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The Story Doesn't End As It Could Have, And 49ers Aftermath

Those are how the hero stories are written, the way the game was playing out Sunday. Rookie Kyler Murray blew past the defense for a 22-yard touchdown, showing off his speed and what the Cardinals will have over the next decade (hopefully). Rookie Jalen Thompson made his first career interception, ending what should’ve been a 49ers scoring drive. The draft class making the big plays to pull off the upset.

Except it didn't go that way. The locker room was mostly quiet – save for one bellow of frustration, that sounded like it came from the vicinity of Murray’s locker – and emptied quickly. Making steps forward is fine, but eventually, it has to equate to victories some of the time. Even Kliff Kingsbury postgame didn’t sound like he had any interest in being exactly what he said he was, in a one-word answer: “Disappointed.”

This team is better than last year’s. That’s easy to see. But it’s not enough anymore.

-- If there is any question about the running back situation anymore, it’s probably gone. Kenyan Drake started, he got all the running back touches, and David Johnson didn’t play in the second half – even though the Cardinals had just two running backs active. Johnson had headed out of the locker room before media got in there after the game.

-- The 49ers won so Richard Sherman got the last laugh, but Sherman was nailed three times for pass interference on Christian Kirk. He had trouble staying with Kirk the whole time.

-- Kirk also was called for a pick and offensive pass interference, though, negating a Charles Clay TD catch and costing the Cardinals four points they eventually could have used.

-- The Cardinals started pretty well on third-down defense, stopping the 49ers on their first three third-down tries. After that? The 49ers converted 6-of-10.

-- The Cards were nailed for a Patrick Peterson pass interference call that was questionable. But the one that was really bad was the one called on linebacker Joe Walker, who was flagged for interfering with fullback Kyle Juszcyk when Walker did nothing wrong. The video and the call bounced around Twitter for a while with national NFL analysts wondering what the heck was going on.

-- Pharoh Cooper has done a nice job finding a spot as a receiver in this offense. He fits well with what Kingsbury likes to do.

-- Jordan Hicks with a sack and an interception and he continues to have his excellent season.

-- Kingsbury said all of Murray’s runs were baked into the offense, and usually just a decision Murray made in context of whatever play. But again, his ability to run the ball makes him so, so dangerous.

-- The tight ends hurt the Cardinals every week, as do the screen passes. That was apparent again Sunday. Tight end George Kittle didn’t play, but Ross Dwelley was awesome in making two TD catches. That’s 12 TD catches in 11 games against the Cardinals for opposing tight ends.

-- Larry Fitzgerald won’t ever have an easier touchdown than the five-yarder he scored Sunday. Somehow, the 49ers left one of the best receivers in NFL history uncovered. (It reminded me of the time in Candlestick when the Cardinals somehow left Terrell Owens, one of the best receivers in NFL history, open at the goal line on a similar play.)

-- Fitz was also bullish on the rookies and what could have been. But then again, the season isn’t about that. He mentioned the chance to potentially knock the Rams and Seahawks out of the playoffs.

“The future is pretty bright,” Fitzgerald said. “But that’s for offseason talk.”

49ers CB Richard Sherman interferes with WR Christian Kirk.
49ers CB Richard Sherman interferes with WR Christian Kirk.

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