Long before the 49ers took the field in Arizona Sunday, the Cardinals were excited for the opportunity to let San Francisco know that they are the big dogs in the NFC West now.
The Cardinals, undefeated through their first two games, hoped to jump on the 49ers in a big way and take early control of the NFC West.
“We understand how important this game is,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson told reporters in the days leading up to the game. “We’re definitely not looking at this game as another game on the schedule.”
Then they went out and proved it.
In a game that was ugly for the 49ers from start to finish, San Francisco was pounded 47-7 to fall to 1-2. And the past two losses have been convincing decisions that leave 49ers fans wondering if their team can find its way out of a deep, early-season hole. After the 49ers beat Minnesota in Game 1, they’ve now lost to Pittsburgh and Arizona in consecutive weeks by a combined score of 90-25.
It’s the most combined points allowed by the 49ers in consecutive weeks since 1980.
On the 49ers’ first possession, quarterback Colin Kaepernick – who hadn’t been picked off in the first two games – was intercepted by Justin Bethel, who returned the ball 21 yards to give Arizona a 7-0 lead. On the Niners’ next possession, Kaepernick threw another pick-six, this one to Tyrann Mathieu, which was returned 33 yards.
Down 14-0, the 49ers never recovered. The Arizona offense never let up and San Francisco's offense never found consistency. In the second quarter, running back Chris Johnson scored two touchdowns en route to giving Arizona a 31-7 lead at the half. Quarterback Carson Palmer then connected with wideout Larry Fitzgerald for two scores in the second half on the way to the lopsided victory.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, threw four interceptions, was sacked twice and completed just 9-of-19 throws for 67 yards.
About the only offensive highlight for San Francisco was a 37-yard punt return from former Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne in the second quarter that set up the 49ers’ only TD of the game, a 12-yard run by Kaepernick.
Things won’t get easier for the 49ers, though they at least get to come home after two horrible road outings. They will play host to the 2-0 Packers (who play the Chiefs Monday night) this coming Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.