Banged-up 49ers take on winless Cardinals
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The San Francisco 49ers lost their starting quarterback for the season, both their starting wideouts are banged up and their top running back has been in and out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. Now, following a third loss in four games, the 49ers went back to work Wednesday with three starting offensive linemen watching from the sidelines.
Not exactly what you want to have happen with the blitz-crazy Arizona Cardinals coming to Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday.
49ers center Weston Richburg and tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey are all dealing with knee injuries.
Asked what his starting line would be if the upcoming game against the Cardinals (0-4) had been Wednesday, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan used simple math.
"How many left after those three? I think there's seven left," he said. "So it'll be five of those seven."
The seven at practice Wednesday were center Erik Magnuson, guards Laken Tomlinson, Mike Person, Joshua Garnett and Najee Toran, and tackles Shon Coleman and Garry Gilliam.
Even those seven had their issues. Person injured his knee in the opener at Minnesota and hasn't been 100 percent since. Garnett left the opener with a dislocated toe and Wednesday was his first practice (no games) since. Toran was an in-season addition to the practice squad, while Coleman hasn't played a down since being acquired by the 49ers on the eve of the opener.
Shanahan noted that no matter who lines up in front of him, the onus is on replacement quarterback C.J. Beathard to identify what's coming at him and attack accordingly.
"He played in a number of games last year where the (offensive) line was pretty beat up," Shanahan said of Beathard, making that experience sound like a positive. "I think he's gotten better knowing where people are, faster with it. That happens the more you play in a system. So he's much further ahead this year than he was last year."
Despite the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman and a handful of others, the 49ers (1-3) came a play or two of winning in Los Angeles against the Chargers in Week 4.
Shanahan's take-away from the game: His team is good enough to beat anybody, as long as it can prevent going into games at a mental disadvantage.
"It's the biggest challenge I think in our game," he said of dealing with injuries. "It's a challenge that a lot of people deal with, that I've had to deal with in my career before. It has been a little bit different these two years in some situations that I haven't been in prior. Chalk a lot of that up to just luck.
"I know the fortunate thing is, not counting our quarterback and our running back, all of the (offensive) linemen ... they're not going on (injured reserve). They will return eventually, hopefully sooner than later.
"Some years you have lucky years. My last year in Atlanta, I don't think we had one guy hurt on offense the whole year. It doesn't always pan out that way. You hope to weather the storm and get through it and win some close games, and you hope to get healthier as it goes, just like we did last year."
The winless Cardinals have issues of their own.
Five dropped passes might not seem like an inordinate amount, but it was enough to prevent Josh Rosen from having a 300-yard passing game with three touchdowns, which would have been one of the best debuts ever by a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start last week.
It also likely cost the Cardinals a game they should have won.
Instead, Rosen finished with 180 yards and one touchdown with no turnovers and the Cardinals fell to the Seahawks, 20-17, on a last-second field goal.
Instead of moping about it or getting in the faces of his receivers, Rosen kept his composure throughout and kept constantly offering words of encouragement. It's one of the sides to Rosen that head coach Steve Wilks absolutely loves and he's looking forward to seeing more of it this Sunday when Rosen and the Cardinals meet the 49ers.
"It shows a lot to his maturity, the kind of person he is," Wilks said. "We know what kind of player he is, but just the kind of person. You need that in your quarterback. Not to get frustrated, because again, he's counting on those guys, and those guys are going to bounce back this week."
Rosen said being angry and using bad body language can only make things worse. There may be times, he said, when he has to let his frustrations out, but it isn't now.
"I said after the game, once I'm not smiling, you guys should be worried," Rosen said. "So I'm a happy guy. I'm very demanding of my team, as I expect them to be of me. But I'm always a positivity guy and I will continue to be."
There were several other encouraging moments during Rosen's first start that Wilks enjoyed watching. One of them came at a point in the game when the play clock was ticking dangerously low and the coach wasn't sure if the rookie was going to get the play off in time.
"Clock was running down, we were about to get a delay of game, so I called timeout," Wilks said. "After that series, he was coming over to the sideline and he said, 'Coach, I got it. I'm looking at the play clock. Trust me, I got it.'
"I love it. I love the confidence. I love that he's in control. I'm all for it."
Sunday's game will be the 54th regular-season meeting between the 49ers and Cardinals. The 49ers lead the series 29-24, but the Cardinals have won each of the past six meetings and seven of the last eight. Their six consecutive wins over Sam Francisco represents their longest active win streak against any opponent.
Updated October 3, 2018