The Arizona Cardinals strolled into Levi’s Stadium and for a little over a quarter, pushed around a coasting Niner team looking toward their bye.
The same San Fransisco 49er squad that suffered their first loss of a season in heartbreaking fashion Monday night against Seattle. A loss that saw them lose multiple players to injury through FIVE quarters of play.
The Cardinals attempted to take full advantage of the short handed Niners as they jumped out to an impressive 16-0 second quarter lead.
Kyler Murray was his usually sensational self, orchestrating a 9 play, 57 yard drive capping off with a Pharroh Cooper seven yard touchdown grab.
The rookie played perhaps his finest half of football Sunday but unfortunately was overshadowed by his dismal defense once again.
It’s hard to put into context how poor of a unit the Cardinal defense has become. Following their early lead, the unit proceeded to allow the Niners to score 17 points on their next three possessions.
It wasn’t until a miserable redzone INT from Jimmy Garoppolo to Jordan Hicks that the defense received any kind of breathing room.
Murray did his absolute best to keep the flailing Cardinals in this one, overcoming multiple defensive gaffs to regain the lead.
His 22 yard touchdown scamper late in the fourth looked like a potential game clincher.
And it really should have been.
The Niners, to no one’s surprise, trotted down the field with ease only to have an errant Jimmy G pass intercepted by rookie safety Jalen Thompson.
Unfortunately for Arizona, with a little over four minutes to play, the Cardinal offense went 3-in-out at the worst possible time.
That critical missed opportunity was all the Niners needed to lock this one up. Jimmy G proceeded to march San Fran into field goal range. On first down on the Arizona 20, the Niner signal caller took advantage of a horrendous coaching error by DC Vance Joseph who inexplicably allowed Chandler Jones to cover Justin Wilson down the seam.
Touchdown San Francisco.
With 30 seconds to play, a KeeSean Johnson fumble sealed the deal for the now 9-1 San Francisco 49ers.
The Cardinals head into their bye at 3-7-1, having lost four straight following their three game winning streak that seems so long ago.
Game Ball: Kyler Murray
Goodness, this is unfortunately becoming a trend most Sundays.
Kyler Murray looks phenomenal, only to be overshadowed by perhaps the league’s worst defense.
The rookie finished the game 24/33 passing for 150 and two scores. He added 67 yards on the ground which included his sensational 22 yard touchdown.
Murray has overcome poor protection and inconsistent receiving targets. What he cannot overcome, however, is a defense that ranks near the bottom of every major statical category.
To his credit, the former Heisman trophy winner continues to battle while not turning the ball over. At some point, it would be nice to see his teammates match his level of play on a single Sunday.
Game Ball: Jordan Hicks
It feels dirty to award any member of the dismal Cardinal defense with any kind of accolade, but Jordan Hicks was solid again Sunday. The marquee free agent pickup from last spring finished the game with 12 tackles which included a sack of Jimmy G.
He also secured a redzone interception and returned it to midfield.
Hicks would be a fantastic complimentary player on a defense filled with impact defenders. Unfortunately for Arizona, Hicks himself cannot mask the egregious amount of warts on this historically poor unit.
Rookie Watch: Jalen Thompson
The fifth round supplemental selection secured his biggest play to date, intercepting Jimmy G late in the fourth quarter for what we thought was a momentum changer.
Regardless of the outcome, it was nice to see another young defensive back emerge for a Cardinal defense that needs contributions outside of Hicks, Jones and Baker.
Jalen has likely surpassed his rookie counterpart Deionte Thompson on the depth chart thanks to his more consistent play.
Lets hope today was a step in the right direction for his development.
Vance Joseph Watch
Following yet another defensive collapse, I think we can safely say that Vance Joseph’s days as the team’s Defensive Coordinator are officially numbered. With the Cardinals heading into their bye week, it seems like the ideal time to make a change while implementing a new (temporary voice.
Arizona’s defensive personnel leaves much to be desired, but that’s no excuse for the continued lapses this unit sustains each and every Sunday. From the third down struggles, to the opposing tight end domination, Arizona’s defense is as bad as we’ve ever seen under Team President Michael Bidwill.
It will take considerable resources reinvested into this unit for any hope of a return to respectability. The first step to that, however, is a change in leadership.
- Arizona out-gained the usually run dominant San Francisco 49ers 135 to 34 on the ground. Even with their one dimensional approach, the Niner offense tallied 30 points behind an absurd 424 yards passing from Jimmy G. This Niner offense was missing All Pro TE George Kittle while numerous receivers were banged up throughout the contest. Rookie Deebo Samuel posted a career high 134 yards receiving in the win.
- Christian Kirk was Arizona’s leading receiving with a mere 41 yards. Coming off his breakout game against Tampa Bay, Kirk was solid against veteran CB Richard Sherman. His only blunder came with he separated from coverage late in the first and butchered a perfect strike from Murray that likely would have netted big yards. Those are the kind of mental errors a team starved for talent cannot make if they hope to beat the NFL’s elite.
- Kenyan Drake was once again impressive on the ground, averaging over four yards per carry for 67 yards. Drake was the only running back to receive carries, as former Pro Bowl RB David Johnson (who was active) was left on the sidelines much of Sunday. It’s obvious that Johnson’s lackluster outing a week ago has him in Kingbury’s doghouse. A strong argument could be made for shutting down Johnson for the remainder of the season.
- As the week’s go on, it’s becoming more and more evident that veteran OLB Terrell Suggs’s time with the Cardinals will not be looked back at favorably. The future Hall of Famer offers next to nothing as a pass rusher and looks disengaged most plays. There were numerous instances Sunday that he appeared jogging toward the ball carrier. Arizona needs to move on and take the loss on this free agent signing.
- After two productive weeks, rookie WR Andy Isabella hauled in a single pass for six yards. Late in the contest, he and Murray had miscommunication on what would have been a third down conversion deep in the redzone.
- After a promising start to the season, rookie receiver KeeSean Johnson has fallen off considerably. Johnson fumbled his second catch of the day in the games final seconds, allowing San Fran to secure the win.
- The Arizona offensive line allowed four sacks of Kyler Murray Sunday. The most damning came late in the fourth on third down when AQ Shipley allowed a free rusher to bring down the Murray. A conversion there would have gone a long way in securing the upset.
- In a season filled with frustration defensively, Andy Lee and Zane Gonzalez remain bright spots on special teams. Both deserve significant Pro Bowl considerations at season’s end.
- Kliff Kingsbury won a pass interference challenge on the team’s opening drive, as Christian Kirk secured the penalty off veteran CB Richard Sherman.
- At the writing of this article, Arizona has the ninth selection in next April’s NFL Draft.