The SF 49ers disappointing opening performance against the Cardinals offers insights about the team.
In their first attempt to repeat their success from last year, the SF 49ers fell woefully short as they ended up dropping their Week 1 bout against the visiting Arizona Cardinals. Though the final score was only 24-20, the offense was disjointed after the first five minutes, the defense slowly collapsed, and a special teams blunder early took what could have been a blowout and flipped it on its head.
The Niners still being in a position to win is both a testament to their talent and an indictment of just how poor their Week 1 performance was.
For a team with such lofty goals and ambitions, this was a crusher, not only because it puts San Francisco — a team went through the first half of its 2019 schedule undefeated — last in the NFC West division only a week in, but because of how similar the situation was to 49ers meltdowns in the past.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense got in a groove and picked up points early, only to then grind to a screeching halt. As the offense scuffled, the Cardinals slowly but surely chipped away at the defense, taking fantastic defensive possessions and making them worse and worse until the end of the game with two scoring drives for Arizona.
Once the score had flipped, the Niners tried to flip the switch but couldn’t generate the momentum, ending up with the loss. It was the story of the Super Bowl, the story of the trap-game loss against the Atlanta Falcons last season, and very similar to a lot of games the SF 49ers played that were only won at the very end.
In their defense, injuries put a third-string center as No. 1 and the two best receivers in the sidelines. That’s a lot of talent to not have, especially against an up-and-coming divisional opponent like the Cardinals.
However, there are no excuses. The Niners knew what their roster limitations were and it was up to them to execute.
This doesn’t mean that the SF 49ers are destined to utterly fall apart and lose every game the rest of the way; it doesn’t even that they aren’t the best team of the NFC. Early season performances can lead to massive overreactions, and Week 1 doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. However, there were signs of struggles with certain components of the team that can point to grander issues in the long term.
These lessons are about seeing what happened with the Cardinals, and what they might mean for the 49ers, long term. And when the defending NFC champs drop a divisional game they should have won, these lessons aren’t going to be fun.