SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers still had a chance to win despite several missed chances on offense and a defense that wilted late against Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.
But with the game in Jimmy Garoppolo’s hands, the Niners quarterback came up short once again.
Garoppolo missed an open receiver in the end zone and was off-target on a fourth-down pass on the final drive, sending the Niners to a season-opening 24-20 loss to Arizona on Sunday.
“You don’t always hit guys perfectly in stride,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “You under throw a ball and it makes it not perfect so the receiver has to go and make a play and they didn’t. But there’s nothing more to it. It’s pretty simple. He under threw it just a hair on both of them. Guys still had chances, but it would’ve been a real good play if they’d made it.”
The first of those came with the Niners at the Arizona 21 and less than two minutes to play. Kendrick Bourne got free behind Patrick Peterson in the end zone but the pass was short and bounced off Peterson’s helmet.
It was reminiscent of an overthrow on a deep shot to Emmanuel Sanders in the Super Bowl that turned a potential go-ahead score into an incompletion that led to a 31-20 loss to Kansas City back in February.
Garoppolo had one more shot on fourth-and-5 from the 16 but threw the ball behind Trent Taylor, allowing Byron Murphy to break up the pass to seal the win.
“I can’t really put my finger on one (play) right now, but there’s a number of them,” Garoppolo said when asked what play he’d want back. “Missed throws, missed opportunities we usually make.”
Garoppolo finished 19 for 33 for 259 yards and two TDs but was hurt by a lack of production from his wideouts. With Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk injured, Garoppolo was only 4 for 11 for 41 yards on passes to wide receivers, getting most of his production from his running backs.
The start. The Niners started fast, driving for a field goal on the opening drive of the game and then scoring on a 76-yard pass from Garoppolo to Raheem Mostert on the first play of the second drive.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Third-down offense. The 49ers converted only 2 of 11 third-down chances (18.2%) for their worst efficiency since going 1 for 8 in Week 12 of 2018 against Tampa Bay. Last season the Niners ranked fifth best in the league by converting 45% of third downs. Garoppolo was just 4 for 10 for 34 yards on third downs with only two conversions.
“Obviously we didn’t have a good enough plan and then it goes to everyone else,” Shanahan said. “They did a good job in their defense. They had a good third down plan, but I know we can do better than that.”
Jerick McKinnon. After going 966 days without playing in an NFL game, McKinnon had a promising debut with the 49ers. He was signed in 2018 to be the featured back, but missed his first two seasons in San Francisco with knee injuries. He had three carries for 24 yards and three catches for 20 yards, including a 5-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
“It’s great to be back out there with my team and go to war with those guys because they’ve definitely been behind me these last two years,” McKinnon said.
Dante Pettis. The third-year receiver was looking for a new slate after being made inactive for the Super Bowl. He got the start because of injuries but made no impact. He ran 30 pass patterns, according to Pro Football Focus, and was targeted only once with no catches. In the past nine games Pettis has been active, he has no catches on four targets.
All-Pro TE George Kittle played through a sprained knee in the second half and the Niners will see how it feels Wednesday before deciding his fate this week. ... WR Richie James Jr. left in the second half with a hamstring injury. ... Aiyuk missed the game with a hamstring injury but Shanahan expects him back this week. ... Samuel went on IR after a setback with his broken foot. Shanahan expects him back in Week 4. ... Shanahan didn’t rule out bringing in free agent Mohamed Sanu as a possible option at receiver.
23. San Francisco CB Richard Sherman lined up on the defensive right side of the field 23 times Sunday, nearly twice as many as the 12 times he did it all of last season, according to NFL NextGen Stats. Sherman said he was being deployed to the wide side of the field rather than staying in his usual spot on the left side. He did a much better job against DeAndre Hopkins, holding him to three catches for 22 yards on 15 pass plays. Hopkins had 10 catches for 96 yards on 22 pass plays against Emmanuel Moseley.
The Niners have a two-game trip to New York starting with a game against the Jets on Sunday. They will spend the week in West Virginia and then play the Giants on Sept. 27.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL