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6 Winners & Losers from #AZvsSF

The Cards got back in the win column but who else was a winner and...who might be a surprise loser from this game?

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No Kyler/Hop/Green?

No problem with Kliff and Colt. The Cards were winners but who were the other winners or losers from Sunday’s game? Let’s take a look

Winner: Kliff

You could probably write this article as “Kliff and a bunch of other guys” as Kingsbury really came into his own not just in this season, but in this game.

After missing the Browns game due to Covid, there were sure to be questions about if it was really Kliff’s doing (despite his gameplan) or if the Cards machine of Kyler/Hopkins/AJ and Vance Joseph’s defense were the stars of the show.

After today’s game in which he had no special teams coaches to speak of, a backup QB and lost a starting RB and OL on the first series of the game in a hostile environment...maybe the team is just that good?

Or...maybe this was the time in which people have seen his importance.

The well-timed screens and rushing ability of James Conner was the star but it was the designs and plays that Kingsbury drew up and completely outcoached both the Niners DC and also Kyle Shanahan (who decided to avoid going for it on 4th down with the game on the line and PUNTED in what was their last chance to score and keep in the game).

Kliff showed a lot of emotion in the game and on the sideline as well, a fire that we haven’t seen in Arizona in a tussle with CB Josh Norman when he pled his case to the refs for a penalty & defended his guy:

It was a big win for him, proving that he’s worthy of being more than an offensive mind but someone who can captain the ship. Also, he extending his winning record in the NFL with a head to head victory over one...

Loser: Kyle Shanahan

You know it’s that bad when...these takes are common:

Kyle has had a curious career.

Dude went from a big OC name to THE offensive name in football with an MVP performance from Matt Ryan (where they blew a 28-3 lead) and then proceeded to take on the Niners job in which he had a winning record with Jimmy Garoppolo and took them to a Super Bowl (which was also blown 20-10).

His rushing attack in motion is gorgeous when it comes to play design and execution. But...Kyle the head coach has made decisions this year that would make Texans GM Bill O’Brien blush a time or two (meaning...not great!)

He hasn’t had a winning record in San Fran outside of the Super Bowl season in which the Niners had the #1 defense in the NFL. It’s led to a bizarre season overall.

  • Jimmy G isn’t healthy? Tossed him and his play under the bus and team traded up for a QB in the top 3 picks.
  • Still, then cemented Jimmy as the starter & a good QB to recoup some picks? (Worth a try, I guess?)
  • Then came the crazy “Mac Jones at 3” reports and rumors that persisted for a looooong time up until draft day (an unpopular move not because Mac was bad but because of similarities to Jimmy, questions about trading up or if the Patriots wanted him, etc).
  • In taking Trey Lance, he then promptly seemed to outplay (or at least show more potential) than Jimmy in the preseason and yet didn’t play him until Garoppolo went down DESPITE his talk of needing to upgrade at QB and giving up two first round picks to do so...
  • Then in the AZ game, he runs Trey up the middle into some BRUTAL hits which lands him on IR and eventually puts Garoppolo back in. All while having issues getting Brandon Aiyuk going despite having HIM ranked as the best receiver in his draft class and an impressive rookie season.

So all in all, here’s the equation.

Kyle + Good QB = Wins. Kyle has tried to win with Jimmy G and has not won...yet Kyle - QB =/= wins is something that he doesn’t seem to get.

Kyle outright SAID that they needed an upgrade but from his actions he...doesn’t want to start or develop them as a passer despite needing a more athletic & gifted guy and saying so.

Also....to add to this whole spiel:

Apparently, Kyle also decided at some point that he needs more from Brandon Aiyuk in practice and under-utilizes him to instead target Deebo Samuel (who has been banged up) all while Garoppolo has struggled and the team’s offense has not used Aiyuk nor 3rd round pick Trey Sermon after losing their starting RB for the year.

Wow. That’s a lot. Let’s get to the point...

In the end, Kyle Shanahan has ultimately invited a lot of criticism onto himself and it’s no wonder when you look at the why.

If you give up two-firsts for a QB, take a WR in the first and move for a 3rd round RB and then simply make it seem like you don’t believe in any of them, you can get away with it when winning games.

Kyle can’t when losing them like he did today.

At best it seems like you’re too cocky or are too much of a megalomaniac in player management and at worst you’re someone who seems like they can’t adapt or change even when forced to. It comes off as disconnected from reality...and not great for a head coach.

Heck, after all’s said and done maybe people will give ALL the credit to Saleh for any wins.

Shanahan’s got a chance to prove them wrong and proving his decision to get Lance was right.

After all, look at the crow Kliff & Kyler haters are eating. If Kyle can’t do that, then maybe he’s too stubborn for the gig and that’s not the guy you want for Trey Lance.

Winner: James Conner

Conner had his longest receiving TD and was basically a mini version of Derrick Henry against the Niners the other day.

He’s now leading the NFL in total touchdowns and looked like guys didn’t want to tackle him. Amazing in Chase Edmonds’ stead to come in and pull that off.

I wish I could say more here but there’s not much to say except....hope you weren’t playing against him in fantasy today.

Loser: OL Depth

Justin Pugh? Carted off.

Max Garcia? Left due to injury

The 5 healthy Cards OL lasted for....basically 5 minutes. Fortunately Rodney Hudson was back and ready to go but Pugh’s a tough loss if he is out for an extended period of time or the season. We will see how they replace the team’s depth if Josh Jones and Justin Murray have to step in for Pugh and Garcia at all.

Winner: Eno Benjamin, 7th rounder

Benjamin got his first NFL touchdown, made a few guys miss in space and even leveled Niners CB Dre Kirkpatrick so hard that if there was a shadow realm he’s probably still there post-banishment.

It was also good for fellow ASU alum Brandon Aiyuk to score but Benjamin finally got his shot after an injury to Chase Edmonds and made the most of it, running hard and helping spell James Conner a bit to keep the big man healthy.

With both guys free agents next season, it might be Eno’s team sooner than we’d think

Loser: Andy Isabella, 2nd rounder (courtesy of a 1st, 3rd and 5th)

With an injury to DeAndre Hopkins and AJ Green on the covid protocol, if there was ever a time for Andy Isabella to shine outside or from the slot with Christian Kirk able to move around, it was today.

What did we get instead? A deep completion to the likes of Antoine Wesley and Eno/Rondale as returners instead and Andy made a tackle (a good one) as a gunner.

But with his speed only being used for that, it’s really a sign that whatever potential “breakout” might be incoming for the man who was hoped for by many to be the speed threat the Cards lacked, he really just seems to be completely out of the game plan on offense in all facets. Rough but part of the NFL life.

Honorary Winner: Colt McCoy

Hey when you’re 34 years old and running around scrambling like you’re young again and getting a “revenge game” as many Niners fans feared, you’re likely to be the most talked about McCoy in Phoenix since Al.

And that’s saying something!

McCoy did everything you could ask from a backup: took the easy completions, didn’t make the big mistakes or turnovers and even had Nick Bosa pounding his fist into the turf in anger after quickly escaping the rush. Smart decision-making + physical talent is the NFL. But even if you don’t have the latter, the former will win you a lot of games.

And it did today. Now if only we can convince Colt McCoy to change his number to 45...

Who were your winners and losers? Sound off below in the comments section!