Rapid reactions: Cardinals show signs of life, compete with 49ers in loss
The Arizona Cardinals had a really great start to the game Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers and made things interesting at the end.
Everything in-between was a bit rough, perhaps to be expected against one of the best teams in the NFL.
98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s hosts, reporters and editors give their first reactions on a 28-25 loss that sent the Cardinals and Kliff Kingsbury to a record of 3-5-1.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
A surprisingly competitive game, at least it was at the end thanks to the laser beam throw from Kyler Murray and the run after the catch from where-have-you-been-this-whole-time Andy Isabella. The 49ers defense has been next-level all year and yet the Cardinals offense just dinged them for a season-high in yards and points. The Cards continued their turnover-free brand of ball and obviously Kenyan Drake was a revelation. I’ll be honest; I was unsure that it was worth giving up a future pick in order to obtain a running back for a last-place team. But the Cards have established a level of competitiveness that they obviously want to maintain despite the final record.
What I didn’t like? Well, that’s easy. Kingsbury’s timeout that erased Haason Reddick’s stop at the end of the half. Patrick Peterson’s play most of the night, which had even Charles Woodson calling him out on Twitter. The deplorable third down defense that allowed a 65 percent conversion rate. And a first-half offense that vanished like the leftover candy at my house after the trick or treaters have all gone to bed.
What I didn’t mind was the decision to review the potential out-of-bounds play. It was pretty obvious after a couple of looks the Cards weren’t going to get the reversal but based off the state of the defense I’m pretty sure that extra timeout wasn’t going to come in handy anyway.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
If the 2019 season is about gauging progress for the Arizona Cardinals, then Thursday night’s 28-25 loss to the San Francisco 49ers qualifies as a step in the right direction.
Well, at least on the offensive side of the football.
The Cardinals put up 357 yards of offense and 25 points on the 49ers — a team boasting a vaunted defense that had been giving up averages of 224 yards and 11 points per game.
Kyler Murray established a new season-high for passer rating (130.7) against easily the best defense he’s faced. And what can you say about Kenyan Drake? Acquired Monday afternoon in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, the former Alabama star ran for 110 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 52 yards and a two-point conversion that pulled his team within three points in the fourth quarter.
Drake was viewed by many (myself included) as a desperation pickup due to widespread injuries at the Cardinals’ running back position. But he looks like a natural in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. In fact, the head coach said Drake “is perfect for what we do,” leading to some thought that maybe he’s not a half-season rental and could be considered for future duty. He’s now the second back that’s looked more explosive in this offense than David Johnson has in 2019.
The defense — specifically against the pass –is still lagging. Jimmy Garoppolo played very well, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns. Receivers once again ran free in the Cardinals’ secondary, but the biggest difference this week, is that many of them were covered by Patrick Peterson. The eight-time Pro Bowler was gashed, mostly by Emmanuel Sanders, who had seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Peterson looked at least a step behind all night, and several, including Hall-of-Fame defensive back Charles Woodson, were questioning his effort.
But the real issue defensively was the third-down defense, or the lack thereof. San Francisco converted 11-of-17 third-down opportunities and were able to keep possession for 34:31. After Arizona pulled to 28-25 with 4:54 to go, the Niners were able to melt the clock, going 3-for-3 on third downs, including a back-breaking 3rd-and-11 completion to Sanders for 16 yards.
There are no moral wins in the brutal NFL, but I’m guessing the undefeated 49ers got more than what they bargained for in the desert Thursday night, and that’s a good thing for the Cardinals.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo
This was one of those games that was so frustrating to watch, but once you settled down and stopped throwing things in the house and gave your head a chance to clear, you realize that the Cardinals put forth a good effort.
It wasn’t enough clearly and the defense was trash. Their inability to get off the field and get a third-down stop just killed them.
But the offense put together four really good drives. Andy Isabella broke out with a huge play. Kenyan Drake gave us a truly great performance at the running back position. The offensive line held up admirably against a formidable pass rush and Kyler Murray was good, not great, but good versus that defense.
On a sour note, Patrick Peterson has had two awful games back-to-back and that is alarming. He was garbage Thursday. Maybe he is not in football shape yet, and if that is the case, shame on him. But if that is not the case then Arizona may have something to be concerned about because in the last two weeks Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders treated him like he was some rookie playing the position.
Arizona battled and this is a learning experience for them and their head coach, who had a horrific blunder at the end of the first half with a timeout that came on a big defensive stop. The Cardinals had a chance to pull off a major upset and shock the football world tonight. They came up short.
Maybe they gain some respect nationally because they played hard and put a scare in the undefeated 49ers. But no moral victory here, because had the defense played just OK, they would have won that game. Budda Baker showed up but not sure there are many other defenders on that team that can say the same thing. Tough loss. But after letting this digest hard to argue against the fact that they were competitive and pushed one of the best teams in the league farther than anyone else has pushed them this year.
Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown
We can’t keep pointing to moral victories forever, but I’m counting this one. The Cardinals came close to ending the 49ers’ undefeated season in front of a national audience, and they did it because the players that are supposed to be at the core of the rebuild made plays. Kyler Murray tossed a couple scores and registered a QB rating of 130.7, and both KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella picked up their first career touchdowns. That’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Then there’s Kenyan Drake. He’s only been on the team for a few days, but it looks like he’s been here for years. Did anyone really expect Arizona to outrush San Francisco in this game? The 49ers are second in the NFL on the ground while the Cardinals were missing both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds. But Drake erupted for 110 yards and a touchdown anyway, then added another 52 yards and a two-point conversion through the air. Because football doesn’t always make sense.
Ultimately, they need to win some more of these games. We’re past the halfway point now, and they don’t play at State Farm Stadium again until December. So finding victories is only going to get harder. But if this year is really about solidifying Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and building for the future, tonight was a noticeable step in the right direction. That’s undeniable. Murray again made plays without turning the ball over, and Isabella’s touchdown went down exactly the way you’d expect it to – with him outrunning everyone on the field for 88 yards on a play that could’ve gone on forever if the field was longer.
Kellan Olson, reporter and editor
I’m going to be pretty repetitive here like I have been in these all season. Kyler Murray looked like a future star and a good quarterback right now. That throw to Andy Isabella was absolutely pristine. Murray is going to be really, really good, and that’s all that really matters.
Kenyan Drake looks full of life in Arizona but does that really matter in the future at all with David Johnson and Chase Edmonds seemingly staying with the Cardinals for the foreseeable future? Unless he outplays those two guys, there’s no reason to get all that thrilled.
News flash — this defense really, really sucks! Vance Joseph might not make it to the end of the season, even after a first quarter that showed a successful gameplan, well, until the 49ers scored touchdowns on three straight drives.
The priority continues to be putting the right pieces around Murray and having faith in those doing so. The more games like this where it’s evident the Cardinals have more borderline NFL bodies starting than not, the more it becomes critical to get the right person in charge to not screw this up. The kid is good. The hard part is over. I think.