Here’s our report card from the 49ers’ 18-15 last-minute loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, marking the second year in a row San Francisco fell to Arizona by the same score due to a late touchdown. The 49ers blew a 15-3 fourth-quarter lead Sunday.
Passing offense: F
Quarterback C.J. Beathard was without center Weston Richburg and arguably his top receiver in Pierre Garçon, but he still left much to be desired for the first 38 minutes against the NFL’s 24th-ranked defense. Then, midway through the third quarter, Beathard hit Marquise Goodwin in stride on a slant route, dusting All-Pro cornerback and former 49ers safety Antoine Bethea for a 55-yard touchdown. That made it 12-3 and was Beathard’s first connection to a receiver other than George Kittle or Kendrick Bourne. Beathard couldn’t orchestrate a tying drive with 34 seconds left. He finished with 190 yards while completing 50 percent of his passes.
Rushing offense: D
The 49ers averaged just more than three yards per carry in the first half, and though the running game picked up in the second once they took a two-score lead. it was a non-factor. Matt Breida, on a gimpy right ankle, rushed for 42 yards on 16 carries, while 26 of Alfred Morris’ 28 yards came on one run in the third quarter. San Francisco totaled 107 yards on 31 carries, a 3.5-yard average.
Passing defense: D
The 49ers scored their first points when Cassius Marsh hit Josh Rosen in the end zone, forcing an intentional-grounding penalty that resulted in a safety. Arizona couldn’t get going through the air until the fourth quarter, when Rosen started to heat up. The Cardinals picked on third-string strong safety Tyvis Powell for consecutive touchdowns to Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk - the latter with 39 seconds left for the go-ahead score. Rosen finished with a respectable 252 yards after having 86 at halftime.
Rushing defense: C
The Cardinals’ anemic offense didn’t get much from the ground game. David Johnson logged 59 yards on 16 carries, while the 49ers were forced to play the second half without two of their most physical tacklers, Reuben Foster (hamstring) and Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder). Arizona had 88 yards on 21 carries (4.2-yard average).
Special teams: B
Robbie Gould was 2 for 2 on field-goal attempts and made his only extra-point kick while Bradley Pinion averaged 40.7 yards on seven punts. Christian Kirk had zero returns. Gunner Tarvarius Moore was particularly good getting down field to help force fair catches.
Kyle Shanahan remained patient while his offense struggled. The 49ers shored up their pass protection in the second half after yielding three sacks on their first three possessions. The Cardinals finished with four, including a crucial one on third and 5 late in the game, when Shanahan could have dialed up a rushing play. The decision to start Jimmie Ward at free safety paid off. The Cardinals were unable to get anything going deep until they began targeting Powell, who spent the offseason at cornerback.