Rapid reactions: Cardinals allow season-high 45 points in loss to 49ers

Dec 17, 2023, 6:22 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm


(Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

The San Francisco 49ers claimed the NFC West title after a 45-29 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Sunday.

The Cardinals showed signs of life by hanging in this one into the third quarter and running for 234 yards against a banged up defensive line, but San Francisco’s daunting offense with Brock Purdy from Queen Creek under center would not be denied.

Arizona allowed a season-high 45 points and three more touchdowns to running back Christian McCaffrey, who has seven in two games against the Cardinals this year.

Arizona Sports’  hosts, editors and reporters gave their biggest takeaways from the Cardinals’ loss.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Surprising but predictable. Had their chances but had no chance. Arguably the best the Cards offense has looked all year but dominated on the scoreboard.

Weird game for the Cards vs. the 49ers and in its wake, it left Jonathan Gannon, Kyler Murray and others frustrated with the outcome. For the Cardinals it was a season high in yards, rushing yards and points. They outgained San Francisco by 30 yards. One of those games where the box score is actually a magic trick.

Ignore the numbers and you’ll see wide open 49er pass catchers (so wide open they fall down, get back up and still score untouched). You’ll see the Cardinals scoring field goals and not touchdowns. You’ll see a pick six by Murray. And you’ll find an offense that is out of balance. The Cards wide receivers accounted for four catches the whole game. Everything else went to a tight end or a running back. Such a thing isn’t a problem when you’re winning games but when you’re not it’s cause for scrutiny.

What wasn’t weird about this game? Christian McCaffrey. In an encore performance from the first time around, the potential league MVP dominated the Cards. If my quick math is correct, in two games against the Cardinals this year he’s had 50 touches for 364 yards and seven (!) touchdowns.

Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Maybe this is about the best we can hope for against the 49ers right now. And I hate saying that, since I think we’ve all pretty much reached our limit with moral victories around this city.

The reality is San Francisco’s pretty clearly the best team in football at the moment. They may not ultimately win the Super Bowl because football is football and something weird always happens, but they’re absolutely loaded on offense and defense. Since Thanksgiving, they’ve handled the Seahawks twice and embarrassed the Eagles. They have a running back who is also one of the NFL’s best receivers in Christian McCaffrey and a receiver who is also one of the NFL’s best running backs in Deebo Samuel. It’s irritating.

That’s enough about the Niners, but context is important here. Because losing to San Francisco doesn’t just automatically mean your organization is in shambles. The Cardinals hung with them for about two and a half quarters, and that could bode well for their chances against a lot of other opponents around the league. Trey McBride is a legitimate weapon, James Conner always runs angry, Kyler Murray seems to believe in this coaching staff, that belief seems to be mutual and this group is still playing hard for Jonathan Gannon even though the playoffs have been an afterthought for months.

Granted, there are still issues here. The defense is wearing down, the wide receivers aren’t very involved in the passing game right now, Murray seemed to think Charvarius Ward was on his team today and San Francisco fans completely took over State Farm Stadium. That last one just makes a frustrating afternoon even more excruciating. And we can’t just ignore the fact McCaffrey has found the end zone seven times against the Cardinals this year. But we all knew there would be growing pains this season. The difference to me is simple – a year ago at this time those growing pains seemed endless and they were mostly just pain without the “growing” part. Now it feels like there’s leadership in place, a few identifiable pieces to build around and a tangible direction.

Tyler Drake, Arizona Sports’ Cardinals reporter, Cardinals Corner co-host: What started as a promising outing turned into anything but for the Cardinals on Sunday. After trading opening-drive touchdowns, the 49ers took hold of the game and never looked back. Or should I say Christian McCaffrey? The RB did whatever he wanted against an underperforming Cardinals run defense. CMC ran for 115 yards and a score while adding another 72 yards and two scores through the air. The hometown kid Brock Purdy also helped his MVP candidacy behind four touchdowns and 242 yards. The Cardinals secondary allowing gobs of open yardage.

About the only positive to come out of this one is the concerted and successful effort to run the rock by Arizona. Against an incredibly stout 49ers defense, the Cardinals running backs averaged nearly eight yards per carry on their way to 234 yards on 30 attempts.

The other side of the offense was not so successful.

Quarterback Kyler Murray visited the blue medical tent twice and overthrew his receivers on numerous occasions. He finished with 211 yards and two ugly interceptions on 66.7% passing to go along with a garbage-time TD.

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