Photo credit: cbssports.com
By: Joe Lami
SANTA CLARA — The San Francisco 49ers continue to find ways to win football games and improve to 9-1. On Sunday, they came firing back from a 16-point deficit despite not having a run game to beat Arizona 36-26. It also marks the first time since 2013 San Francisco has swept Arizona in the season series. Coincidently, 2013 was also the 49ers’ last winning season.
Jimmy Garoppolo joined rarified air in Niners’ history, joining Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only players to throw 400+ yards and four touchdowns in a single game. Garoppolo shattered his previous career-high of 371 yards, passing for 424, yet wasn’t perfect throwing two interceptions in the process.
Jimmy was forced to be excellent, with no support from a run game that finished with 34 yards on 19 carries and leading the comeback. His 424 yards were the 10th most in San Francisco history. Garoppolo did so without George Kittle and with Emmanuel Sanders limited. Instead, he used the entire roster to his advantage, completing receptions to ten different receivers.
Ross Dwelley was the star on Sunday, standing in for the injured Kittle, catching four balls for 14 yards and two touchdowns and is proving himself to be the swiss-army knife the red and gold need. They marked his first two career touchdowns of his NFL career.
The Cardinals jumped on the Niners’ early, especially targeting Richard Sherman, who was tacked with three pass interference penalties in the opening half. The first came on Arizona’s opening possession and pinned San Francisco inside their own five-yard line on a third down. Fortunately, the Niners defense bent but didn’t break, forcing Zane Gonzalez to kick a 26-yard field goal.
Later in the first quarter, Kyler Murray found Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone for the hall-of-famer’s 118th TD reception of his career. Zane Gonzalez kept the score at 9-0 after a missed PAT.
Arizona took the 16-point advantage in the second quarter when Kyler Murray found Pharoh Cooper for his second touchdown of the day. Murray was electric, and one can see why the Cardinals spent their first-overall pick on him. His 150 passing yards, 67 rushing yards, and three touchdowns don’t do him enough justice. The Niners’ defense adjusted, clamped down, and made his life difficult for the majority of the day.
The Niners looked dead to rights in the second quarter until they ran a screen pass to the left side to Richie James Jr. James showcased his incredible speed, darting down the sideline for 57 yards and sparking the 49ers’ offense and setting up Dwelley’s first score.
The Niners cut the deficit to six, as Chase McLaughlin nailed a 43-yard field goal to end the half.
San Francisco made it 17-unanswered points, scoring on the second half’s opening drive with Dwelley’s second TD of the day to take a 17-16 lead. After another Gonzlez field goal, San Francisco would re-take the lead again early in the fourth with Kendrick Bourne’s third touchdown of the season, making it 23-19 after a missed two-point conversion.
Shanahan mentioned his chart and being “the right thing to do” when explaining the two-point attempt.
Murray ran in his only rushing touchdown of the game from 22-yards out to retake the lead at 26-23 with 6:30 to go. The ball and game would fall onto the lap of Jimmy G once again.
In his first attempt, a deflected ball targeting Dwelley was intercepted with 4:41 to play. Luckily, the defense had his back, buckled down, and ensured he would get a second chance at the comeback.
Jimmy G drove down the field, bringing the ball inside the 30-yard line. With under a minute to go, a short pass to Dwelley on third-and-three triggered a lengthy review on whether or not the Tight End picked up the first down. Following the review and with a first down, Shanahan drew up the perfect play, targeting Jeff Wilson Jr. in his first snap of the game. Wilson found himself wide open and scampered into the end-zone for the last-minute touchdown.
“Kyle’s a mastermind. I give [all the credit] to him, I can’t give any credit to me. He called the right play for me. I just did what I had to do to make a play,” explained Wilson Jr. He became the 12th different receiver to haul in a touchdown from Garoppolo on the year.
The Niners put a feather in the cap on a crazy defensive score to finish the game. DJ Reed was credited with the score after an errant Fitzgerald lateral as time expired, making it 36-26.
The Niner’s ability to find various ways of winning continues to be their greatest strength. They’ll need to rely on these early experiences and the success they’ve seen as the schedule continues to get tougher. In the next three weeks, we’ll fully comprehend what the red and gold are made of, with Green Bay in town next weekend before back-to-back road games against the Ravens and Saints.