. . . there’s a bunch of them circling 4949 Centennial Blvd. In yet another game that got away from them, the 49ers squandered a first half lead and could not muster any points in the 2nd half of this season of our discontent. Yes, there’s no shame in losing in the Big Cactus, as it is a tough place to play, but it was the way the 49ers lost that was galling.
The 49ers opened the game going no-huddle. Something that utterly baffled me, as I didn’t think they knew what that was, and it baffled the Cardinals as they couldn’t shift out of their run D. Kappy was 7-7 for 61 yards, and added 19 yards rushing of his own. It worked very well, even though WE burned 2 timeouts in the process. After holding AZ to their 2nd field goal, that Niners embarked on another 80 yard TD drive where Kappy was 4-5 for 37 yards, and he got 25 yards rushing.
So at the half, the Niners are feeling pretty good. They burned a ton of clock and scored two TDs, and they opened the 2nd half with the ball. Well, something happened on the way to their 2nd victory. AZ made adjustments. The Niners? Well, what can you say? They made stops, but when they did they got flagged. They couldn’t mount a pass rush to save their lives, and AZ started going deep on our banged-up secondary at will. The AZ defense appeared to dedicate an LB to shadowing Kappy, as his runs were all of a sudden ineffective, and they started pressuring him more. The short passing game, which had worked so well in the 1st half, was smothered. ASZ quickly scored with some deep balls as we had absolutely no pressure on John Elway, uh Drew Stanton.
Then the flags started flying. Dan Skuta was penalized for a hard but legal hit on Stanton, and Patrick Willis was flagged for trying to tackle Stanton as he threw the ball. Both plays were physical plays, but both were legal. I suppose we’ll get another apology from the league in a couple days. Ooops. Our bad. Here’s 30 yards. Carry on. AZ scores again, and the Niners are down 6. No panic time certainly, but the response now was key to the game. Kappy respondes by going 6-6 for 74 yards, getting the Niners to a 1st and goal at the 6. Uh, wait. Anquan Boldin picks this play to head butt to an AZ DB. Oooops. 1st down from the 21. Here’s where the spying on Kappy worked. He was dropped for a 2 yard loss, then held to no gain on the next play with a J Mart hold thrown in for good measure. So, a 1st and goal turns into 2rd and 23 from the 34 yard line. The kick was blocked, and there’s your blown opportunity to take the lead, or at least cut into it.
AZ milked the clock with a lengthy drive of their own, which resulted in a Larry Fitzgerald fumble as AZ was trying to salt the game away. The Niners hit a couple quick passes, but Alex Boone was late picking up a delayed blitz, and one of their DSB came clean for a sack. Thus ending the game as AZ burned the last 4 minutes off the clock and kicked a field goal.
So, what do we take from this game? Well, the crazy thing to me is Jim Harbaugh has completely shifted the emphasis of the offense to the passing game. Kappy had a much better day than he did vs Chicago, but as the game wore on, AZ adjusted to Kappy’s runs by shadowing him, and blitzed him a lot more in the 2nd half to disrupt our short passing game.
Frank Gore was beside himself in the locker room, wondering what the identity of the team was, and what his role (or the running game in general) is. He and heir apparent Carlos Hyde had 9 rushes for 23 yards. Kappy rushed 13 times for 56. Frank’s right. The Niners passed 37 times, and rushed 24 times. We’re Mad Mike Martz now. Throw early, throw often.
But, I also have to mention the penalties. 9 for 107 puts the total at 27 called penalties on the Niners for 225 yards these past 2 games. And these aren’t false-start or delay-of-game penalties. These are mainly illegal use of hands, Illegal contact, and most stupefyingly bad unsportsmanlike penalties. Yes, the league is cracking down on everything this year. The 49ers either didn’t get the memo, or are refusing to try and stay in the bounds of the rules. No matter how fucked up the system now is, and I can point to about 8 brutal calls that went against us that were either never called before, or were simply blown, that directly altered games.
I know you can’t whine about the officiating, but Culliver stands up real fast, and gets a 15 yard taunting penalty. Willis tackles Stanton as he’s throwing amid 4 other guys and gets a call for unsportsmanlike. Bad calls, and we seem to be under the microscope fore some reason, but the team has to adjust to the new reality.