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.
The offense had another opportunity with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter trailing 20-10. The 49ers had the ball at the Cardinals’ 49 facing fourth-and-3. Beathard threw a pass over the middle to Hyde, who was open past the first-down marker, but the ball hit Hyde in the facemask and fell incomplete.
The offense had another opportunity late in the fourth quarter just after Hyde dropped the ball. On the first play of the Cardinals drive, defensive tackle Tony McDaniel stripped Peterson, and Buckner recovered the ball at the 49ers’ 49.
When the 49ers offense took over, left tackle Trent Brown immediately committed a false-start penalty. Two plays later, Hyde got ejected for fighting along with two players from the Cardinals after Arizona safety Antoine Bethea hit Beathard while he was sliding. Officials penalized the Cardinals 15 yards for Bethea’s late hit.
Two plays after Hyde’s ejection, backup running back Matt Breida committed a holding penalty. And four plays after that penalty, Beathard beaned Brown in the back of the helmet and the Cardinals intercepted the pass at their 7. The 49ers lost shortly after.
“We’re paid to do our job and we’re not doing it right now,” Fusco said at his locker after the game. “I feel terrible. I’m tired of walking in the locker room after games, shaking the owner’s hand and seeing Shanahan just down, and (49ers general manager John) Lynch, and saying sorry to them. I wish we could be better.”
Five 49ers left the game and didn’t return due to injury. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk left with a neck injury. Wide receiver Trent Taylor left with a rib injury. Tight end Cole Hikutini and linebacker Elijah Lee left with knee injuries. And safety Jaquiki Tartt left with a broken wrist. The 49ers probably will place Tartt on the Injured Reserve List this week.
Tight end George Kittle, center Daniel Kilgore and linebacker Reuben Foster all left the game briefly with injuries. Each player returned to the game.
Shanahan never considered replacing Beathard with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whom the 49ers traded for last Monday. “That wasn’t going to happen today,” Shanahan said after the game.