Rapid Reactions: Plenty for Cardinals to build off of after Week 4 loss to 49ers
Oct 1, 2023, 6:03 PM | Updated: 8:39 pm
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Arizona Cardinals were on the wrong side of the scoreboard on Sunday, falling 35-16 to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4.
And while the loss moves Arizona to 1-3 on the year, there was still plenty to glean from even in the defeat.
Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors share their main takeaways from the Cardinals’ Week 4 loss to the 49ers:
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: It goes in the books as a 19-point loss, which in NFL terms, is usually considered a blowout. But the Cardinals’ 35-16 loss at San Francisco on Sunday was another step in the right direction for a rebuilding Arizona team.
When Josh Dobbs hit Michael Wilson on an 8-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 99-yard drive to pull the Cardinals to within five points late in the third quarter, it felt like they had a chance to pull a shocker. To their credit, San Francisco responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to re-establish order. The final touchdown to make it a 19-point lead was cosmetic — the Cardinals had burned all their timeouts and the two-minute warning was in the rear-view mirror, but Brock Purdy scored on a 1-yard sneak anyway.
The Cardinals defense struggled to contain Christian McCaffrey, as most defenses do. But there was a lot again to be encouraged about.
Jonathan Gannon is aggressive. I loved the decision to go for it on 4th down from the Niners’ 45-yard line down two touchdowns in the first half, and Dobbs rewarded it with a gutsy run for a first down. That led to the Cardinals’ first points on a 38-yard field goal from Matt Prater.
I loved the courage it took to call a fake punt on a 4th-and-2 from his own 21-yard line in the second quarter. That extended a drive that ended with the Cardinals’ first touchdown — a Dobbs-to-Wilson strike from 16 yards.
No, the Arizona pass rush didn’t generate much pressure on Purdy and he feasted. The corners struggled to stay with Brandon Aiyuk all day and they need improvement at that position. The Cardinals killed themselves with penalties early in the game.
But Dobbs continued his solid play both throwing and passing. Wilson had a breakout game. Hollywood Brown was excellent.
They’re 1-3, but looking deeper, the Cardinals are on a four-week streak of showing that this rebuild is rolling in the right direction a lot faster than anybody thought it would be.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: There was a stretch of this game when we all sat up, took notice, and were once again impressed with the level of the Cardinals competitiveness. Frankly, the game was far more interesting than it had a right to be, especially after the way it started. But to beat one of the best teams in the NFL you need more than a stretch. The Cardinals couldn’t compete with a 49ers offense that flexed their way through an overmatched defense with ease.
Brock Purdy aced his test vs. his hometown team with near perfection. Christian McCaffrey continued to be the poster child for big salaried running backs. Brandon Aiyuk was the best Sun Devil in the Bay Area this weekend. The 49ers offense faced a ridiculous (stupid ridiculous) five third downs the entire game (they converted three of them) and picked up a cool 7.5 yards per play. The only San Francisco drives that didn’t end in a touchdown came at the end of the first half, the end of the game and one punt. The Cardinals defense, to their credit, had played well for much of the early part of the season but trying to slow down the 49ers was asking too much.
It was the Cardinals offense that was the wrinkle we didn’t see coming. Hollywood Brown impacted the game to the tune of a near 100-yard game. Michael Wilson was a revelation and a hopeful sign that this front office has a better grasp of the draft than the last one did. Joshua Dobbs continued to impress; at one point on X (the artist formerly known as Twitter) a national NFL writer wondered out loud who Dobbs would be starting for next year. James Conner’s physicality keeps the beat. Against a loaded defense the Cards had drives of 13, 13, 11, 10 and 11 plays. Now, at no point were the 49ers truly threatened but it bodes well for the Cards ability to stay competitive in games in which they’re not matched up against a vastly superior team.
Tyler Drake, Arizona Sports Cardinals reporter and co-host of Cardinals Corner: It only took a quarter for all the good feelings from Arizona’s win over Dallas to fly out the window.
Early penalties, failed attempts to limit McCaffrey and a discombobulated offensive showing summed up Arizona’s biggest issues.
The Cardinals of old would have laid down with their sights set on next week.
The Gannon-led Cardinals, however, are a different breed. Against arguably the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year, the Cardinals dug in and managed to turn some negatives into positives. After putting up more penalties than first downs at one point early on, the Cardinals finished with a 23-9 advantage by the end of the game. That showed a ton of accountability. The offensive line meanwhile didn’t back down from a tough front seven and allowed Dobbs to move the chains with both his feet and arm.
There is plenty to clean up if you’re the Cardinals. And at the end of the day, a franchise’s measure for success hangs on wins, not losses.
But up against the juggernaut that is the 49ers, the Cardinals proved they’re on the right track with the right makeup to properly turn the page and sustain the success that comes with it.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor: For some reason, even a beatdown by the class of the NFC West feels a lot healthier than it did over the last few years under Kliff Kingsbury.
Christian McCaffrey is indeed very good, and having a banged-up front seven is not going to make that less apparent. It was a back-to-reality loss for Arizona, which took early punches and threw a few back San Francisco’s way, something that we’ve come to expect from a Gannon-led team. The talent deficit is still there though.
Of the few positives to take: It starts with Wilson, who scored one touchdown working on the outside and the second out of the slot. The offensive line continues to impress, allowing Dobbs to work well enough in the pocket to take a single sack against an elite defensive line. Dobbs threw for 265 yards without turning it over, and Arizona averaged a decent 4.2 yards per carry, too. Kei’Trel Clark got hurdled but still is looking like a hit for general manager Monti Ossenfort.