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Nothing Promised After Lackluster Offensive Showing Against 49ers

Cardinals' passing game bogs down in 20-12 loss

Tight end Dan Arnold lost a fumble on this play in the second half against the 49ers.
Tight end Dan Arnold lost a fumble on this play in the second half against the 49ers.

The offense was supposed to lead the Cardinals to the Promised Land in 2020.

Now, the only thing promised is one more game.

A lackluster showing by quarterback Kyler Murray and Co. against the 49ers has put the team's playoff chances in peril with a week left in the regular season.

The Cardinals can still get in with a win over the Rams next week and some help, but it's far-fetched if the offense resembles the outfit that took the field in the 20-12 loss at State Farm Stadium.

Murray, fresh off a 406-yard passing performance against the Eagles, threw for only 247 against San Francisco in 50 attempts. The team needed to convert four fourth downs to even stay close to the 49ers.

"It's definitely a frustrating deal when we don't go out there and execute," wide receiver Christian Kirk said.

There isn't much shame in a poor offensive effort when the 49ers' defense is full strength, but it was missing defensive end Nick Bosa, cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, defensive end Solomon Thomas, safety Jimmie Ward, defensive end Dee Ford and safety Jaquiski Tartt.

If there weren't names on the back of the San Francisco jerseys on Saturday, it would have been hard to know the stars were sidelined.

"They had some guys out, but those other guys stepped up and were really physical," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "I thought they were phenomenal defensively, with their effort and execution."

The Cardinals had a 38-yard connection from Murray to Kirk on the opening series, a 45-yard catch by KeeSean Johnson in the third quarter and a 30-yard scamper by Murray in the fourth.

Despite all that, the offense averaged only 4.4 yards per play, as the other 77 offensive snaps were futile more often than not.

The running game beyond Murray's scampers has bogged down in recent weeks, and it was much of the same on Saturday. Kenyan Drake averaged 2.5 yards per carry on 18 attempts with a long of 10.

Kirk believes a subpar running game handcuffs the passing attack.

"This offense prides itself on explosive plays," Kirk said. "We lacked those at times. That's where we run into some issues, whenever our run game is a little unsuccessful."

The Cardinals seemed to lack after-the-catch wiggle compared to the 49ers. Running back Chase Edmonds has been arguably the team's most potent threat in space this season but left the game with a hip injury after catching two passes for eight yards.

"He does a lot for us as you've seen all year," Kingsbury said. "Pass game, run game, he's a dynamic player."

Tight end Dan Arnold had a rough game, dropping an uncontested deep ball, drawing a false start penalty and fumbling. Murray threw an interception at an inopportune time, when the Cardinals were near the San Francisco end zone, trailing by eight late in the contest.

Kingsbury said his play-calling and the players' execution was substandard.

"This was a group effort," Kingsbury said. "We've all got to be better offensively."

Left tackle D.J. Humphries wants to watch the tape to get a better grasp on what went wrong, because his focus each play is blocking the player across from him.

It's doubtful Humphries will like what he sees. The Cardinals were supposed to take a big step forward offensively this season, and while there have certainly been glimpses, the entire body of work has not matched expectations.

The Cardinals needed a solid offensive performance to really put them in the driver's seat in the NFC wild card hunt, but the 49ers now have them holding on for dear life.

"I felt like we were pretty ready," Humphries said. "I felt like we had a good week of practice. It was definitely a surprise to see it turn out like that."