SANTA CLARA — With 2:35 left in the fourth quarter, the 49ers had the ball at the Arizona Cardinals’ 9 line. A touchdown would have cut the 49ers’ deficit to three points.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard rolled to his left, threw the ball and hit offensive tackle Trent Brown in the back of the helmet. The ball bounced straight up, landed in the arms of linebacker Karlos Dansby, who made the interception, and the 49ers lost 20-10. Their record is now 0-9.
That play was a metaphor for the entire offense on Sunday. It was inept. Beathard completed 47 percent of his passes and posted a quarterback rating of 57.1. He got hit 16 times and sacked five times. Carlos Hyde rushed for 41 yards. Kyle Juszczyk fumbled. Receivers dropped six passes. And the offense committed six penalties.
Head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive play caller Kyle Shanahan called 57 passes out of 73 plays – 78 percent – even though the game was close and the offensive line was struggling to protect the quarterback. Left tackle Joe Staley was out with a broken orbital bone, right tackle Trent Brown was playing left tackle and rookie backup guard Erik Magnuson was playing right tackle.
The 49ers scored 10 points for the third game in a row. Through nine games, the 49ers have scored 10 or fewer points five times. They’re scoring an average of 15.9 points per game — down from 19.3 points per game last season when Chip Kelly was the head coach.
“We’ve had some challenges,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said at his postgame press conference. “I know a lot of teams are banged up this year. Obviously we are, but I thought we had a few opportunities in that game to move the ball and get some points.”
The offense did have opportunities, mostly because the defense kept the 49ers in the game. Safety Eric Reid intercepted a pass in the end zone, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recovered a fumble and rookie linebacker Reuben Foster recorded 14 tackles even though he missed three plays after aggravating the high-ankle sprain he suffered during the season opener.
“When you’re not doing much offensively, to still be in it in the fourth quarter, it means (the defense was) giving you a chance,” Shanahan said. “I know (the Cardinals) ended up getting some runs going, but I thought we made them work pretty hard to get down the field.”
Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 159 yards, but he had to run 37 times to reach that total and he didn’t score. Plus, he fumbled during the fourth quarter.
“We’re battling, which is encouraging,” Reid said at his locker after the game. “But still, this is the NFL and nobody cares if we’re trying hard. We’ve just got to get the job done.
“Once again, we didn’t get enough turnovers. Didn’t give our offense enough opportunities with the ball.”
The offense had an opportunity late in the first quarter trailing 7-0. Beathard completed a 55-yard pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who got tackled at the Cardinals’ 27. On the next play, right guard Brandon Fusco committed a holding penalty, and the 49ers went on to kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown.