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Winners & Losers from the Arizona Cardinals 28-25 loss to the San Francisco 49ers

Three players won big, three players lost and what are we to make of the coaching staff?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals, against many expectations, managed to truly make a game out of their only nationally televised game this season against the San Francisco 49ers.

Arizona got off to a fast start, only to watch the Niners reel off points until they kept it close. A few baffling decisions but comeback drives took place and ultimately Arizona fell to 3-5-1 and their winning streak over the Niners was finally snapped.

So who won and lost on the day?

Winner: Kenyon Drake

First play in Cardinal red was an explosive 36 yard run and he capped the drive off with a touchdown. He hadn’t gotten a touchdown through the entire first half of the season with his former team in Miami.

And now he’s in a great place in Arizona with over 150 total yards and a lot of touches. His ability to make guys miss and his explosiveness will be a great counter and addition to the team. And it only cost Arizona a 6th round pick for his talent? What ya doing, Dolphins? Thanks anyway.

The fact that he did this against a difficult Niners rush defense...impressive for his first game.

Loser: Patrick Peterson

Peterson went from a “shutdown corner” to a “shutdown” corner. As in, he looked like he was closed for business out on the field. Not a lot of effort and despite Kliff Kingsbury covering for him postgame, there was very little covering to be seen.

It made me long for the days of Brandon Williams in coverage it was so bad.

Ryan Gosling in Remember the Titans thought Peterson was a liability out there, goodness.

In all fairness to Peterson, he wasn’t traded from a team that he did request a trade from almost a year ago to the week at the deadline, and he was indeed caught using a form of banned PED substance to begin the year...does he feel he needs it to compete?

That aside, there wasn’t much effort given on a long TD pass to Dante Pettis and he didn’t seem to be physical. It’s possible that like with Steve Wilks last year, he’s struggled with the vision of his defensive coordinator. But when the rest of his team fought like they did, there’s no excuse for him and he has to figure out how to turn it around quickly or the big deal Arizona gave him might be the last one he gets at his age.

Winner: Budda Baker

As bad as Peterson was, Baker was as good if not better. Outside of the large George Kittle shoving him aside on a TD run, Baker had his best game as a pro and was breaking up passes left and right around the box area and prevented Kittle from what was likely a 100+ yard game. He led the team in tackles and pass breakups and seems to finally have his role in the defense back.

It’s about time, too. The Cards need him and if this is the turning point for him into becoming a star, it’s happening at the right time. He was the team’s MVP in this game, period.

Loser: Christian Kirk & Larry Fitzgerald

Note: not calling Fitz a loser. Just pointing out he was a victim of the game plan. And shouldn’t be.

On offense, the Cardinals did get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald...but for 4 catches for 38 yards he has to get involved in the team more. When force fed, he always delivers but the team’s failed to use him like they did in Weeks 1 and 2 in looking at 10 targets a game for the legend, who’s still playing at a high level.

On the other side, after a big week last week Christian Kirk put up a 2 catches for 8 yards dud, though the rookies ended up taking over. More on that...

Winner: Andy Isabella

What a time for his first TD catch. An 88 yard burner in which he outran the entire defense and put the Cardinals back into the game.

It kinda went viral with a ton of videos of the play—great throw and great finish.

Isabella’s been working hard, trying his best but hasn’t been able to make an impact despite the lofty draft selection of a slot receiver in the 2nd round with the Josh Rosen pick, and also the pressure of Arizona’s lack of a deep receiver. He delivered and hopefully that will inspire Arizona to use him more and he can blossom into a connection with Kyler Murray over the long haul.

Loser: Haasan Reddick

Joe Walker was 2nd on the team in tackles with 7 getting the start over the former first round pick. To his credit, Reddick almost had the play of the game in stuffing the Niners on 4th down before a called timeout gave San Francisco a second chance at life. Then on the next play he got beat out by Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown. Such is life.

But the fact that Arizona has now moved on from Deone Bucannon and seemingly Reddick in a starting role isn’t good for his future...

Winner: Kyler Murray

Entering the Niners game, opposing QB’s had put up QBR numbers of 53 at most. Kyler went off for 130, and while the 88 yard touchdown boosted his numbers in the end the dude had a heck of a night against the top passing defense in the NFL:

The kid still looks special and didn’t turn the ball over, rallied the team and if Arizona had gotten a stop and the ball back, you’ve gotta feel like they had a chance to win that game with him. He’s fun to watch and making crazy plays week in and week out like this leaping TD throw to KeeSean Johnson:

Loser: Vance Joseph

Oof. The Cards sold out to stop San Fran’s run game (not a bad idea) but gave up:

-317 yards

-4 TD’s

-Zero turnovers

-11/17 on 3rd down

-Three final 3rd downs in a row to end the game, including a pass to a wide open tight end.

Brutal performance and outside of the lone Jones game, Joseph’s got a lot to do to improve the defense before the year is done and while the game wasn’t won or lost by him, it’s never a good sign when your “bend but don’t break” model can’t seem to ever hold together.

Winner/Loser (?): Kliff Kingsbury

What can you say? Kingsbury was the goat on two huge decisions that didn’t work. One at the end of the half that gave the Niners a touchdown and one that lost AZ a timeout trying to change the spot of the ball in a critical situation in which they needed timeouts.

But...he put up 25 points with his offense against a team that had given up 23 over the last few weeks combined, got a brand new running back up to speed and had a line that only gave up 3 sacks, 2 on Kyler himself for not throwing it away. He’s added a lot and seems to be growing and learning, but isn’t there yet. That’s a rough place to be in a “win now” league in which national attention was on him and he was assigned the blame for the loss.

He took it, and has a lot to honestly be proud of for the way his team fought. It’ll be worth bearing to see, however, if his decision-making at the end of halves and in the redzone (Cards still kicked a field goal once during the game) continues or if it improves. Or if he needs to find someone to delegate and help with that moving forward.

All the same, tonight was a step forward for Arizona in many cases, and a game that they hope to build on in the future to turn a close loss into a win against a division foe.