49ers vs. Cardinals: The Good, Bad and Ugly in Week 10 for San Francisco

The San Francisco 49ers might have lost Week 10 to the Arizona Cardinals 23-20. But the Niners’ effort, which tied the game late in the fourth quarter, deserves some commendation. Niner Noise looks at the good, bad and ugly from this NFC West bout.

Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) is unable to make a catch against San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock (26) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

A loss is a loss in the NFL, and the San Francisco 49ers are now 1-8 on the season.

But Week 10’s 23-20 loss to a desperate Arizona Cardinals team felt a little different. San Francisco actually managed to tie the game at 20 apiece with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Only a well-executed two-minute drill from quarterback Carson Palmer and the Cardinals managed to ensure the 49ers’ losing streak would continue.

Niner Noise takes a look at the good, bad and ugly from Week 10. Surprisingly, there’s a lot more good this week compared to what has been seen previously.

San Francisco’s run defense was, far and away, better than previous weeks. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked more like his vintage 2012 self. And, most importantly, the Niners didn’t roll over in the second half.

No one should say a 1-8 record looks good. Yet this game should give the red and gold a bit more confidence moving forward.

Staying in contention against a much better divisional opponent while on the road is no fluke. Especially when San Francisco, talent-wise, is vastly inferior.

So let’s start off on a positive note and look at the 49ers’ good notes from Sunday.

Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (17) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

The fact San Francisco was tied with a divisional opponent after the two-minute mark is good enough.

Especially after the games seen ever since Week 2.

The 49ers managed only 281 yards of total offense. And while the ground game struggled, quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked more like the Kap of 2012 and 2013 instead of the struggling, indecisive signal-caller we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Kap was 17-of-30 for 210 yards and one passing touchdown — a passer rating of 89.6. But his four-yard scramble late in the game led to San Francisco tying things up.

His 55 yards on the ground also led all San Francisco rushers.

He also spread the ball around, with five different receivers recording catches. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley led all pass-catchers with seven grabs for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Veteran kicker Phil Dawson also connected on two field goals. He now is at No. 399 in his career.

But the bigger story for San Francisco was its ability to stop Cardinals running back David Johnson and Arizona’s rushing attack.

Granted, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians elected to go pass heavy throughout the game. But Johnson only registered 55 rushing yards on 19 carries — an average of 2.9 yards per attempt.

It’s a positive step for a Niners defense that had allowed seven consecutive 100-plus yard rushers coming into Week 10.

And we can’t forget the 49ers’ four turnovers generated. They were a critical reason why San Francisco stayed in the game.

Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) dives to score a touchdown as San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) defends during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Bad

Despite running back David Johnson’s relatively lowly ground-game performance, he still managed to torch the Niners with one receiving touchdown and another one on the ground.

San Francisco’s defense remains a work in progress. While defensive backs like Tramaine Brock, Keith Reaser, Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward all registered pass breakups — a net total of 10 on the game — the secondary was still torched for 376 yards through the air.

Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) makes a catch against San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock (26) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers pass rush was also relatively absent. In spite of two sacks on quarterback Carson Palmer, Arizona’s offensive line still managed to keep the pocket open long enough for the veteran to do his work.

If only San Francisco’s pass-rushers were a bit quicker or more decisive. The Niners clearly lack an elite-level guy to get to the quarterback.

On the flip side, running back Carlos Hyde didn’t have much of a game at all. After missing the last two games with a shoulder injury, Hyde managed only 14 yards on 13 carries.

Granted, he was going up against the NFL’s second-best defense, in terms of total yards allowed. But it’s safe to say Hyde was a non-factor for San Francisco’s offense. And it could have used his production.

Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Josh Mauro (97) and Arizona Cardinals nose tackle Corey Peters (98) tackle San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Ugly

Linebacker Nick Bellore. Enough said.

Bellore had plenty of gaffes, and it’s a wonder why defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil continues to put him in coverage situations.

On a critical 3rd-and-8 play late in the fourth quarter, Bellore allowed a 12-yard reception to running back David Johnson. This play was crucial in setting up the game-winning field goal for Arizona.

San Francisco needs to experiment with other linebackers, like Shayne Skov or anyone else. Bellore isn’t cutting it.

He wasn’t the only problem though. The 49ers got themselves into plenty of trouble with penalties. Head coach Chip Kelly’s squad has done a solid job not getting flagged this season. But Sunday’s nine penalties for 100 yards are probably equally a cause behind the loss as was Bellore.

Numerous defensive backs — such as Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid — were flagged on costly plays. And those certainly added to the Cardinals maintaining drives and momentum.

The 49ers also allowed 26 first downs, which is a direct indication how bad this defense is right now. But don’t expect anything to change soon. It isn’t as if this unit will get a lot of reinforcements back anytime soon.

Still, the Niners have to feel somewhat good about the effort. It wasn’t a blowout, the defense held the No. 4 rusher in the NFL to just 55 yards on the ground and San Francisco was in position to win the game late.

Something the 49ers haven’t been able to say for a while.

Things won’t get easier. The Niners have to host the New England Patriots in Week 11.

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