The Arizona Cardinals did not have star quarterback Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday, but it didn't matter. Colt McCoy stepped in and led this team to a 31-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Coming off of their first loss of the season and dealing with numerous injuries against a familiar foe, this really seemed like a letdown spot for the Cardinals. But, both the offense and defense were able to focus in and dominate San Fran on Sunday.
James Conner was the star of the game, as he rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also caught five passes for 77 yards and another touchdown -- a 45-yard screen pass he took to the house in the third quarter. The defense dominated as well, as it sacked Jimmy Garoppolo five times. Markus Golden was in the backfield all day, and accounted for three of those quarterback takedowns. Chandler Jones passed Freddie Joe Nunn as the Cardinals' all-time sack leader with his one takedown in the first half.
Not much went right for the 49ers on Sunday. Garoppolo wasn't terrible, as he threw for 326 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but San Francisco recorded just 39 total rushing yards. The 49ers also turned the ball over three times, which helped the Cardinals jump out to a quick lead in the first half.
Let's take a look at what exactly happened at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.
Why the Cardinals won
There wasn't one reason why the Cardinals won on Sunday, I think you just have to point to their resiliency. This was one of the most impressive victories the Cardinals have recorded this season, as it shows they are a complete team not just carried by some of their bigger names. Credit to McCoy for leading a short-handed unit which racked up 437 yards of total offense and credit to Conner for his career day, but the defense definitely stood out on Sunday.
They sacked Garoppolo five times, recorded seven tackles for loss, intercepted a pass and forced two fumbles. The defense completely bottled up San Francisco's run game and the two turnovers they forced in the first half allowed the Cards to jump out to a quick lead. The stats say the Cardinals have a top five defense, and it definitely appeared that way on Sunday.
Why the 49ers lost
It's fair to want more from Garoppolo and the offense but the reason the 49ers lost on Sunday was because of the defense. How are you going to allow Colt McCoy to out-score your offense and let Conner look like LaDainian Tomlinson? The defense was both run around and in some cases ran over, as Arizona did whatever it wanted with the ball. It's true that the 49ers have had to deal with several injuries, but so have the Cardinals. That hasn't stopped them from finding success.
Down 10 points after the first two quarters, the 49ers defense had a whole half to figure something out. They came out looking even worse, however, as Conner scored on a screen pass that went for 45 yards just three plays into the third quarter!
With the score then 24-7, that's when it really started to feel like the 49ers were destined to return to the loss column.
Play of the game
Usually when teams have to start their backup quarterbacks, head coaches will take out some of the sexy wrinkles of the offense. Not Kliff Kingsbury. Check out this trick play that set up Arizona's second touchdown of the game.
Eno Benjamin truck stick
It wasn't just Conner who was dominant on the ground, as Eno Benjamin recorded the first touchdown of his NFL career on Sunday. Check out this truck stick, which knocked the collective air out of everyone in the stadium.
The Cardinals return to Arizona next week, as they will host Christian McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers. As for the 49ers, they will host the Los Angeles Rams next week on "Monday Night Football."