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Cardinals vs. 49ers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Despite a close finish, the Cardinals managed to pull of the division win yesterday.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take a look at what went right and what went wrong against the visiting 49ers.

The Good

1) David Johnson

As is tradition, we start this list off with the team's best player.  DJ was the game MVP.  While he couldn't get much going on the ground, rushing 19 times for only 55 yards, he was much more effective as a receiver, bringing in 5 catches for 46 yards.  But more importantly, DJ had two touchdowns - his first was a 3 yard slant route in the 1st quarter, and the second was an incredible diving effort to put the team up 14-0 in the 2nd quarter.

We live and die by David Johnson.

2) Fitz and Floyd

One of my biggest complaints this season has been the lack of stellar performances from a receiving corps that was hyped up all off-season.  This game, however, they showed up to play. Larry Fitzgerald was once again the man, diving and coming up with every ball Palmer threw his way.  But what was even more fun to see was Michael Floyd having the comeback game he has so desperately needed.  Floyd brought in 5 receptions for 101 yards, including some acrobatic catches of his own.  You could tell just how happy he was during the game.  Maybe the second half of this season will be kind to Michael Floyd.

3) Palmer in clutch time

Palmer was inconsistent all game, and he will land in the "Bad" category for that.  But to his credit, when the team needed him to step up at the end, he did.  With two minutes left, the veteran took over, driving down the field to set up the game winning FG.  For all his mediocrity this season, we still get flashes of 2015.

4) Run Defense

The defense kept RB Carlos Hyde to just 14 yards off 13 rushes, an average of 1.1 yards per rush. QB Colin Kaepernick had more success, but not by a lot: he rushed 10 times for 55 yards.  While at times I would have liked a little more pressure on Kaepernick, three sacks is nothing to complain about (two from OLB Chandler Jones, one from DE Calais Campbell).

5) Chandler Catanzaro

He made his field goals, including the game-winner.  Thank God.

The Bad

1) Run protection

The O-line really didn't do DJ any favors this game.  While Palmer received adequate protection (he was only sacked twice), the line just couldn't get any holes going for DJ until the very last drive of the game.  The 49ers defense regularly penetrated through on run plays, giving DJ nothing to work with.  This is why he averaged only 2.9 ypc.  TE Jermaine Gresham in particular seemed to struggle when tasked with helping out the line.  And T Jared Veldheer's absence was definitely felt.

2) Marcus Cooper

Man, Cooper had a bad game.  The secondary had been doing so well in recent games, but this was a step back for the CB.  His most blatant mistake was giving up a wide open touchdown to WR Jeremy Kerley in the 2nd quarter. Throughout the game, Kaepernick targeted his side of the field, and it worked for the most part.  Hopefully this was just some bye-week rust.

3) Palmer for most of the game

Palmer made some pretty terrible mistakes.  He fumbled once, and threw two interceptions (although one was a tipped pass).  Against a better team, these mistakes probably would have cost us the game.  It's been pointed out that Palmer isn't really struggling this season, he's just returning to his career norm.  And 30-49 for 376 yards as well as a game-winning drive deserve recognition.  But his mistakes allowed the 49ers to keep the game as close as they did, hence his double appearance in this week's article.

The Ugly

1) The return game

Please, please, please tell me we're finding a new return man.  And blockers.  And Special Teams unit in general. WR John Brown returned two punts for 7 yards.  That's an average of 3.5 yards per punt. WR Britton Golden didn't do much with his one punt return either, bringing it back 6 yards.  And on the three kickoff returns in the game, Golden and RB Andre Ellington failed to get past the 20 yard line once. This is something that has consistently hurt the team all year. Time to talk to Amos Jones about what needs to change.

2) J.J. Nelson

A week after being promoted to the #2 WR slot, Nelson fumbled once and tipped another ball that led to an interception. Arians responded accordingly, limiting his targets to only 6 - fourth most on the team.  Not a good game for Nelson at all.

3) The Seahawks won

Yes, yes, I know that none of this matters and we should just focus on the Cardinals winning games.  But it is the second half of the season, and Playoffs will be here before we know it.  The Seahawks winning in Foxborough against the Patriots did us no favors.  We're going to need to keep winning games as well as some major luck if we want to see playoff football.