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Week 5 Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals 28, San Francisco 49ers 18


What you need to know

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals were not sharp on offense, but they did not need much against a relatively toothless opponent in the 49ers. David Johnson’s usage continues to be vexing without optimal receiving opportunities seen in his peak seasons. On the plus side, Christian Kirk flashes with a long touchdown and another big gain, which was called back by penalty. Josh Rosen was notably inaccurate, missing a host of throws he successfully made over his past two outings. The progression of Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk are the storylines to watch as Arizona has a brutal schedule after their bye week and is unlikely to contend this season.

San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Shanahan's game plan was to line up in run formations with run personnel, and then run it. This started out well, but then Matt Breida got hurt. And with San Francisco falling into a quick 14-6 deficit, Shanahan switched it up by lining up in run formations with run personnel, but then passing it. This produced fruitful gains that should been more than enough to beat the Cardinals, but the 49ers couldn't get out of their own way in terms of turnovers and penalties. Well, not all of the 49ers. Some of them, the offensive line, not only got out of their own way; they got out of the Cardinals' way, leading to an avalance of hurries and hits for C.J. Beathard. Arizona's constant blitzes clearly got to Beathard, as he released the ball earlier and earlier, and threw his passes harder and harder into tighter and tighter windows as the game progressed.

Arizona Cardinals

QB Josh Rosen, 51 offensive snaps, Pass: 10 - 25 - 170 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0
Rosen regressed after his positive first NFL season a week ago. This week against San Francisco Rosen collected close to half his total game yardage on an early-drive bomb to Christian Kirk for a touchdown, aided by a horrible angle by the safety down the field. Rosen also benefitted from a short field by Arizona’s defense, staked to an early lead. Rosen was also hurt by penalties and drops in the first half, but contributed his fair share of misses as well. Rosen missed Ricky Seals-Jones specifically on four occasions, all inaccurate when separation by Seals-Jones was present. Arizona’s defense iced the game with a fumble return for a touchdown. Rosen has the Vikings and Broncos up next, tough tests for a rebound.

RB David Johnson, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 55 - 2, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (3 targets)
Johnson saw 20 or more touches for a second straight game, but the lack of variety to his work was alarming. Johnson was consistency pounded into the teeth of the 49ers defense, where there was minimal room to work all game. Johnson did power in for two short-range touchdowns, both grinding against contact at the goal line. Johnson’s notable receiving work included breaking two tackles on a flat route reception to turn a loss into a positive play. The offensive line and play-calling has done Johnson no favors to-date this season with tough matchups of Minnesota and Denver up next.

WR Christian Kirk, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 3 - 85 - 1 (4 targets)
Kirk got the Arizona offense off to an explosive start with a long catch-and-run touchdown, exploiting a bad angle by a 49ers safety. Kirk was relatively quiet outside of the early-game splash, however, stuffed on a slot screen and having a long reception called back by a Ricky Seals-Jones offensive pass interference. Kirk helped ice the game with a jet sweep rushing conversion in the closing minute.

WR Larry Fitzgerald, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 35 - 0 (3 targets)
Fitzgerald was an afterthought for the Cardinals against the 49ers, seeing a mere three targets and none until the final seconds of the first half. Both of Fitzgerald’s catches came in a short span late in the second quarter as San Francisco funneled the ball inside with the clock ticking down. Fitzgerald benefitted with two catches, but during traditional play Fitzgerald was invisible. After three straight seasons of 100+ receptions, Fitzgerald is on pace for barely 50 this season and has yet to find the end zone.

TE Ricky Seals-Jones, 34 offensive snaps (6 targets)
Seals-Jones did not register a catch against the 49ers, but it was not his fault. The converted tight end separated a handful of times only to see the most inaccurate throws of the game by Josh Rosen in those situations. Seals-Jones had opportunities on a seam route, out route, and a deep target, all misfired by the rookie quarterback. Seals-Jones also took a long reception by Christian Kirk off the board with an offensive pass interference penalty.


San Francisco 49ers

QB C.J. Beathard, 98 offensive snaps, Pass: 34 - 54 - 349 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 7 - 1
As has been the trend the past couple of weeks, Beathard hung tough in the face of pressure, taking hit after hit but getting up to play the next snap. The difference this week was that Arizona seemingly blitzed on every passing down, so there were more hits to be taken. He was hit before he threw (i.e., sacked) four times and hit as he threw at least four more times, two of which resulted in strip-sack fumble recoveries for the Cardinals. Although he held onto the ball too long several times, Beathard did a nice job of getting the ball out of his hands most of the time, albeit by forcing 100 mile per hour rockets to blanketed receivers less than 10 yards away. This produced several dropped passes, including one by third tight end Cole Wick that should have been any easy touchdown. This may have been the ugliest 60 percent completion rate, 350 yard passing performance you'll ever see.

RB Alfred Morris, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 61 - 0, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (5 targets)
Morris' rushing performance after Matt Breida got hurt was wholly uneventful, as he ran into stacked front after stacked front for minimal gain after minimal gain. What was eventful, however, was his surprising display of skills as a receiver. His three receptions were not garden variety dumpoffs or some such. These were catches that required soft hands, one of which also required him to run a legitimate pass route while split out wide in the formation.

RB Matt Breida, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 56 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 1 (1 targets)
Breida was on pace for a huge game before leaving the game for good with an injured ankle on the last play of the first quarter. He made the most out of wide open running lanes, but also maximized yardage when there was nothing open. To wit, on the play he got hurt, he broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage before being twisted down from behind after creating three yards out of thin air. Breida's touchdown came on a cleverly designed screen pass at the goal line, wherein C.J. Beathard faked the handoff to him, waited a beat, and then shoveled the ball to him for an easy score.

RB Kyle Juszczyk, 68 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 12 - 0, Rec: 6 - 75 - 0 (7 targets)
Believe it or not, it wasn't Matt Breida's injury that led to Juszczyk's outsized role in the passing game against Arizona: Over half of his receiving yards (41 of 75) came on the 49ers' first drive -- long before Breida got hurt. His longest gain, a 25-yard catch and run, came on a well-designed screen pass. Lined up as the lead blocker in an offset-I formation, Juszczyk feigned picking up the defensive end in pass protection, and then released alongside two offensive lineman. From there, all that was required was running through wide open spaces. Only a gang tackle just short of the goal line prevented him from scoring a touchdown.

WR Trent Taylor, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 61 - 1 (8 targets)
Despite San Francisco trailing for nearly the entire game, Taylor only saw a modest increase from his usual snap rate because, despite the prolonged deficit, Kyle Shanahan decided to remain in 21 personnel -- two running backs and one tight end -- until the fourth quarter. Indeed, six of Taylor's eight targets came during that stanza and another came at the end of the third quarter. Almost all of these targets were of the "sit down in the soft spot of a zone" variety, though Taylor's touchdown was a notable exception. On the play, he was lined up at the lead position of a rare, four-receiver diamond formation. His job was to block for Raheem Mostert, who was in the trailing position, on a bubble screen. However, Arizona sniffed it out, and so Taylor had to improvise. After releasing from his block, he faked inside and made a sharp cut to the outside, thereby getting wide open for the score.

WR Pierre Garcon, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 47 - 0 (12 targets)
Garcon led the 49ers in targets by a wide margin despite missing a full quarter of the game due to injury. It was tough to tell because there was no replay, but he appeared to do something to his shoulder while diving to the ground for a low throw from C.J. Beathard. Speaking of which, the stat sheet says he only caught 5 of 12 targets, and some people might say several of those were drops, but this low catch rate was not Garcon's fault. When he wasn't throwing low and inside on slants to Garcon, he was throwing high and inside on slants to Garcon. Indeed, one of Beathard's interceptions might go down as a Garcon drop, but that pass was thrown way too hard, way too high, and way too inside. Garcon did a nice job even getting two hands on the ball. Unfortunately, those two hands acted as a volleyball set to safety Tre Boston.

WR Kendrick Bourne, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 33 - 0 (7 targets)
Bourne saw significant increase in playing time because Pierre Garcon left the game due to injury for a full quarter and was substituted out frequently after he returned. This did not translate to a significant increase in production, however, as he couldn't consistently beat the man-to-man coverage of Arizona's cornerbacks. The rare instance in which he did get separation resulted in his longest reception of the game (10 yards). Working from wide left against Bene Benwikere, he used an outside move to get the cornerback off balance, and then went inside on a shallow cross that was now wide open.

WR Victor Bolden, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (4 targets)
Bolden didn't get the start opposite Pierre Garcon, but he played over twice as many snaps as the receiver who did (Richie James, Jr.). Although his afternoon was largely uneventful because of lining up on Patrick Peterson's side of the field, he did come a half-yard away from scoring a touchdown. In fact, it was initially ruled a touchdown before being overturned via replay. On the play, which occurred. There was nothing special about it, however, as Peterson applied a heavy dose of defensive indifference due to the score being 28-12 with under two minutes to play.

TE George Kittle, 87 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 83 - 0 (7 targets)
Kittle did all of his damage against Arizona's zone defense. Despite a relatively quiet day from a target perspective, he had San Francisco's longest gain of the game. It was basically the same play that resulted in one of his earlier short receptions, a tight end screen. Lined up in the backfield, he simply sat down in the Cardinals' short middle zone. Two San Francisco offensive linemen shed their blocks and got out in front him. From there, Kittle showed off his speed once again, running by several defenders like they were standing still. A key downfield block from Trent Taylor then turned a 35-yard gain into a 45-yard gain, which the 49ers desperately needed at the time.