Eyes were on the San Francisco 49ers Sunday following their first defeat of the season last week against the Seattle Seahawks. Bay Area natives were sweating once again as the Arizona Cardinals came out strong and gave the 49ers all they could handle. This game was a fantastic rematch of a great game from two weeks ago in which the 49ers won 28-25.
Cardinals Coming Out Strong
First overall pick Kyler Murray had his offense going early, taking the Cardinals right down the field to set up Zane Gonzalez for a game-opening field goal. Arizona was a rare benefactor of a pass interference challenge, as a no-call was reviewed and led to a defensive pass interference on Richard Sherman, who made contact with Christian Kirk early.
After forcing a punt, the Cardinals offense was at it again. An 81-yard drive capped by a five-yard touchdown pass to veteran Larry Fitzgerald, 9-0 Cardinals after a missed Gonzalez extra point.
Arizona’s strong defensive start should not be understated. Following the Fitzgerald touchdown, the Cards defense forced a turnover on downs as Jimmy Garropolo missed two straight short passes on both third and fourth down.
Murray would strike again early in the second quarter, finding Pharoh Cooper for a five-yard touchdown pass. San Francisco was yet to eclipse 100 yards of total offense to this point.
Can’t Keep Jimmy G Down
The 49ers would answer, however. The following drive, backup tight end Ross Dwelley, filling in for an injured George Kittle, found himself open in the endzone from five yards out to get San Francisco on the board. Chase McLaughlin, who missed a game-winning field goal attempt last week, connected from 43 yards out to cut the halftime deficit to 16-10.
Some deja vu served the 49ers well to open the second half, as their first drive resulted again in a Dwelley five-yard touchdown reception. Turnovers began to play their part this half, however. Garoppolo ended San Francisco’s next possession with a red-zone interception via Jordan Hicks, his third of the year. That led to a Gonzalez field goal, making it 19-17 Cards.
Kendrick Bourne, who struggled with drops last week, came up big early in the fourth quarter. A two-yard strike from Garoppolo to Bourne put the 49ers back in front 23-19 following a failed two-point conversion.
Kyler Murray would once again show why he is a serious contender for rookie of the year. He capped off a 78-yard touchdown drive with a 22-yard scoring run, 26-23 Arizona. Another Garoppolo interception, his second of the game, had the Cardinals in good shape. However, they were forced to punt after a failed conversion on 3rd and 5.
At the end of the day, there was too much Jimmy G for the Arizona defense. A well-executed two-minute drill set up a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Wilson, his first touchdown catch of the year. A fumble by Arizona receiver KeeSean Johnson effectively ended the Cardinals hopes, turning the ball back over to San Francisco with about 30 seconds to go. Arizona, with all of their timeouts left, forced a turnover on downs and got the ball back. This set up one of the craziest backdoor covers off all-time for the 49ers.
The 49ers, favored by 10, secured the win and the spread coverage with a 36-26 win.
“Lot of ups and downs in that,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “It actually reminded me a lot of Monday night… the guys were just resilient and kept coming, and we were able to finish it out the right way, unlike last week.”
Kyler Murray, who has tasted a lot of success in athletics throughout his lifetime, expressed his frustrations after the game. “Being up 16-0, you’re in a position to win and should win, it’s disappointing,” the former Oklahoma standout said. “We were in position to win. It came down to the last couple drives, we got the interception, we just couldn’t finish”.
Inside the Numbers for San Francisco
The lack of a run game hurt San Francisco in the game. Matt Breida, dealing with an ankle injury, was unavailable in this game. He ran for 78 yards in the previous contest between these two teams. Emmanuel Sanders, who caught seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago, was quiet with just 33 yards on three catches. Deebo Samuel more than made up for that, however. Samuel hauled in 8 catches for 134 yards. Garoppolo received contributions from 10 different receiving targets, the third time that’s happened this year. Garropolo finished with 424 yards through the air on 34/45 passing, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Fred Warner, who leads the 49ers defense this year with 52 tackles, was all over the field once again. He recorded 12 tackles, a new season-high, and his second straight game with ten or more tackles. Arik Armstead, the team’s sack leader, recorded his eighth quarterback takedown of the year.
Inside the Numbers for Arizona
Murray was good but not great for Arizona. He did not turn the ball over and was 24/33 through the air with two touchdowns. However, Murray totaled just 150 passing yards. He was effective with his feet, scampering for 67 yards and a rushing touchdown. Christian Kirk once again led the way for the Cardinals receiving core, catching six passes for 41 yards. Murray stands as the only QB to record a passer rating of over 100 against the 49ers, and he has done it twice.
Budda Baker and Jordan Hicks led the way for the Cardinal defense. Baker, a second-round pick back in 2017, continues to prove why he is one of the best tackling safeties in the league. He recorded 13 tackles, matching his efforts from the Halloween game. Hicks was impressive as well, recording 12 tackles and a sack on top of the aforementioned interception.
Following the theme of week 11, and really this entire NFL season, pass interference controversy reared its ugly head again. Midway through the third quarter, Garoppolo looked to hook up with fullback Kyle Jusczcyk down the right sideline. Juszczyk went over Cardinals linebacker Joe Walker in an attempt to make a diving catch. The pass fell incomplete, but Walker was flagged for DPI. Here’s the play:
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was on the wrong end of a bad call earlier in the day against the Baltimore Ravens, offered a simple sentiment on Twitter after his game. “As a leader in the NFL, we need someone new in New York deciding calls.” Hopkins may have a point given some of the reversed and non-reversed calls this year.
The loss for Arizona drops them to 3-7-1 and effectively ends their postseason chances. They hit the week 12 bye before returning home for a December 1st showdown with the Los Angeles Rams.
For San Francisco, they get right back on track and move to 9-1 and stay a game ahead of Seattle in the NFC West. They are back home again next Sunday for a potential NFC Championship game match-up with the Green Bay Packers.
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