Mistakes doom 49ers in 28-18 loss to Cardinals

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SANTA CLARA — Just how embarrassing was this loss?

The 49ers played the NFL’s only winless team, the Arizona Cardinals, and still lost by 10. The final score was 28-18. The 49ers have lost three games in a row and their record is 1-4.

The 49ers played at home against a rookie quarterback, Josh Rosen, making his first career road start, and still lost by 10.

The 49ers limited Rosen to just 10 completions out of 25 pass attempts —a 40 percent completion percentage — and still lost by 10.

The 49ers held the Cardinals offense to just 10 first downs the entire game, and still lost by 10.

The 49ers allowed the Cardinals offense to gain just 51 net yards in the second half, and still lost by 10.

The 49ers scored a touchdown on their first drive, and still lost by 10.

The 49ers ran 43 more plays than the Cardinals and outgained them by 227 yards, and still lost by 10.

The 49ers had the ball for 40:12 — more than two thirds of the game — and still lost by 10.

How did the 49ers lose by 10 despite all that? Simple. They committed a whopping five turnovers, and the Cardinals committed zero.

“Our guys fought hard,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said during his postgame press conference. “But, when you have five turnovers, it’s borderline impossible (to win). We’ve got to eliminate those mistakes.”

Mistakes defined the game for the 49ers. In addition to the turnovers, they committed nine penalties, and kicker Robbie Gould missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal attempt. He had made 33 field goals in a row.

Third-string running back Raheem Mostert committed one turnover — he fumbled his first carry of the game. He was filling in for starter Matt Breida, who sprained his left ankle during the first quarter and did not return.

C.J. Beathard committed the other four turnovers. He dropped back to pass a career-high 60 times, threw 54 passes, scrambled twice, got sacked four times, threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. Cardinals linebacker Josh Bynes scooped one of the fumbles off the grass and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown.

Beathard finished the game with a meager quarterback rating of 78.4. He completed a respectable 63 percent of his passes, and even threw for a career-high 349 yards, but averaged a subpar 6.5 yards per pass attempt. And, he committed those four turnovers.

“Just got to take better care of the ball,” Beathard said. “We played well in all other aspects except for the turnovers.

The 49ers certainly ran the ball well. They gained 147 yards on the ground and averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

The 49ers defense played well, too. Extremely well. Granted, it was facing the 32-ranked offense out of 32 NFL teams. Still, the 49ers defense shined, even though it gave up a 75-yard touchdown catch during its first play from scrimmage.

The play was a play-action deep pass to rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk. The 49ers were playing zone coverage. Free safety Adrian Colbert was responsible for the deep-middle portion of the defense.

Kirk ran a post route right where Colbert should have been. But, Colbert wasn’t there. He was covering Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Kirk caught the ball and scored easily.

“I saw Larry flash (across the middle),” Colbert said at his locker. “It was just a bad play on my part. It is something I have to correct.”

Colbert corrected his mistake. Collectively, the 49ers defense gave up just 145 yards after the long touchdown catch. That’s just three yards per play. Excellent.

But, the 49ers never had a chance to win, because of the turnovers.

They trailed 7-6 when Beathard threw an interception with 8:31 remaining in the first quarter. His pass glanced off Pierre Garcon’s hands and into the grasp of Cardinals safety Tre Boston. That was turnover No. 1.

Turnover No. 2 occurred early in the second quarter. The 49ers had the ball at the Cardinals 40-yard line. The score still was 7-6, and it was first-and-10. On that play, Mostert fumbled, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson recovered and ran 49 yards to the 49ers 18-yard line. The Cardinals scored a touchdown four plays later, and took a 14-6 lead.

Turnover No. 3 happened with 8:54 left in the third quarter. It was first-and-10 from the Cardinals 39-yard line. Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones beat 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, stripped the ball from Beathard’s hands and recovered the ball.

“I gave up that sack-fumble,” Staley said. “We had a play-action pass there. We’ve got to anticipate the upfield rush and not go as hard on the run. He wasn’t biting on it.”

Turnover No. 4 happened with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter. The 49ers were trailing 14-12 after failing to convert a two-point conversion. They were still in the game. But, on second-and-11 from the 49ers 41-yard line, Beathard got stripped again. This time, the Cardinals recovered the ball, returned it for a touchdown and extended their lead to nine points.

Turnover No. 5 happened 41 seconds later. It was fourth-and-19. Beathard threw downfield, behind his intended receiver, Victor Bolden Jr., and got picked by Cardinals cornerback Bene Benwikere. That led to the Cardinals final touchdown of the game.

The clock expired before the 49ers could commit turnover No. 6.

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