The Arizona Cardinals are flying high after a hard-fought road win against the reigning conference champion San Francisco 49ers. Arizona took advantage of San Francisco’s mistakes in all phases of the game and clawed their way to the divisional victory. Today we take a look at how the Cardinals found a way to start the season 1-0 for the first time since 2015.
New Weapon on Offense
Welcome to the Cardinals, DeAndre Hopkins. The biggest offseason addition to the roster had a monster game for Arizona. Hopkins took advantage of a soft 49ers secondary and collected 14 receptions for 151 yards receiving. He was Mr. Reliability on the day as his longest catch of the day went for 33-yards, with the rest coming on short passes near the sideline. Hopkins nearly found the end zone in the fourth quarter but was ruled down just short of the goal line.
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The gameplan called for quick passes to negate the San Francisco pass rush. It worked wonders as the San Francisco secondary surrendered a cushion to Hopkins for most of the game. Hopkins’ impact was immediate with many of his receptions coming on third-down situations to keep drives alive. He is already the favorite target in the offense and it will be interesting to see how many more big games he can produce with the Cardinals.
Kyler Murray Shines
Kyler Murray is the perfect foil for the vaunted 49ers defense. Make no mistake, the defense is still difficult to play against and caused problems for Murray and the offense. However, the skillset that the second-year quarterback possesses is what really won the game for the Cardinals. Murray was sacked just twice on the day, escaping from another half-dozen throughout the game. He limited his mental mistakes and his only interception came on a tipped pass after a great play by the defender. Murray relied heavily on Hopkins, targeting his new receiver a total of 16 times on the day. In all, Murray finished the game by completing 26 of 40 attempts for 230 yards passing, and a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) September 13, 2020
However, what won the game for the Cardinals was the ability of Murray to use his feet. Yes, he often eluded oncoming defenders and avoided sacks. More importantly, he added nearly 100 yards rushing to his stats total. Murray rushed for 91 yards on 13 carries, none more important than his 22-yard scamper for a touchdown. The score gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game and put them ahead with roughly 10 minutes remaining. Murray’s quickness and speed provided headaches to the 49ers defense as they often came when coverage was tight and a defender closing in. Without Murray’s amazing play, the Cardinals are likely heading home with another season-opening defeat.
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In the first quarter, with the 49ers in control of the game, the Arizona special teams unit announced their presence. Arizona ran a stunt game on the inside which resulted in a flying Ezekiel Turner blocking the punt by Mitch Wishnowsky. Fellow linebacker, Dennis Gardeck, recovered the blocked punt and set up the offense inside the San Francisco red zone. Arizona would score on the very next play.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 13, 2020
At the time, San Francisco had been controlling the game and looked poised to pin the Arizona offense deep in its own territory. The block and subsequent score, provided the momentum switch the Cardinals needed to make it a game. The play highlighted the level of effort provided by Arizona and the type of play needed to knock off the 49ers.
Just One Game
While the victory is sweet and many fans are flying high after Sunday, it is important to keep an eye on what lies ahead. This was a big win for an up and coming team but it was also just the first game of the season. Keep the win in context and pull from it, any lessons that can be carried on throughout the season. The 49ers were without a few playmakers on offense but it was obvious that they were not ready for the type of fight the Cardinals brought. It will be an interesting season for the NFC West in 2020.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covered the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada