At first glance it’s easy to note that the 49ers were missing several key players, and it didn’t help that Matt Breida left this game with an ankle injury. C.J. Beathard said it best after the game, "It's tougher, but it's a next-man mentality." Put all those excuses aside as this was a must win for the 49ers against an inferior opponent, a game where they needed that next man to actually step up and instead they fell completely flat.
If you thought things would be bad with Jimmy Garoppolo out for the season with a knee injury, after Sunday’s dismal loss to the previously winless Arizona Cardinals things seems worse.
It’s easy to point to injuries in this situation, but every team in the NFL deals with injuries, some more than others, but it can only be used as an excuse to an extent. There were question marks surrounding the 49ers depth, but in situations of adversity great teams, players and coaches step up and today the 49ers took a step back.
Cringeworthy dropped passes, unacceptable penalties, turnovers and lackluster play calling cost the 49ers one of their worst losses in recent memory. The hope that fueled the 49ers hype train over the offseason is now completely gone. Most importantly the faith in Kyle Shanahan as a head coach seems to be dwindling.
Yes, Shanahan is a great offensive mind and there’s no doubt he can coach a football team, but today the 49ers seemed defeated before the game started. There was no pop, no flare, no cache — something Shanahan always seemed to have, even last season when the team started winless. Shanahan coached teams have always played tough, always fought till the end until today. They seemed uninspired, which is a reflection of the leadership and coaching of this team.
We often give Shanahan praise for getting the most out of players, whether its dialing up play calls to get a specific guy open, or exploiting holes in opposing defenses with scheme and unique formation concepts. Today that juice just wasn’t there.
An 0-4 team lead by a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback went on the road to Santa Clara to best the 49ers in every phase of the football game. The Cardinals didn’t do anything spectacular, Josh Rosen didn’t look like the next Carson Palmer or Kurt Warner, David Johnson didn’t breakout to dominate the game and the Cardinals defense did play better, but The Cardinals did nothing that should’ve overwhelmed the 49ers.
The defense wasn’t awful and C.J. Beathard wasn’t terrible, but when the 49ers needed a big play in a big moment it wasn’t there. Instead of a clutch catch, there was a drop, instead of a big stop to get off the field, there was a penalty. There was no heart, no guts, no grit— something the 49ers need to find with more than 10 games left in what’s looking like a long season.
The start of this season will not define Shanahan as a coach and he should not even be close to the ever rotating “hot seat,” but it is gut check time for the 49ers and it starts with Shanahan.