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Opponent Aftermath: 49ers get close, but can’t knock off Cardinals in Glendale

San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly and his bench watch as the Arizona Cardinals kick a game winning field goal during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-20. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The end result was business as usual for the San Francisco 49ers Sunday: A loss.

But the events leading up to the eighth straight defeat for the Niners looked a lot different than those that came before. San Francisco, the league’s worst rush defense, held the Cardinals to 80 yards on the ground and forced four turnovers, but it wasn’t enough. Chandler Catanzaro’s 34-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Cardinals to a 23-20 win and a season sweep for the second straight season.

Leading up to Sunday’s affair at University of Phoenix Stadium, we kept you up to date on all the story lines surrounding the 49ers in Behind Enemy Lines. Monday morning, we take a look at the reaction out of the Bay Area following the loss. It’s Opponent Aftermath.


49ers take step forward in last-second loss to Cardinals (SF Gate)

After losing seven straight games by an average of 17.3 points, their latest setback had a different tenor.

The 49ers (1-8) arrived as 13½-point underdogs, fell into an early 14-0 hole and then flipped the all-too-familiar script by fighting instead of folding. Colin Kaepernick’s 4-yard bootleg run on the first play after the two-minute warning tied the game at 20-20 and inspired a foreign feeling for a team without a win in 63 days: joy.

49ers’ Jimmie Ward gets Larry Fitzgerald’s admiration, jersey (SF Gate)

Jimmie Ward received an education and a gift Sunday.

After the 49ers’ cornerback routinely was matched against Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who finished with 12 catches for 133 yards in the Cardinals’ 23-20 win, he was given the shirt off his back: Fitzgerald handed Ward his jersey that included his signature and a message that conveyed his respect.

49ers lament, question costly penalties in loss to Arizona (ESPN.com)

That’s because the Niners were on the receiving end of nine accepted infractions for a whopping 100 yards in Sunday’s game. It was the second-most penalties and the most yards they’ve accrued in a game this season. It was also the first thing coach Chip Kelly pointed to as the primary reason his team came up short despite much improved run defense and a plus-three turnover margin.

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick takes step forward at site of ‘worst’ game (ESPN.com)

On the very same University of Phoenix field where San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s career was left for dead in 2015, Kaepernick offered the biggest sign yet that there is genuine hope of a resurrection.

No, Kaepernick’s statistics weren’t as gaudy as they were a week ago against the New Orleans Saints and he probably didn’t carry your fantasy team to a victory in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. But playing against an Arizona defense that entered the game ranked near the top of the league in total defense on its home turf, Kaepernick put together a solid performance that offered a glimpse of the Kaepernick of old.

Plagued by penalties and lacking run game, 49ers drop eighth straight (ESPN.com)

The San Francisco 49ers finally made progress in some of the most important problem areas that have plagued them during their previous seven losses Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Problem was, the 49ers failed to do some of the few things they’d done well.

Kaepernick improving, but 49ers don’t take advantage of takeaways (CSN Bay Area)

It was a game of missed opportunities for the 49ers, whose defense generated four turnovers. The 49ers committed just one giveaway, and Arizona scored a touchdown. The 49ers managed just 10 points off their four takeaways.

The 49ers put themselves into position to score the upset victory. Instead, they left Arizona with their only true gut-wrenching loss of the season. The 49ers (1-8) had rarely been in spot to win a game in the fourth quarter of their other seven losses during their current skid.

49ers’ run defense slows down David Johnson (CSN Bay Area)

The 49ers’ run defense, which entered the game allowing 193.0 yards per game, stiffened against running back David Johnson. Still, it was not enough to prevent the 49ers from their eighth consecutive loss.

Grading the 49ers 23-20 loss to Arizona Cardinals (San Jose Mercury News)

An eighth straight loss Sunday moved the 49ers within one of their franchise record. Here is how the 49ers (1-8) graded in Sunday’s 23-20 defeat to the host Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1):

It was another 49ers loss, but Colin Kaepernick was calm, confident and the team’s brightest sign so far this season (San Jose Mercury News)

Did we finally see a few of the 49ers’ biggest jigsaw-puzzle pieces start to click together on Sunday?

Colin Kaepernick looked calm, controlled and dynamic. Chip Kelly’s offense had some subtle twists and angles that seemed to confuse a very good Arizona defense.

49ers lose eighth straight, comeback thwarted by Cardinals field goal as time expires (San Jose Mercury News)

“I told them I’m proud of how they competed,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “But they’re not handing out participation trophies in the National Football League. It’s about wins and losses.”

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