Arizona Cardinals

Frustrating fourth quarter goes according to plan for 49ers


I missed the first three quarters of this game. I thought I’d miss the entire game, as we’re leaving our spot on the North Shore of Kauai in two days and it seemed like a shame to waste a sunny day on the Raiders and Niners. But my one-year-old daughter needed a nap earlier than we figured, and I was able to catch the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ latest loss, 19-13 to the Cardinals.

In my half-hearted attempts to keep up with the game from Anini Beach, I got the feeling that the officiating left something to be desired. After the 49ers tied the game with a 33-yard field goal, the Cardinals embarked on one of the stranger, luckier game-winning drives I’ve ever seen. Arizona kept getting pushed back deeper into their own territory by penalties. Jermaine Gresham got called for holding. The worst was Lyly Sendlein’s personal foul for a late hit when he knocked down Jaquiski Tartt after a run play. Truly stupid.

Then the officials spent the rest of the series penalizing the 49ers. First, someone on the 49ers sideline got called for unsportsmanlike conduct for either making contact with or complaining to an official. (Joe Staley? Torrey Smith? I have no idea.) Quinton Dial got hit with a roughing the passer flag with his brutal sack of Carson Palmer — except Dial didn’t target Palmer’s knees or head, he drove his body into Palmer’s and the quarterback’s helmet popped up. This ain’t your grandpappy’s NFL, no sir.

The Cardinals screwed around for a bit after that, and it looked like they would need to kick a long field goal to take the lead, but they got a huge break here.

Palmer would chuck a 34-yard pass to J.J. Nelson, who took the ball to the 49ers’ 1-yard line, on the play. After some more screwing around by Arizona, Palmer took 17 steps to travel 15 yards for the slowest rushing touchdown since players stopped wearing leather helmets. Palmer looked like Buster Posey running the bases in the postseason after catching 632 straight innings, or Steven Seagal chasing after a bad guy. It worked, somehow. However, the Cardinals missed the extra point and Blaine Gabbert had a shot to win.

Gabbert would’ve loved to pull off a comeback win and run his record to 2-1 as a starter. He threw for 318 yards on the day, completing 25-of-36 passes with a touchdown and an interception. The pass he threw to Boldin on 4th-and-20 to end the game, an 18-yard route that seemed like such a weird mistake for a veteran like Boldin, was perfect for the 49ers’ long-term goals.

  • They BARELY came up short at the end.
  • They covered the spread.
  • They gave their fans an entertaining a close game.
  • They get to blame the officials.
  • Only one team (the Titans, at 2-9) has more losses than the 49ers (3-8).

Niners Notes

— Gabbert really is like a slightly less cautious Alex Smith. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — he’s an excellent backup who can start for mediocre/poor teams.

— The 49ers have only scored 43 points since Gabbert took over for Colin Kaepernick. Then again, they’ve only scored 20+ points three times this season, they’ve scored seven or fewer on four occasions, and their season-high is 27. The product looks better with Gabbert at the helm, but the offense still stinks.

— Only three teams have scored fewer than 200 points this year. The Browns (186) play their 11th game tomorrow night. The Rams (186) are falling apart. The 49ers have scored 152 points. The Cardinals, Panthers and Patriots have all scored more than twice as many.

— Average score at Levi’s Stadium: 49ers 13.5, Opponents 15.8

— Average score away from Levi’s Stadium: 49ers 14.2, Opponents 35.2

— Gabbert’s numbers aren’t bad: 62-for-95 (65.3%), 255.7 yards per game, four touchdowns, three interceptions, 13 carries for 65 yards.

— That brings us to what would end up being the worst possible thing for this team, as long as they losing and stay in a good draft position. If Gabbert impresses Paraag Marathe and Jed York with a bunch of 300-yard games, to the point where Trent Baalke convinces them that they need to draft another defensive lineman, linebacker or safety in the first round (instead of Jared Goff, who 95% of 49ers fans would prefer), the front office will make yet another huge personnel error.

“We already have a top-10 overall pick at quarterback!”

“Excellent point, Trent. Best of all, the Blaine Plane is cheap. So go ahead and get that middle linebacker you were talking about. Bowman’s cap number is a little too high for our taste.”


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