Arizona Cardinals, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Drew Stanton, Jeremy Kerley, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Coopers, Markus Golden, NFL, Patrick Peterson, San Francisco 49ers, Tyrann Mathieu
San Francisco 21
Arizona Cardinals 33
In a sometimes hard to watch game the Cardinal ran out eventual winners through a combination of taking advantage of turnovers and being more successful at getting to the quarterback.
It feels strange to say, but the offences in this game were eerily similar at times with strong running games and only one effective receiver but there were differences. The 49ers managed to rack up a lot of yards on the ground through a combination of effective straight ahead running by Carlos Hyde who ran for seventy-eight yards off twenty-two carries whilst Blaine Gabbert ran for seventy yards himself, including a quarterback keeper for a touchdown. However, Gabbert was only able to find receiver Jeremy Kerley consistently in the passing game, and Gabbert finished the game with an anaemic one hundred and sixty-two yards and two interceptions to one touchdown. He also spent a lot of time escaping from the Cardinals pass rush and yet still was sacked seven times, yet there were several long passes that Gabbert plane missed and it would not be a surprise if at some point if this inaccuracy loses him the starting job.
The Cardinals defence is still not where it was last year, with Tyrann Mathieu still coming back from his knee injury of last season and not looking himself, although the pass interference penalty that was called against him in the second half was very soft. However, the Cardinals were able to get consistent pressure with Markus Golden getting another two sacks to take his season total to six, and Calais Campbell adding an interception off a tipped pass to his two sacks. However, there are still questions in coverage opposite Patrick Peterson even if Marcus Cooper did cut under a route very nicely to get his interception. They got away with it in this game because the 49ers were unable to exploit open receivers when the opportunity presented itself but they will need to continue to improve if they are to get where they want as a team.
The Cardinals offence was struggling even before Drew Stanton was made starter through Carson Palmer’s concussion, particularly with both their starting guards being injured, but at least Stanton gave them a clean game with no interceptions and two touchdowns. However, he only threw for one hundred and twenty-four yards, most of them going to Larry Fitzgerald who looked as good as ever being constantly available in the passing game and doing his usual good job of blocking when required. Stanton was not as obviously inaccurate as Gabbert, and he threw a number of typical Bruce Arians’ long pass attempts, but could only connect on one to Fitzgerald. However, as good as Fitzgerald was, David Johnson was the other star for the Cardinals as he ran for one hundred and fifty-seven yards on an average yards per carry of over 5.5 and scoring two touchdowns.
The 49ers defence did a good job of breaking up long passes in this game, their secondary remaining close enough to the Cardinals’ receivers to break up plays and only allowing one long play when the corner covering Larry Fitzgerald slipped allowing him to score a twenty-nine yard touchdown. However, they were neither able to get enough pressure on Drew Stanton nor stop the run game, and whilst they did make the occasional good play behind or at the line to stop the run, overall this was a worrying number of points to give up given how limited the Cardinals were on offence.
The Cardinals got a much needed win, but they have a lot of improving to do if they are to drag themselves back into contention in their division, which given that like many people I was expecting the Cardinals to push for a Super Bowl, is a pretty major shift in expectations. The 49ers kept this game close for a while, and ran the ball effectively but I am not sure if between their two quarterbacks they have enough play to build on, but the 49ers were always a long term project given the state of their roster.