SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's far too early in the NFL season for the San Francisco 49ers to press the panic button and sound the Super Bowl hangover alarm.
But make no mistake, Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals is one that could absolutely prove costly later in the year. After squeaking out a pair of wins against the Cardinals last year, the Niners couldn't find the late-game magic needed to extend their winning streak against Arizona to three. Their final attempt came up short when a fourth-down pass to receiver Trent Taylor was knocked away.
This loss will undoubtedly sting as the 49ers controlled the action for much of the first half but were unable to extend a quick 10-0 lead due to some self-inflicted wounds, including allowing a punt block that turned into Arizona's first score. From there, an offense missing its top two centers and top two wideouts failed to sustain much of anything until the game's closing moments.
All told, San Francisco's offense was just 2-of-13 on third or fourth down and 1-of-4 in the red zone. Those struggles left a defense that dominated early gasping for air late as it chased around Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray to no avail.
While the Niners will get some key players back on offense, this loss has the chance to linger in an NFC West division that once again figures to feature nothing but heavyweight slugfests.
Describe the game in two words: Preseason like. Perhaps it's to be expected since neither team got to play actual preseason games or scrimmage against an opponent, but Sunday's game featured a lot of mistakes by both teams and most of those miscues were the type you'd shake off with a normal offseason program.
QB breakdown: Garoppolo got off to as good of a start as you could expect after a 76-yard touchdown pass to running back Raheem Mostert on the team's second possession and even had a near-perfect passer rating at the end of the first quarter. But he found himself under fire and with little in the way of open targets for much of the rest of the game.
Given the circumstances, it'd be unfair to put the offensive struggles solely at Garoppolo's feet, but he didn't find much of a rhythm after the quick start until the final two drives. He finished 19-of-33 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 103.0.
Troubling trend: It's only one game, so maybe trend isn't the right word, but the 49ers' struggles at wideout Sunday should leave at least some level of concern going forward considering it was a question mark this offseason. The loss of veteran Emmanuel Sanders always figured to hurt, but it was more glaring with Deebo Samuel (foot) on injured reserve and Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) a pregame inactive.
San Francisco receivers combined for just 41 yards on four catches while being targeted 11 times on Sunday. For comparison's sake, Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins finished with 14 receptions for 151 yards. Samuel and Aiyuk should both return relatively soon, but the Niners have to get more production from pass-catchers other than tight end George Kittle if the offense is going to repeat or improve on last season's performance.
Eye-popping NextGen Stat: Niners running backs have made a habit of holding the crown as the fastest player in the league with the ball in their hands. Mostert claimed it for himself on Sunday, taking a pass from Garoppolo 76 yards to the end zone for a touchdown and an early 10-0 lead.
On the play, Mostert reached a max speed of 22.73 mph, the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier in the past three seasons, according to NextGen Stats. In the process, Mostert took the top spot from former teammate Matt Breida, who reached 22.3 mph in Week 5 last season.