The Arizona Cardinals notched their second victory of the season against the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona used a suffocating defense and timely offense to win the season series with the 49ers. The Cardinals head into the bye week with a victory and hope that the future is bright. Today we take a look at the winners and losers from the victory against San Francisco
Josh Rosen, Quarterback
Rosen struggled to stay upright for most of the afternoon. The 49ers brought the pressure early and often and took advantage of a patchwork offensive line for Arizona. Rosen was able to find his footing late in the game as he brought the Cardinals back from a 12-point deficit. It was Rosen’s first fourth quarter comeback victory. The rookie finished with 252 yards on 23 of 40 passing including two touchdowns and an interception. Rosen’s two scoring passes game in the fourth quarter, with the final giving Arizona the lead with less than a minute remaining in the game. The UCLA product showed the ability to be the face of the franchise in Arizona. After all, it’s not how you start, but rather how you finish.
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Byron Leftwich, Offensive Coordinator
Leftwich took over the reigns of the offensive play calling from the recently unemployed Mike McCoy. The former Bruce Arians assistant had his work cut out for him, taking over a struggling offense midseason, with an injured offensive line and a rookie quarterback. Leftwich kept the plan simple for the Cardinals and pushed the football towards dynamic running back David Johnson. The rushing stats for Johnson were nothing to write home about, 59 yards on 16 attempts, but the offense targeted the running back in the passing game four times for 41 yards. As a whole, the offense turned in one of their better performances, finishing with 300 yards of total offense for the first time all season. Leftwich will face some growing pains, but he is already making a difference for the Arizona offense.
Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver
For just the second time in 2018, Fitzgerald was targeted at least 10 times. On Sunday he was Josh Rosen’s favorite target, finishing with eight receptions on 12 attempts, on the way to 102 yards receiving and a touchdown. It was the first time this season where Fitzgerald finished over the century mark and just his second with more than 40 yards receiving. His previous season high was 76 yards in the season opening loss to Washington. Against the 49ers, Fitzgerald found himself in battles with the San Francisco secondary. Fitzgerald showed he was still capable of using his size and range to make plays downfield. The focus on Fitzgerald was a major change in the offensive game plan as he was often ignored in McCoy’s play calling. Perhaps the change in offensive coordinator will continue to reap benefits for the future Hall of Fame receiver.
Heading into the game against the 49ers, many considered it a battle for the top draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. In what ended up as an exercise in futility, both teams struggled to take over the momentum until the Cardinals unleashed Rosen and the offense in the final minutes. The win puts the 49ers in firm control of the top pick in next year’s draft, control they can keep with a loss to the Raiders on Thursday. Arizona would need quite a bit of help if they are to regain the first pick. Of course, being in the top 5 of the NFL Draft may not be a bad thing in the end.
Mike Iupati, Guard
The veteran offensive lineman continued his struggles on Sunday against his former team. Iupati was routinely beaten at the point of attack and struggled with the quickness of the 49ers defensive line. Iupati has struggled to stay healthy since signing with the Cardinals back in 2015. The veteran guard agreed to a pay cut in the offseason and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Continued struggles against the young and athletic 49ers defensive front likely spells and end for Iupati’s time in the desert after this season.
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For the Cardinals it was a much-needed victory in what has been a trying season. Arizona now enters the bye week with a bit more excitement after a tough divisional victory. The win does nothing to reverse the fortunes of the team this season. Arizona will not be making the postseason in 2018. However, a come from behind victory led by their rookie quarterback is a great way to build momentum for the rest of this season and beyond.