Rashard Robinson, seen here in Week 3, was targeted repeatedly on Sunday by the Arizona Cardinals. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

49ers follow script to lose another close game

It was the Seattle game all over again.

On Sunday, the 49ers went back-and-forth with the Arizona Cardinals — another divisional foe with offensive line problems — in a game that ended with Kyle Shanahan still searching for his first win as a head coach.

For the third time in four weeks, the Niners failed to reach the end zone — losing 18-15 in overtime. For the third time in four weeks, the Niners lost to an NFC West opponent. For the third time in four weeks, the Niners were one score away from getting in the win column.

These are their tendencies:

Picking on Rashard

When the 49ers decided to implement a streamlined defensive playbook, the question was whether they had the kind of talent in the defensive backfield to handle the stress of running such a system. Because, if you’re going to emulate the Seahawks, it would be advisable to have their level of talent to pull it off.

That wasn’t the case in Week 4, when Carson Palmer picked on Rashard Robinson time and time again.

Robinson was targeted 11 times. He committed two penalties (which makes five combined between the last two weeks). It was a performance to forget.

Carson Palmer threw for 357 yards. His longest completion was for 32 yards as he picked apart the 49ers secondary, spreading the ball between eight receivers (seven had more than one catch).

But, before the game-winning drive, he couldn’t get in the end zone. Mostly because the 49ers were able to win the battle in the trenches. Which brings me to my next point …

Front seven rises to occasion

The Cards’ offensive line is bad. It’s been the worst in the league through the first quarter of the season. The good news: The 49ers didn’t miss their shot at exploiting it — for most of the game at least.

The Niners front seven hit Palmer an astounding 16 times. Ray-Ray Armstrong, Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Elvis Dumervil and Eli Harold all recorded sacks. (Some were noteworthy as Thomas got his first and Dumervil his Nos. 100 and 101.

When Palmer would march his team into the red zone, the Niners held strong. Armstrong capped the first possession with an interception, and every other scoring drive in regulation was limited to a field goal as Phil Dawson went 4-for-4 against his former team.

But that attack wore down with time and Palmer threw from clean pockets during Arizona’s turn with the ball in overtime after 49ers kicker Robbie Gould put his team in position to win with a field goal.

Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald for the first touchdown of the game to end the contest. It shouldn’t have gotten that far. So, allow me to wrap it up with this …

Hoyer couldn’t capitalize on a chance to win

The 49ers defense did its job at the end of regulation, forcing the Cardinals to punt after a 3-and-out deep in their own territory.

Brian Hoyer’s offense started on their own 43 with 50 seconds to play and one timeout left. They needed just a field goal to win.

First down was a screen play for two yards. Second down: incomplete. Third down: incomplete. The Niners had to punt again.

The loss doesn’t rest squarely on Hoyer’s shoulders. It can’t when the team committed 13 penalties for 113 yards. But, missed opportunities like that make these losses probable.

Hoyer’s thrown an interception in every game this season and his passer rating staying in the bottom five seems like a long-term reality.

Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

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