San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals
The 7-0 San Francisco 49ers traveled to face the 4-3-1 Arizona Cardinals in their first meeting this season. The 49ers boast the second best rushing offense and the best overall defense in the league but have had some close calls in previous games. This one was no different, with the Cardinals almost pulling off an upset against the only undefeated NFC team before the 49ers came up clutch late in the game to run out the clock for a 28-25 victory.
Kenyan Drake Trade Pays Off
Former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake was traded to the Cardinals on Monday, leaving a very short time for him to learn the playbook. This didn’t seem to affect him as he showed up big for the Cardinals on Thursday, as fellow running backs David Johnson and Chase Edmonds were out with injuries for the game. Drake accounted for a large chunk of the offense’s yardage with 110 yards on 15 carries for a touchdown, adding 52 yards on four catches.
The passing game for the Cardinals struggled with rookie Kyler Murray being chased by the 49ers all night, though he only gave up three sacks against one of the best defenses in the league. He ended the game with 241 yards passing and two touchdowns, completing 17 out of his 24 passes. While those may seem like solid numbers, they are heavily skewed by the yards his receivers gained after the catch, including rookie Andy Isabella’s 88-yard touchdown. To better put Murray’s passing game into perspective, his average completed pass was only 2.3 yards from the line of scrimmage to the catch point and his average intended pass was only a little better at 3.9 yards. While the Cardinals might not have been able to pull off a win, their offense continues to trend in the right direction without any turnovers for five straight games.
Jimmy Garoppolo is Calm, Cool, Collected, But Only On The Field
After keeping the Panthers to 13 points last week, the league’s leading defense gave up over 20 points for the first time this season while trying to contain an explosive performance by Kenyan Drake and chasing Kyler Murray all over the backfield. Meanwhile, the run game ranked second in the league, averaging 181.1 yards per game, struggled a bit as the Cardinals demonstrated a commitment to stopping the run, limiting Tevin Coleman to 23 yards on 12 carries and Matt Breida to 78 yards on 15 carries. Coleman saw eight or more defenders stacked against him 42% of the time, while Breida was faced a stacked box a third of the time.
The game was likely much closer than what the 49ers were comfortable with, but a career-high performance by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the team to victory. Garoppolo put up four touchdowns and 317 yards, hitting on 28 of his 37 passes. Veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders is quickly becoming a key target for him after being traded from Denver and he is allowing more shots to be taken downfield. Garoppolo’s average completed pass was thrown 6.5 yards past the line of scrimmage, with only two passes completed in the backfield.
While the offense is clearly clicking for the sixth-year quarterback, the same might not be said about him off-field as Twitter roasted his post-game interview with veteran reporter Erin Andrews. Was it a flirt by Garoppolo? Was he just really excited about staying undefeated? Could it be he’s nervous and awkward in the spotlight with only 18 starts under his belt? Don’t ask me, it’s not my department.