The San Francisco 49ers lost to the Arizona Cardinals 18-15 by blowing a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Both teams struggled mightily offensively until Josh Rosen led two crucial scoring drives, the last of which determined the outcome of the contest.
However, there were some bright spots in the game. The Cardinals recorded four sacks but the 49ers did not turn the ball over and led the majority of the game. Due to the constant pressure up front, the 49ers were forced to abandon the run and focus more on the pass.
Complicating matters was center Weston Richburg’s knee injury which kept him out of the game forcing Erik Magnuson to start in his first game at center. The 49ers offensive line must rebound quickly if it is to be successful against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.
Preview Versus The Oakland Raiders
Going into the 2018 season not only Khalil Mack was the best player on the Raiders defense but he was viewed as one of the best defensive players in the league. He had been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and showed no signs of slowing down.
Due to a contract dispute, the Raiders traded him to the Chicago Bears before the start of the season and their defense has suffered mightily because of this decision. However, this is the NFL where nothing can be overlooked and anything can happen.
Frostee Rucker is at defensive end and only has nine tackles for the season. While he does not have any sacks, his 261-pound frame may make him deceptively quick.
Maurice Hurst is a rookie defensive tackle but is already making a name for himself in the league. Once considered a first-round talent, Hurst’s draft stock plummeted due to a health condition. The Raiders took a chance on him and so far it has paid dividends.
Filling the other defensive tackle spot is Johnathan Hankins. At 6-foot-2, 325 pounds he is the Raiders most imposing presence along the defensive line. He only has eight tackles and no sacks for 2018, however, he does have a unique history as a pass rusher. He had two sacks last year with the Indianapolis Colts and had a career-high seven sacks with the New York Giants in 2014.
Bruce Irvin commands the other defensive end spot and is the Raiders most accomplished pass rusher. In the previous two years with the Raiders he had 15 sacks. He has three sacks this season to go along with six tackles.
Review Versus The Arizona Cardinals
The 49ers did not rely on running the ball for most of the game but they did show improvement against the Cardinals. In the middle of the first quarter, the 49ers faced 3rd-and-1.
Beathard took the snap from the pistol formation and gave the ball to fullback Kyle Juszczyk. He ran between right tackle Mike McGlinchey and tight end Garrett Celek for five yards and the first down.
Late in the third quarter, the 49ers faced 2nd-and-10. Beathard lined up in the shotgun formation and handed running back Alfred Morris the ball. The offensive line moved to the right, perfectly executing the zone blocking system so popular in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Morris moved to the right and found an opening amidst the chaos. Right guard Mike Person drove his man to the ground while McGlinchey and Magnuson engaged their blocks. Morris flew between McGlinchey and Magnuson for a 26 yard gain.
Later on the same drive, the 49ers had a 3rd-and-2 from the Arizona-12. Beathard tossed a shovel pass to tight end George Kittle for the first down. The 49ers settled for a field goal a few plays later to extend their lead 15-3.
Late in the first quarter, the 49er faced 3rd-and-2. Beathard took the snap from the shotgun formation and looked for an open receiver. The pocket quickly collapsed and Beathard tried in vain to run up the middle to no avail. The 49ers were forced to punt.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, the 49ers had a critical 3rd-and-12. Beathard looked for an open receiver but was pressured and forced to escape the pocket. His pass to wide receiver Trent Taylor was incomplete and the 49ers punted.
The 49ers were down 18-15 late in the fourth quarter, desperately trying for a chance to tie the game. On 2nd-and-3 Beathard was pressured up the middle and miraculously escaped the attempted sack. He scrambled to the left and completed the pass for a first down, to keep the momentum of the drive going, albeit briefly.
Early in the first quarter, the 49ers faced 3rd-and-6. The Cardinals brought heavy pressure from both edges of the offensive line and furiously pushed the 49er tackles into the pocket. Defensive end Chandler Jones got to Beathard first before defensive end Markus Golden finished him off.
In the middle of the first quarter, Magnuson was supposed to pull to the left of the line to block the pass rush from that side. Safety Antoine Bethea delayed his blitz, waiting for Magnuson to commit to the far edge of the line before charging unblocked for the sack.
In the middle of the second quarter, the 49ers had a 3rd-and-7 from the Cardinals 9-yard line. Arizona got pressure on Beathard who was able to keep his composure and to get a pass off. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche used his long arms to block the pass and nearly picked it off. The 49ers settled for the field goal to go up 5-3.
On one of the game’s most critical plays, the 49ers had a 3rd-and-5 late in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals stacked the box to keep the offensive line occupied. Safety Budda Baker used this lineup to his advantage and came untouched off the edge to sack Beathard to end the drive. Arizona scored the go-ahead touchdown on its ensuing possession.
On the last play of the game, the 49ers were trying to get in position to attempt a potential game-tying field goal. Beathard lined up alone in the shotgun formation with five wide receivers on the field. Magnuson snapped the ball over Beathard’s head and panic ensued. Amidst the frenzy, Beathard retrieved the ball and tried to throw a desperation pass. The ball fluttered harmlessly to the turf as time expired.
The 49ers suffered a gut-wrenching defeat in a very winnable game on Sunday. Once again, the Cardinals pass rushing schemes proved to be too much for the 49ers offensive line.
While the Raiders have struggled all season getting to the quarterback, they should not be overlooked. Anything can happen in the NFL and the 49ers are 1-7 for a reason.
At the moment it is unknown if Richburg will be ready for the Raiders. To make matters worse, Beathard is questionable for the game as well with a wrist injury. If Beathard can’t play, backup Nick Mullens will likely get the start. Any weakness the 49ers have on the offensive line will be exploited under the lights of Levi’s Stadium this Thursday night.