GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For the third straight week, the San Francisco 49ers had a win against an NFC West Division foe sitting on a silver platter.
And for the third consecutive week, they left it there. In a game eerily reminiscent of the 49ers' Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they made too many costly mistakes and fell 18-15 to the Arizona Cardinals in overtime Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Yet again, the 49ers made a number of self-inflicted mistakes. They racked up penalties and continued to be one of the most drop-prone offenses in the league. Quarterback Brian Hoyer also had his weekly interception and, for as good as the defense was, it also missed some big opportunities for timely takeaways.
The Niners enter most of their games facing a talent deficiency and with little margin for error. Those kinds of errors are simply too much to overcome.
What it means: The 49ers are now 0-4 on the season and though that isn't surprising in and of itself, the fact that they've been on the verge of winning makes the missed chances all the more frustrating. But the reality is, maybe these types of losses aren't the worst thing in the world for San Francisco. No, we aren't counting any sort of moral victories but the Niners clearly need more top-end talent and the more wins they get, the more they jeopardize their chance at a top selection in next year's draft. To be sure, they need to get some wins this year so their hard work is rewarded and the young players learn what it takes, but narrow losses now will make victories taste better when they do finally start to come.
What the 49ers did well: Much like that Week 2 meeting against Seattle, the Niners stayed in this game by getting after the quarterback on defense and playing sound on special teams. Against Arizona's injured and ineffective offensive line, the 49ers posted six sacks and 16 quarterback hits. And place-kicker Robbie Gould deserves an extra tip of the cap, bouncing back from a key missed extra point last week against the Rams to convert all five of his field goal tries. He has now made 28 straight field goal attempts.
What the 49ers didn't do well: The list of things the Niners didn't do well includes many of the same things they haven't done well all season. What's worse, many of those issues are the types of fundamental mistakes that allows this team such a minuscule margin for error. They finished with 13 penalties for 113 yards, including one that wiped out a touchdown pass. They had multiple drops on catchable passes and coughed up a turnover.
Fantasy fallout: Running back Carlos Hyde was questionable for Sunday because of an oblique injury but he was able to start and finish the game. The Niners gave rookie Matt Breida bit more work with Hyde still banged up, but the 49ers starter managed to do OK on the opportunities he had. He finished with 68 yards on 16 carries to go with five receptions for 27 yards.
Another costly and questionable offensive pass interference: The Niners likely could have put Sunday's game away in regulation were it not for a costly sequence on the opening drive of the third quarter. After moving deep into Arizona territory, Hoyer hit Breida for an apparent 11-yard touchdown. For the second week in a row, rookie receiver Trent Taylor was flagged for offensive pass interference. And it was again a questionable call. This time, Taylor was penalized for a "pick" to free Breida. The argument for the penalty could be made but it wasn't something that doesn't happen on a regular basis without a flag in the NFL. Hoyer took a sack on the next play and the Niners settled for a field goal.
What's next: The 49ers' long October now takes them to their first trip east of the Mississippi with road trips to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday and the Washington Redskins the following week.