ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals show competitive spirit, outgunned by local Brock Purdy and 49ers offense

Dec 17, 2023, 5:31 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm

Cardinals-49ers...

(Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

You’re welcome, San Francisco. For the football stadium your fans effectively rented out on Sunday, as if we were the NFL’s unofficial Airbnb. And for our homegrown quarterback who has saved your franchise from years of self-inflicted purgatory.

You couldn’t have done it without us.

The 49ers clinched the NFC West with a 45-29 victory Sunday at State Farm Stadium, a game that featured an unlikely battle at quarterback, and a game that might be a glimpse of future divisional showdowns to come.

The Cardinals started Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018. The 49ers countered with Brock Purdy, the Queen Creek legend who was the last overall pick in 2022. The winner is evident by the scoreboard.

Not that Murray was a flop on Sunday. In his fifth game since returning from major knee surgery, Murray was poised and athletic. He made some excellent plays, some excellent throws and generally provided hope for the future. He was also a hesitant on a read that led to a late throw that resulted in a disastrous pick six to the 49ers’ Charvarius Ward, who intercepted Murray twice.

Bottom line: The Cardinals were competitive for much of the game and so was their quarterback. They rushed for 234 yards against a stout defense. Trey McBride is developing a great rapport with Murray, exceeding 100 receiving yards once again. This outcome will not hurt the perception of the Cardinals or their current franchise quarterback.

The bigger story is Purdy, who threw for four touchdowns and is now 19-4 as a starter, including 8-0 against the NFC West. He has emerged as a polarizing MVP candidate, even though he might not be the second-best player on the San Francisco offense. He has been called a “game manager” by former MVP Cam Newton, which is not exactly a term of endearment.

But Purdy has fit in perfectly in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He’s the crafty point guard for a team loaded with offensive weapons, such as Christian McCaffrey, who now has seven touchdowns in two games against Arizona this season. Purdy’s ascension has saved the 49ers from years of embarrassment.

Near the top of 2021 draft, the 49ers selected Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick, trading a massive amount of draft capital for a young franchise quarterback who could grow and flourish in San Francisco’s vaunted system.

But like many who came before him, Lance was a reach and a bust. It was the kind of mistake that should’ve banished the 49ers to the NFC West basement for 5-10 years. Instead, the safety-net selection of Purdy 253 picks later has saved their collective backside.

Once again, the Cardinals deserve credit for their competitive spirit. Clearly, they need another offseason to get whole and get right, to have a fighting chance at reclaiming their home stadium. It was fitting to see them in their white road jerseys on Sunday, as the crowd composition at State Farm Stadium has rarely been so lopsided in favor of the enemy.

And in the end, the fortuitous 49ers once again proved that Mr. Irrelevant has rarely been more important.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Cardinals show competitive spirit, outgunned by local Brock Purdy and 49ers offense