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What We Learned from the Niners vs. Cardinals Thursday Night Football game

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I can’t say I’ve ever been big on moral victories but I gotta say, that was a closer game than I thought it’d be... right down to the wire. I certainly didn’t expect Arizona to give the Niner’s D the tightest game that they’ve had all season.

That said, there was ultimately some very unfortunate warts that showed. What did we learn?

This offense can hang.

Heading into Thursday night, the San Francisco defense ranked #1 in total yards and #2 in total scoring and DVOA. So one wouldn’t be remiss if they expected a lopsided game, but it was anything but as the the SF defense saw a season high 28 points scored against them. It gives hope for the future once we’re passed the rookie struggles of coach and QB and have equipped them with the weapons to contend.

Post-trade Peterson may be something to keep an eye on.

I’m not one to give a second thought to small sample sizes, so I’m willing to give the 3 time All-Pro the benefit of the doubt... But the timing right after the trade deadline is pretty curious. There were several times PP’s effort looked suspect, I’ve heard worse theories than this one. His performance moving forward will be something to monitor.

Kenyan Drake is free.

After years mired in a tough situation, Drake finally got some run in a decent scheme and went off. I wasn’t (and still am not) the biggest fan of the trade, but there’s no denying the talent there. Now onto a defense that has managed to bottle up the likes of Christian McCafferey, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley... no problem, right?

Pass rush needs help.

Chandler Jones can’t do it all. In a especially disappointing effort given the absence of the 49er’s two starting offensive tackles, the pass rush gave Jimmy Garoppolo plenty of time to get to his receivers downfield. His two best teammates in that regard, Corey Peters and Terrell Suggs, probably need to be spelled more. Unfortunately that’s a luxury the team cannot afford with it’s present depth.

Budda Baker is best at the LOS.

We already knew this, but it was still nice to see Baker get run closer to the line of scrimmage, where his play makes him a borderline blue chip. Hopefully we’ll see more of this a bit less of the deep role he’s been playing lately.

The pass coverage stinks.

In addition to the struggling pass rush, I have little to no faith in the pass coverage skills of the defense outside of Patrick Peterson, so when he’s having a bad day and so is the defensive front, it’s a really bad day for the coverage. I’m a bigger fan of Jimmy G than most, but it’s still disappointing to see them a career high 4 passing touchdowns surrendered to the signal caller on top of 317 passing yards.

Kyler Murray is still a rookie. (And that’s okay.)

K1 had a pretty rough start, missing a wide open Christian Kirk, taking a drive killing -19 yard sack, and despite what the stat line may tell you, had a pretty rough day outside of a huge play by Andy Isabella. Still, it was a top 2 defense in the league and it was reassuring to see him settle down as the game went on.

Kliff is still a rookie, too.

That said, he was fine today. I know there’s plenty of you who are wanting to roast him for some of his decision making, and I’m still not sold on him outside of his playcalling either, but I wouldn’t call into question his decisions today.

The timeout to end the first half was unfortunately timed but it’s significantly worse in hindsight. Kingsbury saw something he didn’t like and had the timeout to burn with only 4 seconds left in a critical spot. And quite frankly, I expected SF to score there. You probably don’t like giving Kyle Shanahan multiple looks in the endzone, but you can’t play scared.

It’s pretty easy to harp on the challenge too, but I don’t blame him for taking a shot in the dark on a lifeline when we all knew the defense likely wasn’t getting the stop.

Maybe the offensive line isn’t that bad?

Okay, hear me out. I know there were some bouts of instantaneous pressure and the quick game did some legwork to take the Niner’s DL out of the play. But given the absence of a starter and another one playing out of position against arguably the best defensive line in the league, I think we can at least give a small tip of the cap to Sean Kugler and his group for pulling this together on a short week.