Cardinals vs. 49ers score: Kyler Murray outduels Trey Lance as Arizona stays unbeaten atop NFC West

It was Trey Lance time on Sunday for the 49ers, who were looking to prove they still belong in the hunt for an NFC West title. The rookie quarterback filled in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, but despite a strong showing as a runner, he struggled -- and, ultimately, failed -- to deliver through the air in a day that started in the Cardinals' favor. MVP candidate Kyler Murray chucked it up with success early on, and while he slowed down after the break thanks to some tough shots from the Niners' defense, his play-making still lifted Arizona at home, giving the Cardinals a 17-10 victory to improve to 5-0.

Here are some takeaways from Arizona's fifth straight win:

Why the Cardinals won

On a day that was always going to be tough for Trey Lance, making his first career NFL start on the road, they started fast, building a 10-point lead that stood for the entirety of the contest. Their momentum really plateaued after Kyler Murray took a few shots and San Francisco seemed to figure him out in the pocket, but his backyard style worked out of the gate, with Rondale Moore in particular flashing as both a runner and receiver. The defense was physical with Lance all day, letting him rumble on the ground but never consistently succeed through the air. Budda Baker's early pick was especially damaging for the 49ers' early chances, and then Murray came through on the other side of the ball following a late fourth-down stop (one of a whopping four on the day), hitting DeAndre Hopkins on a precision pass in the red zone to seal the win.

Why the 49ers lost

Remember all the talk about how Trey Lance would revitalize Kyle Shanahan's offense? Well, the rookie definitely gave it all, putting his body on the line in a never-say-die rushing performance that helped Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel also find space with the ball in their hands. But as a passer, he was not nearly as effective, struggling on everything from short to deep shots -- some of them influenced by interior pressure, some of them the byproduct of an excitable run-first approach. The Niners simply couldn't do much of anything through the air. And while their defense was surprisingly stout for much of the contest, limiting the Cardinals' rushing attack and keeping Murray in check for the better part of a half, it couldn't quite lock down deep shots to Hopkins and Moore in a game that demanded near-perfection.

Turning point

The Cardinals came out roaring, picking off Lance on their first defensive series, then scoring with ease (and speed) to go up 7-0. But then the 49ers drove 12 plays all the way to Arizona's 1-yard line, and faced with a fourth-and-goal, dialed up a chance for Lance to push it in. Rolling out to his right, he looked to have the space to get in, but instead got walloped at the 1 by a slew of Cardinals defenders. The turnover on downs left San Francisco with zero points despite a huge drive and allowed Arizona to go up 10-0, putting the Niners in a hole they could never dig out of.

Play of the game

Give it to the Cardinals, who rallied to Lance with so much speed and intensity that they delivered one of the most physical fourth-down goal-line stops in recent memory:

What's next

The Cardinals (5-0), who remain the NFL's last unbeaten team, will hit the road in Week 6 for a cross-conference showdown with the Browns (3-2). The 49ers (2-3), meanwhile, will rest up during their bye before returning in Week 8, perhaps with Jimmy Garoppolo back under center, against the Colts on Oct. 24.

0
0
SUN 4:25 P
ARI -6, o48.5
FOX
ARI -6, O/U 48.5

Season Leaders

passing
headshot-image
J. Garoppolo 2641 YD, 15 TDS, 8 INTS
headshot-image
J. Garoppolo 2641 YD, 15 TDS, 8 INTS
headshot-image
K. Murray 2399 YD, 19 TDS, 7 INTS
headshot-image
K. Murray 2399 YD, 19 TDS, 7 INTS
rushing
headshot-image
E. Mitchell 165 ATT, 759 YD, 5 TDS
headshot-image
E. Mitchell 165 ATT, 759 YD, 5 TDS
headshot-image
J. Conner 166 ATT, 630 YD, 12 TDS
headshot-image
J. Conner 166 ATT, 630 YD, 12 TDS
receiving
headshot-image
D. Samuel 56 REC, 1006 YD, 5 TDS
headshot-image
D. Samuel 56 REC, 1006 YD, 5 TDS
headshot-image
C. Kirk 50 REC, 632 YD, 4 TDS
headshot-image
C. Kirk 50 REC, 632 YD, 4 TDS
Live updates
(92)
See New Posts
Pinned
@AZCardinals via Twitter
October 11, 2021, 12:24 AM
Pinned
@AZCardinals via Twitter
October 10, 2021, 11:54 PM
Pinned
@AZCardinals via Twitter
October 10, 2021, 11:40 PM
Pinned

Trey Lance deserves blame for the latest 49ers miss on fourth down. J.J. Watt got pressure up the gut, but he missed Brandon Aiyuk high on a short and doable throw. Cardinals take over with a chance to run the clock and seal this thing.

Pinned

Cardinals begging the 49ers to steal this one. First with the inability to move the ball following some shots to Kyler Murray, who's clearly favoring his throwing shoulder. Now with the apparent fumble to set up a potential go-ahead San Francisco score.

Pinned

Agree here, but you could certainly question the play calls from Shanahan on fourth downs:

Pinned
@AZCardinals via Twitter
October 10, 2021, 10:57 PM
Pinned

The passing game is a major work in progress, but at least on the ground, the 49ers are getting it done. Between Trey Lance and Elijah Mitchell, they're getting positive gains on a regular basis. This drive showcased just that. Brilliant play-call from Kyle Shanahan to cap the series with a pitch to Deebo Samuel, who had no trouble scooting by a tired Cardinals secondary. We've got a ballgame!

Pinned

Something to monitor that goes beyond this game: Kyler Murray has been shown favoring his throwing arm/shoulder on a few occasions. Remember, he battled an injury there late in 2020.

Pinned
@AZCardinals via Twitter
October 10, 2021, 10:24 PM
See More