Through three games played as an NFL quarterback, C.J. Beathard entered Sunday’s game having been beaten, battered and brutalized by every opposing defense he’s come across.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan attempted to pin-point the reasoning for his quarterback’s duress:
“They brought a lot of pressure and we had to throw way too much. A lot of times that had to do with pressures, a lot of times it had to do with a couple of missed blocks and sometimes there wasn’t anyone open down field.”
For the 49ers (0-9), the difficulties of keeping Beathard protected were visible even before the game, as San Francisco entered Week 9 without a key component to their already struggling offensive line.
Former All-Pro tackle and 11-year veteran Joe Staley was listed as inactive after suffering a rare orbital bone fracture against the Philadelphia Eagles during a 33-10 loss a week ago in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
Unfortunately for Beathard, the love was not felt from the rest of his offensive line as the group allowed the rookie signal caller to be pressured early and often leading to an array of scrambles and eventual collisions with linebackers and linemen alike.
As if entering the day as the second-most pressured backfield in the NFL wasn’t bad enough, the 49ers frontline looked even more shell-shocked without its leader. Instead, it was forced to rely on rookie tackle Erik Magnuson who was thrust into Staley’s role.
Even against the Cardinals (4-4) who have accumulated the fifth-fewest sacks (13) in the NFL through eight weeks, the 49ers found no success stopping slowing the rush.
Left guard Brandon Fusco addressed the struggles throughout the offensive with a simple statement:
“As an O-line, we haven’t done our jobs well enough. We have a good enough team.”
Perhaps more troubling than the credited sacks is the fact that San Francisco also allowed sixteen hits on their quarterback against the Cardinals, nearly eight more than their season average of 8.125.
The unadulterated abuse on Beathard did not end behind the line of scrimmage either as he was viciously hit while leaving the pocket as well. The most egregious of shot laid on Beathard came in the fourth quarter following the defense’s recovered fumble near midfield, giving the offense another shot at making a move on the deficit.
After scrambling for 10 yards, Beathard was hit in the head after initiating his slide by former-49er Antoine Bethea.
Beathard expressed gratitude toward his teammates for sticking up for him, including Hyde’s role in the incident:
“That’s awesome. They had my back and I knew they would. Guys like Carlos (Hyde), it sucks that they got ejected but it shows that they’ve got my back and I really appreciate that.”
In the few occasions in which Beathard wasn’t being hounded by would-be tacklers, he did find some ways to get the ball down field and into the hands of his very limited group of wide receivers left in the wake of Pierre Garcon‘s placement on the injured reserve list. In the Garcon’s absence, and under pressure all afternoon, Beathard went heavily with the check-down option, completing nine passes to Hyde for 84 yards.
Completing 16 out of his 35 total pass attempts, Beathard racked up 294 yards through the air, though leaving the touchdown column empty on his stat sheet and throwing one interception late in the fourth quarter.
The highlight of the afternoon would come as a 55-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin who hauled in the pass after being overthrown on a similar play the drive before. San Francisco would have to settle for a field goal after an unsuccessful effort to score six from the Arizona 29.
Beathard would find the endzone on his own in the second half by way of a three-yard touchdown run in the 49ers only goal line opportunity of the day. The TD came after Beathard initially stepped out of bounds three plays earlier on a diving effort to reach the pylon.
Defensively, San Francisco did an admirable job of slowing the Drew Stanton-led Arizona aerial attack, holding the Cardinals to 201 passing yards and supplanting a sack-less effort with an interception, taken in by Eric Reid (1). Slowing the run was a different story completely. In his first showdown with the 49ers as a Cardinal, Adrian Peterson rambled for 159 yards on 37 carries.
While ending another heated divisional game with a loss and dropping the team to 0-9 for the first time in franchise history is undeniably bad, the main concern of the team now comes as that of Beathard’s longevity and injury potential considering the volume of hits he’s been taking since jumping into the starting role.
Taking on the criticism of taking so many hits, Beathard says the physicality is something that won’t take a toll on him physically or mentally:
“I’m not afraid of getting hit. That won’t affect me, it never has. I’m tough and able to take things.”
Earlier in the week, Shanahan said newly acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will only play in the event that Beathard gets hurt. By the look of things that time could come sooner than later if Beathard continues to take this kind of beating week in and week out.