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Week 9 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 28, Arizona Cardinals 25


What you need to know

San Francisco 49ers

This game showed that San Francisco's can still put up plenty of points even when a team has made every effort to stop their running game. (Outside of two long outside zone runs, the rush offense was highly ineffective.) Arizona used an array of eight-man boxes with man-to-man coverage behind it. And unlike in past seasons, the 49ers quarterback and receivers were able to exploit it via their individual skills. George Kittle is George Kittle, but Emmanuel Sanders beat Patrick Peterson's man-to-man coverage and Jimmy Garoppolo put his passes into perfect spots time after time.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals came back late to challenge the 49ers in the close home loss plus found 162 total yards from newly acquired Kenyan Drake as the running back depth chart was running on fumes with David Johnson and Chase Edmonds out. The passing game struggled overall for impact outside of a long catch-and-run touchdown from seldom-targeted Andy Isabella for his first splash play as a rookie. The defense’s inability to get off the field late thwarted Arizona’s ultimate comeback efforts.

San Francisco 49ers

QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 74 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 37 - 317 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 2 - 0
For the first time in a long time, Garoppolo showed a level of pinpoint accuracy we haven't seen since before his 2018 injury. This bit of renaissance was fully on display on all four of his touchdowns throws. On his first two touchdowns, he hit George Kittle in stride on a quick slant and hit Kendrick Bourne on a square-in through a tiny window. Putting the ball in a perfect spot on in-breaking routes has been a particular struggle for Garoppolo this season. On his final two touchdowns, he showed pinpoint accuracy on out-breaking routes, first to Emmanuel Sanders on a flat route out of the backfield, and then to Dante Pettis on a deep corner route. The latter, though wide open, may have actually been a better indicator of Garoppolo's performance because he had been consistently underthrowing those all season.

RB Matt Breida, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 78 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (2 targets)
Nearly two-thirds of Breida's 94 scrimmage yards came on three plays: Two runs of 31 and 19 yards respectively in which he wasn't touched until the end; and a 9-yard reception in which he wasn't covered on a shallow cross across the middle.

RB Tevin Coleman, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 23 - 0, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (4 targets)
Coleman was stymied by the constant parade of eight-man boxes employed by Arizona. That said, there were a couple of opportunities to slip one tackle and produce a big gain, but Coleman couldn't do it. For instance, on consecutive runs at the end of the first quarter, Coleman was poised to be one on one with the Cardinals' single-high safety, but he went down at first contact just as the wide open running lane opened up.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 112 - 1 (9 targets)
Sanders gained 52 of his 112 yards on two plays in the same second quarter scoring drive, both against Patrick Peterson's man-to-man coverage. On the first, Sanders ran a 20-yard comeback route, and held onto the ball despite Peterson hitting him as the pass arrived. Two plays later, Sanders beat Peterson on a quick slant out of the right slot, and ran away from him for 24 yards after the catch. Sanders' most important play, however, was his 4th-and-1 touchdown to end the first half, which gave the 49ers a two-score lead they wouldn't relinquish. On that play, Sanders uncharacteristically lined up in the backfield, and ran a route into the right flat. Peterson didn't locate him until it was too late.

WR Deebo Samuel, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 40 - 0 (7 targets)
Samuel avoided Patrick Peterson on the vast majority of his routes, but only mustered two notable plays. At the end of the first half, Byron Murphy, Jr., got picked by his own teammate, leaving Samuel wide open in the middle of the end zone, but he dropped the pass. Then midway through the fourth quarter, Samuel sat down in a zone to convert a first down on 3rd-and-11.

WR Dante Pettis, 22 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 21 - 1 (1 targets)
Pettis didn't even see the field until the end of the first quarter. On his lone target and reception (and touchdown), the 49ers lined up in a bunch right formation against Arizona's man-to-man defense. Pettis ran a deep corner route into the endzone, but both Patrick Peterson and Byron Murphy, Jr., followed Emmanuel Sanders on his short out route. By the time Peterson realized it, it was too late.

TE George Kittle, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 79 - 1 (8 targets)
After taking a direct hit to his knee on San Francisco's first play, Kittle did well simply continuing in the game, let alone having his typical productive performance. Two-thirds of his receiving yardage and his first quarter touchdown came on only two plays. For his touchdown, Kittle beat the press man coverage of safety Budda Baker on a quick slant out of the right slot. He then stiff-armed Baker at the 10-yard line to finish off his run after the catch. In the third quarter, Kittle had a 23-yard catch wherein he beat linebacker Jordan Hicks on a quick slant across the middle. This was one of several times Arizona chose to cover Kittle with a linebacker for some reason.


Arizona Cardinals

QB Kyler Murray, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 24 - 241 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 34 - 0
Murray saw his second-lowest passing volume of the season in the home loss against the 49ers. Partly due to the 49ers controlling the game and clock with extended drives and also the Cardinals found lightning in a bottle with Kenyan Drake as a trade acquisition earlier in the week and turning around for 19 touches. Murray avoided an interception for the fifth straight game, but did have two regrettable throws, one should have been an interception and the other was a high throw to Christian Kirk on third down. Murray also took two drive-killing sacks on third down. On the positive side, Murray rebounded from a mostly-silent first half to comeback from multiple touchdowns down in the second half. Murray threaded the needle on a high-level-of-difficulty deep crossing route to Andy Isabella into a tight window, fueling a long run-after-catch touchdown. Murray also got Arizona back into the game with a rollout touchdown to KeeSean Johnson with impeccable accuracy. The Buccaneers secondary offers an ideal matchup in Week 10 for Murray to have one of his better games of the season.

RB Kenyan Drake, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 110 - 1, Rec: 4 - 52 - 0 (4 targets)
With Arizona’s backfield running on fumes with injuries to David Johnson and Chase Edmonds, Drake’s debut with Arizona was as a feature back to the tune of 19 touches and more than 160 total yards. Drake enjoyed consistently good run blocking up the middle and Drake also ran over a defender for a goal line perimeter touchdown run. Drake churned out quality gains as a receiver for more than 15 yards on three occasions, but one was called back by penalty. Drake added a two-point conversion in his impressive game. The Buccaneers offer a stiff rushing defense test for Drake if he sees the bulk of the work again in Week 10.

WR Larry Fitzgerald, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 38 - 0 (4 targets)
After a hot start to the season Fitzgerald has waned in recent weeks and especially the past three games (7-58-0 total). Fitzgerald’s highlights included beating three defenders on a quick hitch route for 10 yards after the catch and doing the same for 20 yards earlier in the game. Fitzgerald will look to turn around his production in Week 10 against the struggling Tampa Bay secondary.

WR Christian Kirk, 55 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (5 targets)
Kirk led the team in targets but with a paltry five looks as Arizona’s play count sagged as the 49ers controlled the game in the Week 9 home loss. Kirk was stuffed on a screen pass and Kyler Murray missed a wide open Kirk on a third-down target. Kirk showed speed to the corner on an end-around rush, his lone play of note in the game. The Buccaneers offer an ideal rebound matchup in Week 10.

WR KeeSean Johnson, 25 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 22 - 1 (3 targets)
Johnson found the end zone for the first time in his young career, getting Arizona back in the game against the 49ers with a rollout red zone touchdown from Kyler Murray. Johnson converted a third-and-long as well with a well-timed out route. Johnson also dropped an easy pass to prevent a bigger stat line. Johnson remains an ancillary target for Arizona but one with an ideal matchup (Tampa Bay) next week.

WR Andy Isabella, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 88 - 1 (1 targets)
Isabella got free on an extended play and ran away and around the 49ers defense to make it home from 88 yards out. He has a chance to build on this play for more opportunity going forward.