The Cardinals have now lost their last four games after winning their first four of the season, bringing their overall record crashing back down to Earth at .500. We can attribute these losses to a variety of things, but most of all, they just aren't getting the job done. So what was it in this game that made the team look so poor?
1. Defending the run
The statistics may not show it, but Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter had monster games for the 49ers on Monday. Together, they rushed the ball 26 times for 98 yards, but it seemed that every run came with some sort of first down, a penalty on the Cardinals that moved them forward more or any other positive factor for San Francisco. Most of all, the running game opened up the passing lanes for Alex Smith, which allowed a very average quarterback to put his name into the record books after his performance.
2. Alex Smith the Great
How the Cards let Smith pass for 3 touchdowns is beyond me. What confuses me even more is how he went 18/19, which is the highest completion percentage EVER for a quarterback with at least 15 attempts. Smith's sole incompletion came on a dropped ball by Delanie Walker in the first half. He was absolutely shredding the Cardinals' defense and because of it, he ended up in the record books. His 3 TD passes helped the 49ers to a 24 point night, which is the first time the Cards have allowed over 21 points this season.
3. Offensive line
So, we are back to this again. It seems that every game we have placed the offensive line in the negatives column, but that should come as no surprise if you watched all 8 matchups. They are not only the worst unit on this team, but perhaps the worst in football. They got absolutely no push in the run game, which caused the Cardinals to run for just 7 yards. Yes, 7. One from John Skelton, 6 from LaRod Stephens-Howling on 8 carries. It was abysmal.
And the pass protection wasn't much better. The box score only shows 4 sacks allowed, but there were also 6 QB hits given up and a countless amount of pressures. The entire line looked absolutely lost after most plays, looking around while they tried to figure out what happened. It was very disappointing to see and, frankly, embarrassing that everyone else got to see them too.
4. John Skelton
Skelton, despite being behind such a woeful line, didn't help himself much either. The stats don't show that his night was all that terrible, but that is because most of his completions and yards came when the 49ers were in a prevent defense and really didn't care anymore.
When the game was on the line, Skelton was sailing balls 10 feet over the heads of his receivers and throwing them into traffic. I am almost positive he has a vendetta for Early Doucet, who was absolutely creamed by Dashon Goldson. At halftime, when the game was already lost with the 49ers up 17-0, Skelton had a passer rating of 3.2. Larry Fitzgerald only had two meaningful catches, despite being the best offensive threat they have on their team.
Skelton should have been picked off more times than the one hail mary at the end of the half, but he still had a poor night. I wouldn't expect coach Ken Whisenhunt to endure this much longer. Then again, I didn't think he would stay with the line he has this long either.
5. A smorgasbord
This section will be donated to the rest of the negatives that helped the Cardinals to their fourth consecutive loss. First, there are only two other teams in NFL history that have begun the NFL season with four wins followed by four straight losses. Secondly, no team has rushed for that little of yards in three seasons and the Cardinals haven't been that bad since the '50s.
Patrick Peterson looked absolutely awful. I still have a ton of hope for this young man, but he needs to work on being consistently good. Michael Crabtree had his number, scoring two touchdowns on him. Outside of a few players, the defense looked pretty poor all in all. Lastly, the offensive playcalling was woeful. Why Mike Miller didn't keep with the screen passes and quick outs along the perimeter is beyond me.
This fourth straight loss was harsh, but it figures to possibly get worse with trips to Green Bay and Atlanta coming up to play the Packers and Falcons. Buckle up, Cardinals fans. We are in for a bumpy ride.