Thursday night’s football matchup consisted of an NFC West battle between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. The 7-0 49ers are at the top of the NFC, but the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers are close behind at 7-1 each. After starting the season slowly, the 3-4-1 Cardinals are looking to get their season back on track and make an attempt at playoffs, but being in one of the toughest divisions in football will make that all but impossible. After a close and well-fought game the Cardinals fell short, losing by three points at home, as San Francisco cruises to 8-0.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garropolo shows time and time again that he can be one of the top players at his position in the league, amassing 317 yards and four touchdowns while completing 28 of 37 passing attempts. Newly acquired veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who caught seven passes for 112 yards and a score, looks to be a bonafide number one option in the 49ers attack moving forward. With Sanders stretching the field, tight end George Kittle’s dominance will continue against mismatched linebackers and slot cornerbacks. Garropolo and Kittle look to be a duo reminiscent of the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and the fireworks they’ll likely put on in the bay area for years to come should bring a smile to all the San Francisco fans.
On the other side of the field, the Arizona Cardinals are as young as they’ve ever been, with rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray navigating their first NFL season with quite some impressive plays. Murray finished the night with 241 passing yards and two touchdowns. As the first quarterback drafted in his class, Murray has been proving the doubters wrong. Murray also had a successful night with 241 yards and two touchdowns, completing 17 passes on 24 attempts, including taking an early advantage against a stout 49ers front.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad struggled against Kingsbury’s young and rambunctious group, as Murray and newly acquired running back Kenyan Drake rumbled through the 49ers defense on their opening drive. Defensive coordinator and league hype man of the year Robert Saleh calmed down his crew, and the 49ers snapped to attention. Shanahan and Garropolo dissected a porous Cardinals secondary, making the score 21-7 heading into halftime.
In the fourth quarter, Murray put together a comeback bid, leading a lengthy drive resulting in a 36-yard field goal from kicker Robbie Gould. With the Cardinals defense forcing a three-and-out, Murray got the ball back at his own 12-yard line. Dropping back to pass on the first snap of the series, Murray dropped a dime over the shoulder of wide receiver Andy Isabella, who outran defenders and crossed the field for an 88-yard touchdown to make it 28-25. Garropolo and the 49ers running game then buried any additional hopes of a comeback for Arizona, running out the clock and ending the game.
This was the softest performance yet out of Shanahan’s squad, which still finds ways to win every week, but their defensive performance was a bit pedestrian at best. Defensive end Nick Bosa, who figures to be the defensive rookie of the year and potentially the defensive player of the year, didn’t have a single sack and finished with just one tackle on the night against a typically porous Cardinals offensive line. Murray’s mobility proved to be a bit too much for the 49ers defensive front to handle at times, which may have given teams some insight into beating San Francisco moving forward.