The first quarter of the 2020 season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Isaiah Simmons was flagged for a horse-collar tackle and then gave up a long 76-yard touchdown (that would likely not have been nearly as long if starting Safety Jalen Thompson hadn’t hobbled off with an injury).
On the offensive side? It was just as brutal, with the Cardinals’ offense looking similar to their 2019 Week 1 counterparts, rushing only 3 times in the first quarter and running a lot of the 10 personnel (4 receivers, 1 RB) sets that didn’t give Kyler Murray a lot of time in the pocket and saw penalties trying to stop the Niners’ pass rush.
It’s good to credit Arizona, then, for toughing it out and not quitting. A blocked punt and some solid drives moved them into field goal range twice (missing one) and the first touchdown of the season being a pass to Chase Edmonds on a bootleg, fixing one of the redzone woes Arizona saw to begin last year.
It didn’t hurt that the Niners were nearly inept in the first half on 3rd down as well and George Kittle went off hurt as well.
The 2nd half started for Arizona the opposite of how it ended....with a Gonzalez long field goal.
The Niners continued to go 0/7 on 3rd down which was...helpful. Vance Joseph, indeed. In fact it took until the 3rd quarter to complete a single 3rd down for San Francisco.
The 3rd quarter ended with a crazy sequence of events: still down 13-10, the Cardinals saw a potential safety on an intentional grounding call go the other way as Deandre Hopkins was being held. A Chris Streveler first down run later and Arizona showed a bit of trickery as to why they kept the CFL product.
They capped off the drive with a magical Murray scamper on a Niners blitz where he dodged everyone (and got a great block from Dan Arnold)
The Cardinals ended up performing with that vaunted offense in a way that was incredible down the stretch.
Kyler Murray delivered like a franchise QB should, with clutch rushing plays and the Cardinals managed to finally take the lead...only to let the Niners and Kyle Shanahan come back down and score on a pick play to Tevin Coleman.
The Cards had their hopes & dreams resting on the 2nd year quarterback...and a little something from their starting wide receiver who came through when very few other ones were.
Hopkins came through—left somehow open on a blown coverage, he pushed the ball down to the 1 yard line (soooo close to a touchdown) and Kenyan Drake punched it in. But it came down to the VERY end.
Last year, Vance Joseph would have blown that lead & the Cards would have blown that coverage. In fact, they did, previously where Patrick Peterson was blown by on a Dante Pettis touchdown...not so this year.
Peterson broke up a pass on 2nd down, and Byron Murphy came up huge with two pass breakups on 3rd and 4th down and wow.
There’s not a whole lot to say here but a few quick takeaways after this one:
The 2019 Cardinals lose this game. The 2020 Cardinals won it.
Some other pointers:
- Very little was said about Patrick Peterson and Byron Murphy...until their pass breakups in the end. That’s a great thing for the 31st ranked pass defense in the league.
- The run game didn’t have many big plays outside of Kyler, but Drake and Chase did their jobs. The Cards have a 3-headed rushing monster and when Drake came out of the game for a bit, Chase Edmonds proved he could carry the load but it was 100+ yards from Kyler that was the death blow to the Niners
- Arizona held Kittle to 0 catches in the 2nd half
- San Fran’s offense when they don’t have their starting wide receivers picking up yards after the catch...is limited by Garoppolo. Arizona, on the other hand, STUNNED in terms of time of possession.
- Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive approach needs to incorporate blocking tight ends. He was getting too cute at the beginning of the game with a lot of 10 personnel (using Dan Arnold as a wide receiver) and throwing, throwing, throwing. His adjustments and Kyler using his legs changed the momentum of the game.
- Arizona on paper....looks like they have a defense. Hassan Reddick made some plays and while Isaiah Simmons had a rough first game, if he can develop into a weapon then the Cardinals might be in every game if just from their defense.
All in all, this was a cathartic game for many Cardinals fans.
Us long-suffering fans who once again started to watch the defense let another 4th quarter comeback drive slip away from them.
The fans who hung it out waiting for a weapon for Kyler Murray last year...heck, those who felt that Arizona was being totally counted out on this game.
This is your time. Because the Super Bowl Niners that many picked to repeat...just lost to your Arizona Cardinals. It wasn’t pretty but...
A win is a win. And 1-0 is 1-0.