Loss to perfect 49ers feels far from moral victory to Cardinals
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Somehow, the Arizona Cardinals checked more than a few boxes on the list of requirements necessary for them to upset one of the two remaining lossless NFL teams.
They got out to a fast start, using a 36-yard run by newcomer Kenyan Drake on the first play from scrimmage. Arizona finished the drive with the running back’s four-yard touchdown run, putting itself ahead of the San Francisco 49ers just minutes in.
The Cardinals stopped the 49ers’ vaunted ground attack, holding it to 3.3 yards per rush.
Arizona (3-5-1) put 25 points on the Niners, the most of any opponent through eight games and well above the 11.0 points per game allowed by San Francisco heading into Thursday.
The Cardinals also didn’t turn the ball over and somehow got 160 all-purpose yards out Drake, a trade pickup from Monday.
It wasn’t enough in a 28-25 loss to the 49ers at State Farm Stadium.
“We’re a good football team. We feel as though we could beat that team today,” Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “The penalties and missed opportunities, those are on us.
“Fortunately we’ll be able to see this team in two weeks.”
Partially due to three sacks and nine penalties, Arizona put itself in 3rd-and-10 or more on four of the team’s nine possessions. Defensively, the Cardinals allowed San Francisco to convert on third down 11-of-17 times on the night.
“I thought we did a great job against the run, had them in a bunch of long situations, ” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Our guys were close but (the 49ers) made the plays when they had to.”
There were plenty of gaffs on Arizona’s part.
Most notably was Kingsbury’s timeout on a 4th-and-1 play at the goal line with four seconds left in the second quarter. A run up the middle was stuffed initially before players knew a whistle had blown. On the following play that counted, a short pass to a streaking Emmanuel Sanders with linebacker Haason Reddick in coverage put the 49ers ahead 21-7 going into the halftime break.
“I wanted to get a Kodak timeout, one of those looks at it,” Kingsbury said. “Wanted them to hopefully to burn their best play. Looking back on it, would have rather gotten that stop.
“That one didn’t work out for us and that’s on me.”
Neither did a challenge flag thrown by Kingsbury on a key 3rd-and-3 with 2:27 left in the game.
While it appeared 49ers running back Tevin Coleman stepped out of bounds short of the sticks, the ruling on the field of a first down was upheld, burning the Cardinals’ second timeout while giving San Francisco a fresh set of downs.
After one more third-down conversion, the 49ers had to kneel to burn the rest of the clock for the win.
“We’re not going to second-guess stuff that happened in the game,” Arizona defensive lineman Corey Peters said of Kingsbury’s first-half timeout called. “Our job is to stop them and we didn’t get it done.”
What else didn’t go Arizona’s way?
Their plan to take the Niners running game out of it didn’t matter.
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 317 yards and completed 28-of 37-passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson struggled on several plays, missing tackles and getting cooked by receiver Dante Pettis on a 21-yard touchdown catch that put the 49ers ahead, 28-14, with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
“I’ll have to see the film,” Kingsbury said of Peterson, who was not present in the locker room to speak with reporters after the game. “He’s still getting back into playing shape and understanding our scheme.
“He’s a very good football player, he’s a dominant player and I’ll have to watch the film.”
By the end of the night, Sanders had seven catches for 112 yards, while San Francisco tight ends George Kittle and Ross Dwelley added 108 on 10 catches.
A little magic helped the Cardinals get back into it late. A field goal pulled them within 28-17 with 9:28 to play in the game, and on the next possession, rookie receiver Andy Isabella caught a deep ball from Murray and outran a handful of 49ers for an 88-yard score.
The two-point conversion, a pass to Drake, pulled Arizona within the final score. But the defense couldn’t get off the field to give rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for 241 yards and two scores, a chance at a game-winning drive.
“I think we know who we are,” Peters said, refusing to accept any moral victories. “We can beat any team in this league on any given day. Our problem this year has been consistently giving up big plays, being inconsistent.
“I don’t know, but I think that when we play our best ball it’s very clear what we are capable of.”