Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman wasn’t at all happy.
The 49ers defense allowed 25 points Thursday to the Cardinals, more than the previous four weeks combined. Arizona’s 357 yards of offense were the most San Francisco allowed all season.
But the most important number for the 49ers on Thursday was eight. As in 8-0, their record after beating the Cardinals 28-25, thanks largely to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s best performance of the year that included a career-best four touchdown passes.
The unbeaten first half of the season didn’t matter. Sherman during his postgame media session was the most upset he’s been since joining the 49ers. It was telling on a night where his team may have answered outside questions about its quarterback’s ability to win games on his own.
“To sit here and say, ‘Man, we won,’ is not how I am,” Sherman said. “It’s not the accountability we need, and is not leadership.”
Sherman has admitted recently to using slights as motivation, whether they come from outside sources or in his own head. Thursday night seemed to be a case where Sherman was using the shortcomings of the defense’s performance to maintain an edge for the second half of the season in which the schedule gets more challenging.
The 49ers have games upcoming against the Saints and Packers, who are both 7-1 and are the top challengers to San Francisco’s seeding in the NFC playoff race. Or the 6-2 Seahawks who come to the Bay Area for a Monday night game Nov. 11.
Sherman seemed to make a point that showings like Thursday won’t be good enough when the stakes are higher against elite teams or during the playoffs.
“You’re thankful for your offense,” Sherman said. “You’re thankful for how they played. We let them down, myself included.”
Sherman was near receiver KeeSean Johnson during his third-quarter touchdown reception that made it a 21-14 game. He whiffed on rookie receiver Andy Isabella’s 88-yard touchdown with five minutes left in the fourth quarter that trimmed the lead to three and gave the home team hope.
Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who had his worst performance since replacing the injured Ahkello Witherspoon Week 3, tried to undercut the throw from Kyler Murray and make an interception near the sideline. The throw went beyond Moseley’s reach, which led to Isabella getting the ball in space. Sherman ran right past him and Isabella was off to the races, showing the 4.31 second 40-yard dash speed he showed at the scouting combine.
“You have to get (Isabella) tackled at that point,” said Sherman. “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 humble; that was a humbling game. We need to be humble 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.”
Murray completed 17 of 24 for 241 yards and added 34 yards on five carries. The 49ers came into the game allowing 58.0 passer rating for the season, tops in the NFC. Murray’s rating was 130.7. It was the first time all season the defense didn’t get a takeaway.
Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury kept his foot on the gas by going up-tempo, which appeared to be effective against San Francisco’s previously first-ranked defense on a short week, having played against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
To date, the 49ers had not dealt with a quarterback as elusive as Murray, which is notable because their next game is against Russell Wilson before playing Murray again at Levi’s Stadium in two weeks.
“He’s like a little squirrel back there,” DeForest Buckner said, who logged his fourth sack of the season. “Next time we go against them, we have to do a better job at containing him and keeping him in the pocket. Obviously, throughout the week we learn some of his mannerisms and stuff like that. We just have to keep to rush and bring the pressure and the back end needs to continue to hold up and allow us to get back there.”
Added Kyle Shanahan: “The defense has been great all year. Definitely didn’t have their better games today, but it was good enough to win.”
Kwon Alexander has chest injury
Linebacker Kwon Alexander left the game during the second half with a chest injury and did not return. Shanahan indicated afterwards it was a pectoral injury.
Alexander in the locker room was not in a sling and appeared to be in good spirits. He indicated to a member of the strength staff he had full range of motion in his left arm. Of course, torn pectoral injuries are often season-ending. The 49ers are hoping it’s just a strain.
“Every time you have a guy go down, you’re very worried for him and concerned for him,” said Buckner. “The best thing that Kwon can do for us and himself right now is to get healthy and figure out what’s going on.”
Alexander will have an MRI on Friday. He would likely be replaced at “Will” linebacker by rookie Dre Greenlaw, who had three tackles and his first career sack Thursday.
▪ Receiver Marquise Goodwin was a healthy scratch and missed his second straight game. He had not practiced since last Wednesday and the 49ers didn’t hold a typical practice this week, instead opting for a light walkthrough Tuesday due to the short week.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk went through an extensive workout before the game. He indicated this week he was planning to return for the next game Nov. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks. The same is true for tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey along with Witherspoon.
▪ Arik Armstead started the game but missed most of the first quarter while trying to clear something from his throat, the team said. Armstead returned early in the second quarter.
▪ Buckner, Dee Ford and Greenlaw registered sacks, marking the five straight game San Francisco has recorded at least three sacks. The team hasn’t done that since weeks 9 through 13 during the 1997 season.