If there was any doubt that the Arizona Cardinals had passed the San Francisco 49ers for superiority in the N.F.C. West, it was erased when two of Colin Kaepernick’s first four passes were intercepted and returned for touchdowns.
Things did not get any better from there as the Cardinals embarrassed the visiting 49ers, 47-7, with Kaepernick’s four interceptions representing a career high and the game marking his career low.
The two pick-sixes came in a flurry in the first half, with the Cardinals grabbing a 14-0 lead in the first six minutes. Justin Bethel had the first interception, returning it 21 yards for a touchdown and Tyrann Mathieu, once known as the Honey Badger, took the second one 33 yards for a score. Mathieu had another interception later in the game.
After three consecutive playoff appearances from 2011 to 2013 — including a Super Bowl appearance spurred partly by Kaepernick’s breakout sophomore season in 2012 — the 49ers slide back to 8-8 last season. Meanwhile the Cardinals looked like a serious contender last season before Carson Palmer was lost for the year with an injury.
Palmer is back, and the Cardinals are off to a 3-0 start — and a two-game division lead — while the 49ers are struggling to find their identity after coach Jim Harbaugh was let go despite the team going 44-19-1 in his four seasons.
Kaepernick’s numbers coming into the game were not bad, but Sunday was a total disaster other than a 12-yard touchdown run. Along with the four interceptions, Kaepernick went 9 for 19 for 67 yards, and San Francisco dropped to 1-2.