No Kyler? No Problem for Cardinals in Big Win over 49ers

Matthew JohnsonNovember 7, 2021
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No Kyler Murray, no DeAndre Hopkins, no A.J. Green and no J.J. Watt. No problem.

Without all those key starters in the Week 9 matchup at the 49ers on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals improved to 8-1 and a perfect 5-0 on the road after a fairly dominant 31-17 win over their division rival.

The Cardinals sweep the season series against San Francisco and maintain their lead atop the NFC West. Coupled with losses by the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, the Cardinals are also back on top in the NFC conference, just past the halfway point of the season.

So many Cardinals reserves stepped up in major ways, showing how deep this roster is in 2021. They gave us a lot of things to discuss, write about and take away from this game, so lets get into the highlights.

The Immeasurable Value of Colt McCoy

J.J. Watt was the splashy, headline grabbing free agent signing in the off-season. But Colt McCoy may have been the most important. The Cardinals implosion to end the 2020 season was due in large part to not having a reliable backup quarterback to fill in when Kyler Murray needed it. This week, Murray was in need again, but instead of an unproven and highly unskilled Chris Steveler taking the snaps, the Cardinals were led in brilliant fashion by veteran slinger Colt McCoy. McCoy showed out against the 49ers, completing 22 of 26 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. No interceptions, no fumbles, nearly 37 minutes in time of possession and 7 of 15 on third downs. Kliff Kingsbury designed a perfect game plan and McCoy executed it without flaws.

The Cardinals amassed 437 total yards without their two biggest offensive weapons (Murray and Hopkins) and without running back Chase Edmonds who suffered an injury on his first play from scrimmage.

McCoy is no stranger to backup heroics. The 12-year NFL vet played the role for the New York Giants last year and defeated Seattle in one of his pinch hit starts.

The glaring hole at backup quarterback was perhaps the biggest need for the Cardinals to address in the off-season, and so far we can say general manager Steve Keim has hit a home run with this signing.

With that said, Kyler Murray needs to hurry up and get his ankle healthy and return to play next week against Carolina. We don’t want to ride a backup quarterback for long because they eventually fizzle out.

The Terminator is a Machine

Perhaps a new Terminator nickname as emerged for James Conner. FOX TV football commentator Mark Sanchez referred to the  Cardinals running back as John Conner again on Sunday (he made the same mistake earlier this season). It’s easy to understand how Sanchez could be confused because James Conner had several hasta la vista baby moments against San Francisco, rushing for 96 yards, catching five balls for 77 yards and scoring three total touchdowns. Conner now leads the NFL in touchdowns, a shocking stat considering his limited role in the offense so far. His workload is about to get a whole lot bigger with the injury to Edmonds.  Check out each of Conner’s scores against S.F. in the videos below.

Cardinals Defense Remains Elite

The Cardinals have capitalized off opponents mistakes and caught their own breaks all season long, and Sunday was no different.

49ers tight end George Kittle lost a fumble in the middle of what would’ve been a big gain for the San Francisco offense. Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. punched the ball free and it was scooped up by linebacker Jordan Hicks. The Cards offense later scored off that turnover.

49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk lost a fumble after making a leaping catch in the red zone. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons forced the ball out and Hicks was there to recover it once again. The Cardinals converted that turnover into a field goal and seemingly had a firm grip on their 8th win of the season.

An interception late in the 4th quarter by safety Budda Baker sealed the deal. Three takeaways for the Cardinals defense combined with three Markus Golden sacks (Chandler Jones and Jordan Phillips each had one sack) showed us this unit remains elite even without J.J. Watt. This will make every bit of difference in the back half of the season and the playoffs.


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