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Punt block awakens Cardinals after slow start in first half vs. 49ers

Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) dives past San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (56) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

The Arizona Cardinals did not start Sunday’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers quite the way they drew it up offensively.

Totaling just eight plays for 23 yards in their first two drives, the Cardinals were clearly out of rhythm.

On the other end, the 49ers responded with a field goal and long touchdown pass.

But just as it looked like the 49ers might start pulling away, the Cardinals special teams provided a jolt to Arizona’s system during the first half Sunday.

Following a defensive stop, the special teams unit, led by Ezekiel Turner and Dennis Gardeck flipped the momentum in favor of Arizona, getting in the backfield and blocking Mitch Wishnowsky’s punt.

That was just what the Cardinals needed.

Hitting his mark just a play later, Cardinals second-year quarterback Kyler Murray found running back Chase Edmonds in the flat. The third-year back did the rest, turning up the field and diving for the pylon for the team’s first touchdown of the season.

While the yardage through the first quarter may look lopsided, 166 for San Francisco compared to Arizona’s 44, the Cardinals trailed the 49ers 10-7 through the first 15 minutes of play.

And just as the offense did, the defense began to catch fire.

Behind sacks from Chandler Jones and Angelo Blackson, the Cardinals’ defense seemed to find its groove as the game progressed.

The defensive highlight of the game undoubtedly came with the unit’s back against the wall.

Sitting at the goal line, the 49ers put the ball in the hands of running back Raheem Mostert, who already accounted for San Francisco’s lone touchdown.

This time, however, the results was very different, with Mostert getting stuffed at the line by Cardinals linebacker Devon Kennard.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they couldn’t capitalize on the other end, driving down the field only to miss a 52-yard field goal from kicker Zane Gonzalez.

Adding to the offensive woes was the team’s final full drive of the half.

After getting the ball back with just under 5:30 left to play, Arizona took over at its own 14-yard line. Eventually moving the chains near midfield, the Cardinals looked to have the momentum to add another score before the half. Instead, offensive lineman Justin Pugh was flagged for a false start before Murray tossed his first interception of the season.

Luckily, Gonzalez got another crack in the first half, booting a career long 56-yard field goal before the clock hit zero.

Through two quarters of play, the Cardinals trail the 49ers 13-10.

Phillips Law Group

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