In what ended up as a showcase of two hotshot offensive head coaches, the San Francisco 49ers did just enough to remain unbeaten Thursday night against Arizona.
Niner quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sensational, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns, as the San Francisco signal caller was rarely harassed by the Cardinal defensive front.
On the flip side, Kyler Murray was under continued duress thanks to a fearsome Niner defense that saw both Dee Ford and DeForest Buckner bring down the Heisman winner.
Newly acquired Kenyan Drake was perhaps biggest storyline for the hosting redbirds, as the former Miami Dolphin rushed for a game high 110 yards on a mere 15 carries. In addition to dominating on the ground, Drake did his best David Johnson impersonation, netting 52 receiving yards on the evening.
Even with the consistent rushing attack, the Cardinals’ offense was stagnant for the majority of the first half.
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter when Kyler Murray connected with rookie KeeSean Johnson that the unit began to find its rhythm.
Flash-forward to late in the fourth quarter, while training 28-17, Murray connected with yet another Cardinal rookie receiver for a touchdown.
This time it was the usually “MIA” Andy Isabella who took a beautiful crossing pattern up the seam 88 yards to make it 28-25.
However, as they did all night, the Niner offense surgically made their way through Arizona’s defense and managed to run out the remaining clock to secure their victory.
Patrick Peterson, playing in his third game since returning from a six game suspension to start the season, played one of his worst games in recent memory. The former Pro Bowl corner gave up big play after big play, culminating with an embarrassing blown touchdown pass to the mediocre Dante Pettis.
Kliff Kingsbury is also not without fault, as the first year head coach called an egregious time out before the end of the first half. This allowed San Francisco time remaining to run one more play.
That play would end up resulting in an Emmanuel Sanders one-yard touchdown that completely deflated the home crowd.
With the loss, the Cardinals move to 3-5-1 and have lost two straight following their three game winning streak earlier this month.
Game Ball: Kenyan Drake
What more can you say about a player that’s had a mere three days to absorb the team’s offensive playbook? This had to be one of the finest Arizona Cardinal debuts in recent memory, regardless of the position.
Arizona was on a short week; beat up on the offensive line and facing an elite defensive front.
Yet this third year player walks into State Farm stadium and puts up 160+ total yards and a touchdown.
Questions will be asked about the distribution of carries moving forward but lets leave that for another day. Instead, we should be appreciating the kind of effort showcased by this former top collegiate recruit.
This game should serve as an example of how grossly underutilized Drake was during his time in Miami. His ability to secure yards after contact is the real deal and his drop off as a receiver compared to Johnson is minimal.
Arizona would be best served bringing back both Johnson and Edmonds slowly while riding the rental in Drake.
Yes, he was run over during San Francisco’s opening touchdown drive by George Kittle but lets not have that overshadow what might have been his finest day as a pro.
The third year safety finished with a game high 13 tackles including three passes defensed and two tackles for loss.
The former Husky leaves much to be desired as a ball hawk but that’s not Baker’s game. Perhaps defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is finally realizing his best position is near the LOS being his usual physical self.
Rookie Spotlight: Andy Isabella
I’ve already mentioned Isabella’s exceptional touchdown but it bears repeating that this is a San Francisco defense that does not allow big plays.
Yet Arizona’s most underutilized receiver is able to break free in the fourth quarter of a prime time game for an 88-yard touchdown?
It was that kind of night.
Does this effort by Isabella result in increased playing time from Kingsbury? That is uncertain at this point but it should go without saying that the Cardinals aren’t talented enough at the position to have the former UMASS standout riding the pine.
Lets all hope this was the confidence boost Isabella needed to kick start a strong second half in 2019.
Needs Work: Patrick Peterson
I mean…what was that effort?
He is out of shape? Probably.
Was he making a point? Perhaps.
Did he quit on his teammates? You could make the argument.
This was the kind of throwback performance from Peterson that we were use to seeing prior to his Type 2 diabetes diagnoses early in his career.
With all the speculation surrounding Peterson and this week’s NFL trade deadline, it’s fair to wonder if the former first rounder was venting out his frustrations (with his “play”) that he remains in the desert.
While Peterson has not gone public with his trade demands following his spring suspension announcement, his close friend and mentor Deion Sanders remains adamant that the Cardinals needed to “set Peterson free.”
The only thing set free on Halloween night was ALL of the opposing receivers guarded by Patrick Peterson.
- Kyler Murray once again had a slow start but finished the game 17 of 24 passing for 241 yards. His two touchdowns both came in the second half, as Murray also netted 34 yards on the ground. After not accumulating touchdowns of any kind the previous two weeks, it was nice to see the first overall pick return to the end zone.
- The pass protection could have been better but all things considered, I think the reshuffled Cardinal offensive line held up fine. Prior to the game it was reported that due to his nagging knee injury, Justin Murray was out and the veteran Justin Pugh would slide from LG to RT. This was a smart move by Kingsbury, opting to go with experience on the outside instead of throwing someone like Joshua Miles to the wolves. Mason Cole filled in admirably on the interior and should be inline to take over the starting center job come 2020.
- Maxx Williams had a single catch for 12 yards, but remains an absolute force in the run game. As a top five PFF tight end on the season, Williams’s physical presence for Arizona cannot be understated. The former second rounder singlehandedly plowed the way for Kenyan Drake’s first quarter touchdown.
- Kyler Murray hasn’t turned the ball over for the Cardinals since week four against Seattle. That’s five games without a turnover...as a rookie…goodness.
- The 25 points scored by the Cardinals were a season high allowed for the vaunted Niner defense.
- San Francisco was 11 for 17 on third down, while the Cardinals were a mere 2 for 8. First downs were relatively close, however, with the Niners edging out Arizona 21-19.
- As a team, the Cardinals rushed for 153 yards on just 23 attempts (6.7 ypc).
- Chandler Jones was the lone Cardinal to secure a sack on the evening, as this defensive front for Arizona has seemingly run out of gas following their eight-sack performance against the Giants. Jones’s effort is their only sack in the previous two weeks (Saints, Niners).
- For the first time this season, Joe Walker started alongside Jordan Hicks at inside linebacker. He finished the evening with a respectable 11 tackles including one tackle for loss. Meanwhile, the recently benched Haason Reddick managed only two tackles in limited play. At this rate, one would assume the Cardinals will likely decline Reddick’s upcoming fifth year option.