Yesterday’s win against the 49ers was one of the ugliest games you’ll see… for three quarters at least. But the fourth quarter was a wild ride, culminating in what is hopefully the first of many fourth quarter comebacks for Josh Rosen.
The win marked the first home win of the season in the newly christened State Farm Stadium, and it is our eighth win in a row against our division rival. But with such an ugly win comes quite a few winners and losers. So let’s look back and figure out who is who.
Josh Rosen: Like the team as a whole, Rosen started slow, but he turned it on when it mattered most, going 12/18 for 150 yards and 2 TDs in the fourth quarter. (He also chipped in a 9-yard run.) It was an impressive performance for the rookie, who completed passes to 6 different receivers during the comeback, generally looking like a polished veteran in the pocket. The game-winner to Christian Kirk—a dart to the back of the end zone—was especially impressive. He can go into the bye week full of confidence.
Larry Fitzgerald: Of course, Rosen’s job was made a whole lot easier by a vintage performance from Fitz. He went 8/102/1 TD and the decisive 2-pt conversion—capped by an emphatic spike of the football, the first of his NFL career. He looked like the Larry we all know and love—coming up with several clutch receptions and smothering any ball that came his way. He also moved into 7th place all-time on the touchdown reception list. If this rapport with Rosen continues, he could pass Antonio Gates for 6th all-time by the end of the season.
Byron Leftwich: It was an auspicious start for Lord Byron’s offense—three and out on the first drive then a bad safety on our second possession. Although there were a few playcalling and schematic wrinkles (I noticed a lot more play-action and some successful screens), the first three quarters were indistinguishable from Mike McCoy’s offense on paper, as we totaled only 137 yards and 3 points. But the offense came out firing in the fourth quarter, and we eclipsed 300 total yards for the first time this season. A vulnerable Kansas City Chiefs defense awaits after the bye.
Budda Baker: Budda was the defensive MVP yesterday, flying around the field and filling up the stat sheet—5 tackles (1 for a loss), a half sack, another QB hit, and a pass defended. The half sack was especially clutch, as it forced the 49ers to punt late in the fourth quarter, which led to the game-winning drive. He was a half-step faster than the 49ers all day and is rapidly becoming one of the better safeties in the league.
The Front Seven: The last time these two teams met, the 49ers gashed us for 34/147/1 TD on the ground (4.3 YPC). Despite a similar number of attempts yesterday, the Redbirds front seven mostly held their own against the run: 31/107/0 TDs (3.5 YPC). Markus Golden, Josh Bynes, and Rodney Gunter were especially impressive, combining for 17 tackles (4 for a loss) and 2.5 sacks (plus 4 QB hits). Our front seven largely controlled the game and kept the score close to allow Rosen’s comeback. Maybe Al Holcomb is starting to figure this thing out.
Special Teams: Sometimes, good special teams play is like good offensive line play—it’s better when no one is talking about it. Such was the case for the Redbirds on special teams yesterday. Phil Dawson didn’t miss a kick, Andy Lee continued booming punts, and there were no dumb penalties that cost us valuable field position. (Partially because we didn’t have any official kick returns.) In a close game, big mistakes in special teams can be very costly, and we avoided those mistakes yesterday. I’ll be curious to see if we rose in the special teams DVOA rankings this week.
Offensive Line: A big reason for the slow start on offense was the play of our O-line, which gave up three sacks in the first half and was mostly to blame for the safety. It’s hard establish your offense when DTs are routinely in the backfield. (We need Justin Pugh back STAT.) They kept Rosen relatively clean in the second half, but the rushing numbers on the day weren’t great—12/88/0 TDs (4.2 YPC). Hopefully people get healthy during the bye week and can jell a bit in practice. Either way, this will be a huge area of need this offseason.
Jermaine Gresham: Gresham was a bit more involved in the passing game than he had been (3 receptions for 22 yards), but his fourth-quarter fumble nearly cost us the game. He was just careless with the football—the ball wasn’t even knocked out of his hands by a defender. This is what we’re paying $7 million a year for?
Chandler Jones: Number 55 was basically absent from the stat sheet, recording just a single assisted tackle. He also committed two offsides penalties—one negated his own sack, and the other was on Marquise Goodwin’s long TD. Not a great day for the NFL’s reigning sack leader.
Patrick Peterson: Many Cardinals fans were wondering what to expect from Peterson in his first game after rescinding his trade demand last week. The results were a bit of a mixed bag. He held the 49ers #1 WR, Marquise Goodwin, to a single catch, but that catch was a 55-yard TD in which Peterson got absolutely roasted on a simple slant. He later made a phenomenal play on to break up a deep shot in the fourth quarter, but the damage had already been done. That he didn’t record a single tackle doesn’t help with the perception that he’s soft against the run either.
It might have been ugly, but a win is a win—and it was even sweeter in front of the home crowd. The Redbirds head into their bye week at 2-6 with a brutal second-half slate ahead of them (at KC, vs. OAK, at LAC, at GB, vs. DET, at ATL, vs. LAR, at SEA). That looks like a whole lot more losers than winners to me.
But for now, it’s time to celebrate a bit and rest up. And no matter the results the rest of the way, at least we can take pride in a fourth straight season sweep of the 49ers.
What did you think of the game yesterday, Cardinals fans? Was this a signature moment for Rosen? What did you think of Leftwich’s offense? Thoughts on subpar games from Peterson and Jones? Let us know what you thought in the comments.