd had a  stranglehold on their opponents. That ended with the Niners allowing 25 points to the Cardinals and narrowly escaping the desert with a 28-25 win at State Farm Stadium.

You might expect players to be happy sitting at a perfect 8-0, but cornerback Richard Sherman was particularly salty with the performance of the defense, especially his own. 

The 49ers' defense had allowed 100 yards passing or less in each of the past four games. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray managed to throw for 241 yards. His 88-yard touchdown pass to rookie Andy Isabella was particularly upsetting for Sherman. 

“You’re thankful for your offense,” Sherman said after the Week 9 win. “You’re thankful for how they played. We let them down, myself included. You have to get him tackled at that point. The guy breaks, we have to get him down. I have to make that tackle and get him down and give us a chance to continue to defend. 

“It’s humbling for the defense. We need to be humbled. It was a humbling game. You need to be humbled on all levels, and I think there’s accountability on all levels. We’ll watch the tape, and we’ll watch it critically, and everybody will watch it and judge themselves critically. That was not championship football.”

Newly acquired Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake racked up 110 yards on the ground as well as a rushing touchdown, one of only three allowed by the 49ers' defense this season. Sherman had been proud of the defense through the past several weeks, with the group playing sound defense and not making mental errors. That was not the case Thursday.

“The results will be what they will be, sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose,” Sherman said. “But if you do what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, how you’re supposed to do it, you’ll have the results you want. To sit here and say, ‘Man, we won,’ is not how I am. It’s not the accountability we need, and is not leadership.”

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In the past, coach Kyle Shanahan has spoken about being able to enjoy getting a win while still having a lot to work on in the coming week. Sherman said that this would be the epitome of that situation for the defense. 

“It happens, and it happened at a good time,” Sherman said. “We have time to go back to the drawing board and correct those mistakes. We get to see this team again in a couple weeks. We have a tough game against Seattle next week, so you need to tighten things up.

“I think guys need to tighten things up, myself included. You always have to start with yourself, and I need to tighten things up. I have to be where I’m supposed to be. I have to get the guys on the ground, and we’ll do better as a defense.”

49ers' offense remains calm on game-winning drive vs. Saints

49ers' offense remains calm on game-winning drive vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- Drew Brees and the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense left too much time on the clock for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle on Sunday.

The 49ers’ defense, which has been dominant this season, could not protect the team’s lead late in the game. New Orleans marched 76 yards on seven plays to take the lead on Brees’ 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith.

But the 49ers still had 53 seconds to respond. And it turned out to be more than enough.

The offense came up big, setting the stage for Robbie Gould’s 30-yard field goal as time expired for a 48-46 victory over the Saints at the Superdome.

“It wasn’t anything different than usual,” Garoppolo said. “I thought everybody was calm on the sideline. We were all in a good state of mind. We went out there and executed. That’s really what it comes down to in those situations -- execution.”

A week earlier, the 49ers failed on a fourth-and-1 pass play in the late stages of their 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Again, the 49ers faced a critical fourth-down play with less than a minute remaining with the Saints leading by one point.

“Coach Shanahan said as an offense we feel like we lost the game last week,” Kittle said. “Fourth-and-1, we just couldn’t get it done. We have to learn to not put our defense in those positions. I think we did that today.

“It came down to us having to win the game, and I’m just happy we could get it done.”

Faced with a fourth-and-2 situation from their own 33, the 49ers had to use a timeout to set up the play because of difficulty dealing with the crowd noise.

“The guys kept battling,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We had to call a timeout right before. It was hard to hear the right play calls in the huddle just because they couldn’t hear through the microphone. I had to use a timeout there, and it quieted down so we could call that. It ended up being worth it because Kittle made a hell of a route, broke that tackle and taking it down the sideline.”

Garoppolo hit Kittle on a pass play for the first down when he got open with an outbreaking route against rookie C.J. Gardner-Johnson. After Kittle slipped through Gardner-Johnson’s tackle attempt, Kittle set his sights on safety Marcus Williams.

“Once he caught it and turned upfield and squared the guy up, I didn’t know what he was going to do, but I knew the guy was in a bad situation on the other side,” Garoppolo said. “George is a beast with the ball in his hands, so it’s just get him the ball in space, let him go to work.”

When it was over, Kittle had rumbled 39 yards while carrying Williams for the final 20 yards with him. Williams finally brought Kittle down with the use of his facemask to add another 15 yards onto the play to set up Gould’s short field-goal attempt.

“George is a beast,” 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It took them to almost rip his neck off for them to bring him down. He’s the best in the world.”

[RELATED: Kittle fulfills promise to Yorks with 49ers' win in NOLA]

Veteran tackle Joe Staley said the game reminded him of the playoff matchup against the Saints at Candlestick Park in January 2012. There were four lead changes in the final four minutes of that game. The 49ers took over trailing with 97 seconds remaining and pulled off the 36-32 victory on Alex Smith’s last-second touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.

“It was kind of eerie how they scored late and we still had that time to come down and get some points,” Staley said. “We were fortunate we had enough time left on the clock. And we were able to execute ... and we got George Kittle.”

49ers' Tarvarius Moore knew about pass interference rule on fake punt

49ers' Tarvarius Moore knew about pass interference rule on fake punt

The Saints, their coach and their fans were quite upset at a controversial moment in Sunday's loss to the 49ers, and really, who could blame them? After the way the NFC Championship game ended last year, it's going to take decades for those feelings of being cheated to wear off.

This time, though, their complaints didn't hold any water.

Late in the third quarter, New Orleans opted for a fake punt, as swiss-army knife Taysom Hill took the snap before launching a long pass down the right sideline intended for receiver Tre'Quan Smith. Smith, however, was absolutely blanketed by 49ers defensive back Tarvarius Moore, and the pass fell incomplete. No penalty flag was thrown, as boos rained down from Mercedez-Benz Superdome. Saints coach Sean Payton vehemently protested what he viewed as a blown call to the officials, but in fact, he was in the wrong, and the officials ruled correctly.

Per NFL rules, there is no such thing as pass interference in that situation.

"This is absolutely the correct ruling," Fox Sports rules analyst Dean Blandino explained on the telecast. "When you're in a punt formation and you attempt a fake, you can't have pass interference on the widest man on either side of the formation."

Unlike the vast majority of New Orleans, apparently, Moore knew the correct rule, and took advantage of it.

If that particular rule didn't exist, teams could just run fake punts every single time and be basically guaranteed of extending their drive. The defenders blocking the outside gunners on punt coverage have no way of seeing the developing play behind them, and thus are at too great of a disadvantage for that rule not to be in place.

Cameras later appeared to catch Payton calling for a holding penalty, rather than pass interference. Holding is possible on a punt play, so the officials could have called that, but they didn't, and it's not a reviewable penalty.

[RELATED: Shanahan used Saints' own play against them in 49ers' win]

And really, if the Saints still want to act like they got screwed because of a missed holding penalty, they aren't going to get much sympathy, considering that happens on just about every play during an NFL game.

You don't necessarily have to agree with the rules, but you do have to play by them. Obviously, it helps to know what they are.