The Arizona Cardinals found themselves on the winning end of a game for the first time in 2018. Arizona’s defense led the way to a 28-18 victory on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The offense lagged behind but avoided costly turnovers. The Cardinals are no longer winless after Sunday, but today we take a look at the real winners and losers for Arizona.
The Arizona pass rusher played his best game on Sunday and was the catalyst for the defense to overwhelm the 49ers. Jones finished the game with six tackles, two of them for loss, two quarterback hits, one pass deflection, and one sack. The one sack also resulted in a forced fumble and recovery. The pass deflection came as the 49ers attempted a pass on a two-point try which would have tied the game at 14, midway through the fourth quarter. Jones was back to his 2017 self on Sunday. If this is becomes the norm for Jones, Arizona’s defense is on its way to being very special.
The 2017 first round pick has struggled to pick up the defensive scheme. Selected to be an edge defender in James Bettcher’s 3-4 scheme, Reddick is now playing inside under Steve Wilks and defensive coordinator Al Holcomb. That type of change for a second year player can’t be overstated. Through the first four weeks Reddick played a combined 30 snaps on defense, less than 20% of total number of defensive snaps. On Sunday, Reddick played 98 snaps on defense, joining only Josh Bynes and Antoine Bethea on the unit to play every snap.
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Reddick rewarded the trust shown with eight tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. The fumble came as the 49ers were moving to try to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Bynes recovered the ball and ran 23 yards for a defensive touchdown. It was a great day for a young player trying to find a spot on the roster.
The first time head coach got the taste of victory on Sunday. It was Wilks’ first career victory as the head man. What made the win all the more sweeter was the performance of the Arizona defense. Wilks was the secondary coach and eventually defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. The defense has struggled through the first four games and have failed to continue creating number of turnovers which were prevalent during the preseason. On Sunday the Cardinals defense carried the team to victory and forced five turnovers. Throw in a defensive touchdowns and the unit showed flashes of what it can be under Wilks.
The former first round pick has seen little playing time this season. Bucannon was initially tapped as the defensive signal caller. It was the first time Bucannon had attempted to call plays on defense and he struggled. Combine that with being an undersized linebacker and Bucannon found himself searching for ways to get on the field.
In week four Bucannon played about 75% of the team’s defensive snaps. On Sunday he was on the field for just four snaps. Rumors have begun to swirl, placing Bucannon in preliminary trade talks. The fourth year player is coming up on the team option on his rookie contract. Bucannon’s time in Arizona may be coming to a disappointing end.
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What a way to open the ball game for McCoy and the Cardinals offense. A 75 yard touchdown pass from Josh Rosen to Christian Kirk put the Cardinals in the lead on their first offensive play. Play action gave Rosen more than enough time to let Kirk get open on a deep post route. The play call was an aggressive start to the game and featured great play design. The offensive ingenuity ended on that play. Arizona’s offense struggled to find any rhythm against an inconsistent 49ers defense.
Many of the issues on Sunday had more to do with a lack of execution rather than bad coaching, but McCoy failed to get creative with his play calling. The contrast between McCoy and the play calling of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan only made things worse. The offense needs to turn the corner soon or McCoy could find himself looking for work before the season ends.
Fitzgerald may be playing his final season in an Arizona uniform. The future Canton inductee is having his worst statistical season of his career. Through five game, Fitzgerald has been targeted just 25 times, with 10 coming in the season opener. Unfortunately, the Cardinals offense is unable to sustain drives. Targets are difficult to come by when the offense averages a three play drive. On Sunday, Fitzgerald was targeted just three times, catching two of the passes. The veteran has been battling a hamstring injury which is likely a major factor in his production. Fitzgerald is on pace for 55 receptions this season, the lowest total of his career. It is a sad reality that the Cardinals are one again wasting another season of the legendary receiver.