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Cardinals’ questionable play call on defense leads to 49ers’ game-winner

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals were ahead for most of Sunday’s 36-26 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Facing arguably one of the best teams in the NFL, the Cardinals were up heading into the fourth quarter.

A lead change wouldn’t hurt their psyche either, as Arizona responded to a San Francisco score with one of its own to hold the advantage with just 6:30 left to play.

Then things got a bit strange.

With the game on the line and two minutes to play, the 49ers started their drive at their own 35-yard line. Behind San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers moved down the field, pulling within 25 yards of pay dirt with 31 seconds left in regulation. Even with their backs against the wall, the Cardinals continued to dig in, having already forced Garoppolo to toss not one but two red zone interceptions on the afternoon.

Looking to put as much pressure as possible on the opposition, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph sent the farm after the signal caller.

There was just one issue: Arizona’s best pass rusher and arguably the best player on the defense in Chandler Jones wasn’t used to disrupt the QB.

He was sent out into coverage.

“I was trying to win, [Garoppolo] was moving the ball, we weren’t getting that much pressure on the guy so I was trying to generate pressure, obviously, and we had a guy free,” Joseph told reporters about the play call. “Jimmy made a play, it was off his back leg, he made a nice play to his halfback. It was a well-timed call and well done job by Jimmy. We’re trying to win games, I wasn’t going to leave her not trying to win the game and that’s the deal.”

The play resulted in an eventual game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Wilson Jr, the player Jones was assigned to, leaving many wondering as to why Joseph would have his best player out of position on the most important play of the game.

“He was just open, we just got to execute,” rookie cornerback Jalen Thompson told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Paul Calvisi after the loss. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to, we just got to execute, do our jobs and coaches are putting us in good positions so we just got to make the plays.”

Kliff Kingsbury gave props to the running back for making move, adding the 49ers executed at the end to get the win.

“We have a long ways to go, guys are playing hard,” Kingsbury told Calvisi. “Great intensity, great effort but in critical moments we’re not making enough plays and they are.

“I’ll have to watch the film to see the [game-winning play] closer but looked like the running back made a nice play and Jimmy made a nice read,” Kingsbury added when talking the final offensive touchdown of the game. “They executed.”

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