The start of Arizona vs. San Francisco looked like a nightmare for Cards fans who had been hoping for some return to health after the Thursday Night Packers loss.
And George Kittle returned from IR to the Niners.
It got worse after the game began...
Cardinals’ RB Chase Edmonds just limped off the field.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 7, 2021
Justin Pugh Carted to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/G5Dq3zX1FH— Birdgang Travel Club (@birdgangtravel) November 7, 2021
Chase Edmonds and now Justin Pugh— Andy Kwong (@akwong31) November 7, 2021
I hate injuries
Welp. That’s 5 starters down on offense!
So the defense needed to come to play. And boy did they ever! Markus Golden added to his sack total, leading Arizona with three (!) sacks on the day.
Markus Golden, best value in the NFL— Jess Root (@senorjessroot) November 7, 2021
Not to be denied, Chandler Jones got his first sack since week 1 and had a lovely tribute to the man whose record he passed:
Classy Chandler Jones.— Blake Allen Murphy (@blakemurphy7) November 7, 2021
Gets his sack to hold the record and he immediately offers a tribute to Freddie Joe Nunn, who he passed with that last sack.
This is the shirt Chandler Jones is wearing under his uniform today in honor of former Cardinal Freddie Joe Nunn who passed away last month,— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) November 7, 2021
With that sack of Jimmy Garoppolo, Jones passed Nunn as the franchise leader in sacks & lifted his jersey to show the shirt. pic.twitter.com/EiB314QalX
As for everywhere else?
Arizona forced some early turnovers as well on defense, and everything was going according to plan!
Aiyuk makes a beautiful catch down the field but then fumbles, and Jordan Hicks with his second fumble recovery of the game.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) November 7, 2021
Isaiah Simmons with the "CPR" punch-out of the ball.
Of course it isn’t all defense...Arizona on offense needed to find ways to move the ball without huge pass plays and boy, did they ever.
In both trickeration and in execution no less. James Conner...have a day.
A 3rd and 18? And Conner gets 21. Didn't see that coming.— Dave Burns (@Burnsy987) November 7, 2021
What a throw by Christian Kirk! @AZCardinals trickery. #RedSea— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
: #AZvsSF on FOX
: NFL app pic.twitter.com/iQYr7btBGx
Christian Kirk with a tremendous throw!!— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) November 7, 2021
The Cardinals were effective, efficient and executed. Chase Edmonds was out? No worries, James Conner is here to save the day.
John Conner: savior of the world against Skynet— Jess Root (@senorjessroot) November 7, 2021
James Conner: Stud RB for the @AZCardinals
Know the difference, Mark Sanchez.
Conner had two touchdowns.
And after Kliff Kingsbury yelled in the face of one of his players....and even drew a penalty! It ended up being Josh Norman though who drew a taunting penalty that helped Arizona there.
Kliff v Norman.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) November 7, 2021
Wow, Kliff gets a penalty? That prop bet would have been a gazillion to one if it existed.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) November 7, 2021
The defense did well but man...did the offense have some fun.
And in a high scoring game, there were questions aplenty not about Kliff but about the guy on the other side of the sideline:
I feel like we should be talking about Kyle Shanahan— Eric Eager (@PFF_Eric) November 7, 2021
49ers are down 14-0 to a Cardinals team that is missing Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, JJ Watt, and Chase Edmonds.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) November 7, 2021
Not a good look for Kyle.
Arizona's defense has been impressive all season, so the 49ers struggling on offense isn't shocking.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 7, 2021
Their defense being annihilated by a Cardinals offense minus Murray and Hopkins tells you where this team is overall, though. And it's not somewhere good.#AZvsSF
San Fran did a decent job of working back into it, with some involvement (finally) for Brandon Aiyuk.
That is just a studly catch by Brandon Aiyuk. Not much else the coverage could do.— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) November 7, 2021
Did it matter? Not for long...cause of...Eno!
Eno Benjamin and Brandon Aiyuk with back-to-back touchdowns.— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) November 7, 2021
And suddenly AZ was up 31-14 and there was only one quarter to play.
A few conversions (and another injury to Aaron Brewer) and after forcing San Fran to settle for a Field Goal and a punt, and it was ANOTHER road blowout. Arizona won 31-17.
Who was the real winner, though? Well down his entire offense...gotta be the head coach.
If this holds up this is the game at the top of Kliff's case for COTY (I can't believe I just typed that)— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) November 7, 2021
Kliff Kingsbury taking Kyle Shanahan to the woodshed.— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) November 7, 2021
Never thought I’d see the day
Kliff Kingsbury out-coached the hell out of Kyle Shanahan today. You can't just say it was the DC. It's Shanahan's staff. He's involved with all strategies. And Kingsbury's staff dominated.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 8, 2021
So, what are the takeaways and rapid reactions?
- Cards are still legit...and have legit depth. The will to win despite being down receivers and a starting QB came from running the ball almost 40 times and enforcing their will. And it came without Chase Edmonds!
- Speaking of the run...what a signing has James Conner been. He’s been healthy and looked like the stud he was in Pittsburgh and did well in the bellcow role with 3 touchdowns and the longest catch and run of his career
- Healthy Hudson=big difference. See how point #1 and point #2 aren’t possble without him.
- Niners have ISSUES. Struggling to stop screens, being outcoached and not being disciplined...it looked a lot like the 2019 Cards and late 2020. Credit the coaching staff in AZ for getting it done
- AZ’s biggest issues seemed to come with their special teams, and it will be interesting to watch what happens with Aaron Brewer
- Obviously, Justin Pugh is a huge loss if he is out for the year. Fortunately, Harlow looked much better as a guard than at Center and with Max Garcia at guard, I think it’s one that Arizona can live with...but man, you wonder if there IS an injury that can break this team’s back. So far there hasn’t been one.
- Let’s not overshadow Christian Kirk’s day: 6 catches for 91 yards and what was almost a TD pass. Dude will get paid this offseason. I’m just not convinced it will be by AZ with how Rondale’s looked so far but maybe you DO need a lot of WR’s here in this scheme.
- Jimmy G’s limited. He was overthrowing guys and while his day wasn’t bad against Arizona, they needed him to carry the Niners after Kliff Kingsbury did what he wanted to them.
- ^If Trey Lance isn’t “that guy” then the Niners (and other NFC West teams) are in trouble...Arizona’s looked like a sleeping giant since they added Kyler and it’s so far forced every team to give up two 1’s to stay ahead and it has...not worked well for 2 of those 3 teams.
- Could we see Colt McCoy 2.0? The Panthers team has looked like a total mess offensively but might have one of the best defenses in the league.
- This was a must-win game for Arizona to have a shot at the #1 seed in the NFC. Now? They have a 1 game lead on every team after a Cowboys loss and a head to head lead on the Rams. This might be the best team in the NFL.
- We will see how the injuries go but if AZ gets back Murray/Hopkins/Green healthier either next week (or the following week) then there’s not a team in the NFL that they need to be scared of. This might be a Super Bowl worthy team end of the day, and Steve Keim deserves credit for the depth they added this offseason.
And the final point...
- Kliff Kingsbury has proven himself, at last, that he isn’t just a product of Kyler. He isn’t just being carried by Vance Joseph’s defense. He’s one of the brightest coaches in the NFL this season and the Cardinals are 9-0 if AJ Green turns around. This Cardinals team has been desperately in need of a franchise QB and also a head coach who can carry the load when that QB is unable to play. Today was a pretty resounding confirmation that Kliff might not just have a chance to be “that guy” but that maybe he finally is.
That’s all for now.
What a win and the Cards are back on top of the NFC. Let’s see if Kyler can come back or if Arizona rolls with McCoy for another week.