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ARI 24 SF 20: Key Q4 Plays

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

FF to 8:37 in order to follow along:

Play 1: ARI: 2nd & 21 at ARI 30

  • (13:42 - 4th) (Shotgun) K.Murray scrambles right end to ARZ 38 for 8 yards (K.Hyder).PENALTY on SF-K.Hyder, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at ARZ 38.
  • Good protection: chipping the RDE and doubling the LDE with T and RB. Kyler flushes to the right and weaves his way for 7 yards and on his slide, K. Hyder dives over him and picks up the UR penalty.
  • Ron Rivera said that he didn’t think either of the 49ers’ UR penalties on Murray were fair—-but diving onto the QB in that situation while he is on the ground is a penalty. It’s good to see the refs calling these dive hits. Cards escape a 3rd and 14 scenario.

Play 2: ARI 2nd & 8 at SF 33

  • (11:48 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short left to D.Hopkins to SF 26 for 7 yards (D.Greenlaw). caught at SF 33, 7 YAC
  • Creative play call by K2. He has Drake lined up in trips with Hopkins and Fitz, but then motions him right and has Murray take the snap and move to his right like it’s an option play, but then Murray throws back to Hopkins on a hitch screen, with Fitz blocking the CB. Hopkins makes a nice RAC for a 1st down, thanks, as well, to cross over blocks by LT D.J. Humphries and LG Justin Pugh (again—-clever design).

Play 3: ARI 2nd & 8 at SF 22

  • (10:26 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray scrambles right tackle for 22 yards, TOUCHDOWN.Z.Gonzalez extra point is GOOD, Center-A.Brewer, Holder-A.Lee.
  • The 49ers send a 6 man rush after Murray, It’s picked up well and the key block is made on the blitzing LB by Chase Edmonds who creates the crease for Murray to bolt through. Murray timed his escape at the perfect time and now he’s quickly into the 2nd and 3rd levels juking defenders and getting the key seal block on the defender in the middle from TE Maxx Williams.
  • By virtue of Edmonds’ and Murray quick reaction to this 6 man rush, it appears that Murray was very prepared for the full house pressure on his pre-snap read—-kudos to him and the coaches for this preparation. No doubt this play is going to cause DCs around the NFL to pause about sending 6 after Murray, because as we saw, if Murray breaks free, he now has an open field labyrinth in which to maneuver his way through 4-5 defenders with 4 receivers to help block. Murray did this with such aplomb at Oklahoma, but the thought back then was that it was going to be much harder to do this in the NFL, and yet here we have proof versus a top level defense that Murray can pull these dynamic chunk yard scrambles off and, as in this case, find the end zone.
  • When you watch Murray’s feet on this play from start to finish, these are the super quick type of feet that coaches fawn over. Plus, Murray’s body control moving this fast and his ability to redirect at any given second are extraordinary.
  • Cards take their first lead at 17-13.

Play 4: SF 1st & 10 at SF 22

  • (10:10 - 4th) J.Garoppolo pass deep right to K.Juszczyk to ARZ 37 for 41 yards (B.Baker; H.Reddick).
  • Haason Reddick’s mistake on this play action play from an I formation is that he doesn’t meet Juszczyk in the hole as LBers are taught to do when they see power iso runs with a lead FB.
  • To Reddick’s credit, once he realizes this is actually a play action pass, he turns and tries to recover. and actually chases the FB down with as assist from who else—-Budda Baker.
  • This is a great play call by Kyle Shanahan—-and Reddick and the Cardinals’ LBers should be all the wiser for it next time by coming up faster to meet the FB in the hole which stuffs the passing option and is the exact right thing to do to disrupt the power off-tackle run if the ball is handed off.

Play 5: SF 3rd & 10 at ARI 37

  • (9:28 - 4th) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass deep right intended for J.McKinnon INTERCEPTED by C.Banjo [Z.Allen] at ARZ 10. C.Banjo ran ob at ARZ 10 for no gain.PENALTY on ARZ-J.Hicks, Defensive Pass Interference, 27 yards, enforced at ARZ 37 - No Play.
  • The Cardinals run and TEX “Twist” by rushing Chandler Jones to the inside and looping Jordan Phillips to the outside, which works, except that Phillips doesn’t break down well enough, goes for a high arm tackle which JG slips away from and is able to break contain on a scramble to his right. Credit Zach Allen for chasing JG to the sideline.
  • Jordan Hicks is a little late picking up RB McKinnon in man coverage and goes into chase mode—-and on the deep duck of a pass that was nicely intercepted by FS Chris Banjo, Hicks loses his composure and strangely tries to tackle McKinnon before the ball arrives. It’s a blatant PI penalty and allows the 49ers to escape a costly turnover and an embarrassing, give-away duck of a pass by Garoppolo.
  • Note: Either Jordan Hicks has to start showing competence in pass coverage or the coaches would be wise to sub for him on obvious pass downs like this one. The Cardinals have better more athletic cover LBs to choose from and while Hicks is a captain, and up to this point almost never comes off the field, he has been a consistent liability in pass coverage in many of his 17 games with the Cardinals. Even watching the LB foot drills in camp, Hicks appears sluggish and heavy-footed. Just not sure what to make of it because he’s a good leader and, when dialed in, he’s a good run defender—-but in coverage, he has consistently been exploited.

Play 6: SF 3rd & Goal at ARI 5

  • (8:38 - 4th) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short left to J.McKinnon for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN. caught at AZ 4, 4 YACR.Gould extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Nelson, Holder-M.Wishnowsky
  • This is another great play call by Kyle Shanahan—-what it essentially is is a 2 TE to left pick play to shake RB McKinnon free on a flare pass. The two TEs release in tandem straight to the goaline and in this case Kittle is covered well by Chris Banjo and the other TE is covered well by Isaiah Simmons—-but, Jordan Hicks, the ILB who should be keying on McKinnon doesn’t sprint under the TEs to cover him.
  • Again, this is why it may be better to have a speedier, more athletic ILB to mirror RBs like McKinnon. Some fans blamed Simmons on this play, but watch for yourself. He was head up on the inside TE and covered him. Hicks has to bust his butt to get to McKinnon and instead gets caught inside.
  • it would help too if the RDE would get his hands up on the pass.
  • Shades of some of the Cardinals’ close games in 2019 where the minute they would get a 4th quarter lead, the defense would give it right back.
  • Score: SF 20 ARI 17

Play 7: ARI 2nd & 10 at ARI 25

  • (8:21 - 4th) (Shotgun) K.Murray pass short left to D.Hopkins to ARZ 36 for 11 yards (E.Moseley).
  • Notice the clean pocket Murray gets (both tackles stick their blocks and Drake picks up the OLB) and the smooth delivery to Hopkins, who slips the first defender and has a nose for the 1st down marker. This was a combo route out of twins with Fitz from the slot running an out pass and Hopkins running a skinny post. It appears that both Fitz and Hopkins were open on the play.

Play 8: ARI 1st & 10 at ARI 36

(8:01 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Direct snap to K.Drake. K.Drake right guard to ARZ 46 for 10 yards (K.Hyde)

  • This is a superb play call by K2—-direct shotgun snap to Drake that’s a “counter trey” scheme where C Lamont Gaillard perfectly blocks down on the DT over LG Justin Pugh so that Pugh and LT D.J. Humphries can pull. Pugh lands his block and Humphries leads up the hole (would like to see him accelerate up the hole—-it’s a mistake to slow down—-but Drake is able to make a cut and get 10 good yards out of it).

Play 9: ARI 2nd & 9 at ARI 47

  • (7:08 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray scrambles left tackle to SF 38 for 15 yards (K.Alexander).
  • Kyler Murray sells the play action very well on this play—-it freezes the front 7 and it buys Murray good time to try to deliver a deep pass downfield. But, he doesn’t find an open man and does a nifty job of side-stepping one defender thanks to Sweezy sustaining his block and then takes off to his left, where he slides to avoid contact 15 yards downfield.
  • One cannot state enough how much these kinds of scrambles demoralize, frustrate and exhaust a defense. Plus, it causes pass rushes to go into a “controlled rush” where the DEs become more concerned about losing contain or giving up too much of an escape route if they rush on a wide arc.

Play 10: ARI 3rd & 6 at SF 34

  • (5:18 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short right to D.Hopkins for 34 yards, TOUCHDOWN. ARZ-D.Humphries was injured during the play. Caught SF 27, 26-YACThe Replay Official reviewed the runner broke the plane ruling, and the play was REVERSED.(No Huddle, Shotgun) K.Murray pass short right to D.Hopkins to SF 1 for 33 yards (J.Tartt). ARZ-D.Humphries was injured during the play. Caught SF 27, 26-YAC
  • This is such a huge, clutch play on 3rd and 6. This time the Cardinals offer a little wrinkle by motioning Hopkins into the slot past Fitz and then run him on a crossing route, where amazingly, he is wide open. Great RAC by Hopkins and stretch out for the goaline, only to have his knee come down with ball a half a yard shy.
  • The blocking on this play is outstanding. Watch for yourself. On the upper right side, Edmonds picks up the blitz and nullifies it. On the lower left side, Bosa is running a TEX twist inside where D.J. Humphries seals him and then right on time slides back over to take the outside twist.
  • This is the classic Air Raid “Mesh” play that K2 ran at Texas Tech and Murray ran at Oklahoma. here is a superb video that explains the concepts of the “Mesh”:

And here is a breakdown of how the Cardinals used the “Mesh” on this big play:

Play 11: ARI 1st & Goal at SF 1

  • (5:03 - 4th) (Shotgun) K.Drake up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.Z.Gonzalez extra point is GOOD, Center-A.Brewer, Holder-A.Lee.
  • D.J. Humphries was dinged up on the last play, so the coaches moved Kelvin Beachum over to LT and ran Justin Murray at RT.
  • To show you how gassed and confused the 49ers defense was on this play, C Lamont Gaillard, LG Justin Pugh and LT Kelvin Beachum are able to stand their blockers up and stick those blocks as Kenyan Drake plows his way into the end zone behind them.
  • On the goaline, the rule for DTs is to get underneath their blocks and try to penetrate so as to disrupt the timing of the play and so as not to block the vision of the LBers. Like the Cardinals did on their goalie stand. The last thing DTs want to do is get stood up and yet this is what the 49ers DTs do.
  • Cardinals answer the 49ers’ score and re-take the lead 24-20.

Play 12: SF 1st & 10 at SF 36

  • (3:46 - 4th) J.Garoppolo scrambles up the middle to SF 45 for 9 yards (H.Reddick).
  • The Cardinals’ rush is solid and Angelo Blackson makes a swift swim move and almost gets to JG. The opposite DT is double teamed so he can’t prevent the scramble, and the spy on the play, De’Vondre Campbell, gets caught on the wrong side of the line.. JG scrambles for 9 yards where Haason Reddick makes the good, sharp tackle.

Play 13: SF 2nd & 4 at ARI 42

  • (2:00 - 4th) (Shotgun) T.Coleman right guard to ARZ 32 for 10 yards (B.Baker).
  • The 49ers pull the LG who blocks RDE Devon Kennard, but Kennard does a good job of turning the play inside, but both ILBs De’Vondre Campbell and Jordan Hicks are late reading reading the play (likely expecting a pass in this situation) and do not get off their blocks. Of course, Budda Baker comes to the rescue.
  • Had the Cardinals been in man coverage, not zone, one would hope the ILB assigned to Coleman would have stepped up to make this play. Just the same, the reactions to the run by the ILBs have to be quicker and more aggressive. these LB era have to start running downhill to the football.

Play 14: SF 2nd & 8 at ARI 30

  • (1:45 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short left to R.Mostert to ARZ 21 for 9 yards (D.Campbell).
  • Not great pressure by the Cardinals as JG has ample time to wait for Mostert to run his option route over the middle—-but this time De’Vondre Campbell plays it well. He squares up on Mostert and makes JG have to throw into a tight window, plus he makes the tackle.
  • Let’s remind ourselves that this play was the game winner for SF last year and was the 76 yard TD in the 1st quarter for them this year. Even though it’s a 9 yard gain, it does show progress for the Cardinals’ defense, because this time they defended it much better.

Play 15: SF 1st & 10 at ARI 21

  • (1:14 - 4th) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass incomplete deep right to K.Bourne (P.Peterson).
  • LDE Zach Allen gets a solid rush, which forces JG up in the pocket. CB Patrick Peterson is beaten on the play by K. Bourne, but recovers just in time and with the savviness to avoid get the PI the way Hicks did earlier. The ball dinks off Pat P’s helmet and gives Cardinals’ fans two reasons for saying, “Way to use your head, Pat!”

Play 16: SF 2nd & 10 at ARI 21

  • (1:00 - 4th) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass short middle to T.Taylor to ARZ 16 for 5 yards (B.Baker). caught at Az 16, 0 YAC
  • Chandler Jones makes so quick a move that he loses his feet. Dre Kirkpatrick has decent coverage on T. Taylor who makes the catch in a tight window, and Budda Baker sticks the tackle after a 5 yard gain.

Play 17: SF 3rd & 5 at ARI 16

  • (0:37 - 4th) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass incomplete deep right to T.Taylor (B.Murphy).
  • Chandler Jones gets excellent pressure on JG, but JG flushes to the right where Zach Allen chases him, just like on the Hicks PI earlier in the game, but on JG’s throw into the end zone Byron Murphy is side by side with T. Taylor and the pass is incomplete.

Play 18: SF 4th & 5 at ARI 16

  • (0:33 - 4th) (Shotgun) J.Garoppolo pass incomplete short right to T.Taylor (B.Murphy).
  • The Cardinals called timeout here, just as they did in the 1st half with the 49ers in the red zone (which didn’t work)—-one can imagine that you might be questioning the timeout—-especially seeing as it gave the 49ers a chance to get settled on their play call. But, as it tuned out, this timeout may have been K2’s best call of the game.
  • The Cardinals were able to get their man-to-man matchups exactly as they wanted them. Look to the left side where the 49ers beat the Cardinals with the RB earlier. They have man assignments set on both the TE and RB to that side—-watch the Cardinals’ defender take the RB immediately. To the play side the 49ers are in trips and this was the out pass to Taylor they had open earlier, only this time Byron Murphy is sitting on it and times his break perfectly to deflect the pass.

Final Score: ARI 24 SF 20

4th Quarter MVPs:

ARI: Kyler Murray

SF: Jerick McKinnon