By Sam McPherson
With a rookie quarterback making his first career road start in the NFL against the league’s best team, perhaps it was not surprising to see the San Francisco 49ers lose, 33-10, to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in the City of Brotherly Love. 49ers QB C.J. Beathard struggled for most of the game against the Eagles, and with the defense focusing on the S.F. running game, the rookie wasn’t able to make a lot of big plays.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers defense recovered from its ugly effort against the Dallas Cowboys last week to play a solid game against Philadelphia. Take away a defensive touchdown and one long pass play, and San Francisco held a potent Eagles offense to a point total lower than its season average. The 49ers are 0-8 this season now, tied with the Cleveland Browns for the worst record in the NFL.
Beathard really struggled in this game, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions. He was just 17-for-36, and totaled a mere 167 yards. Beathard did manage to throw a touchdown pass in the third quarter to get the 49ers on the scoreboard, taking advantage of a Philadelphia turnover. He also ran for a team-high 40 yards on six carries.
Overall, though, the offense gained just 238 total yards, as running backs Matt Breida and Carlos Hyde combined for a mere 42 yards on 17 carries. The Eagles shut down the run in order to force Beathard to beat them with his arm, and that didn’t happen. That’s a standard plan against a rookie QB, so Beathard will have to overcome his inexperience sooner or later. But throwing the ball 36 times and gaining only 167 yards is pretty rough on any offense’s chances to win.
The 49ers held the Eagles to a 4-for-14 effort on third down, which was why the Philly offense gained just 304 total yards. Take away the 53-yard TD pass in the third quarter, and it’s clear the S.F. defense played pretty well overall. The unit intercepted Eagles QB Carson Wentz once, which set up the 49ers offense for a score. In reality, the 49ers came very close to giving up just 18 points to the league’s best team.
As noted in prior weeks, the offense’s struggles really hurt the defense, keeping it on the field for most of the game. This time, the 49ers were on defense for almost 33 minutes of game time, and the weather didn’t help, either. San Francisco’s defense registered three sacks as well, including two from recently signed defensive end Leger Douzable.
Special Teams: B+
While the Eagles kicker missed multiple extra points, Robbie Gould hit two kicks (one extra point and a 50-yard field goal) while missing an additional FG attempt. Punter Bradley Pinion kicked eight times for a 41.8-yard average, putting two kicks inside the 20-yard line and driving one 57 yards. The return game was a zero, however, for both teams.
Beathard is a rookie, but clearly the team saw something in him when it drafted the QB out of Iowa. However, Beathard may not be the long-term answer at QB, so it makes everyone wonder if the team wouldn’t be better off going back to veteran Brian Hoyer at the position. At least that enables the 49ers to run the ball with some success. The defense keeps pulling more than its weight, too, which really is going to end up takings its toll on locker room morale. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan was hired for his offensive acumen, but it’s really not apparent yet.
Up Next: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals had a bye week, and they are 3-4 overall coming off a 33-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7. They’ve lost their Opening Day running back (David Johnson) and quarterback (Carson Palmer) to season-ending injuries—or at least until December if all goes well. It’s a sinking ship for head coach Bruce Arians, one of the best in the game. The 49ers will play the Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium after dropping an overtime game in the Phoenix desert on Oct. 1. This could be a good chance for San Francisco to win its first game of the season, but it might take starting Hoyer to get that done with the home-field advantage.