What We Saw: Week 9

James Conner can still be relied upon as an RB1 when needed

Cardinals @ 49ers

Final Score: Cardinals 31, 49ers 17

Writer: Chris Sanzo (@Doombot12_FF on Twitter)


There is a new king in the desert and that man is Chandler Jones. In Sunday’s game against the 49ers, he recorded one of Arizona’s five sacks of Jimmy Garoppolo and passed Freddie Joe Nunn as the franchise’s all-time sacks leader. It probably helped that at the end of it, he also got to celebrate the season sweep of the 49ers despite missing half their offense as well. The question entering the game was how would the Cardinals win without Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and A.J. Green. The answer: convincingly. Arizona came out prepared with a game plan that suited their situation, easing Colt McCoy back into the starting role and limiting the offense to playing five yards off the line. It was reminiscent of the Kyle Shanahan offenses of the last few years; efficient passing and attacking the perimeters.

The 49ers could not avoid self-inflicted wounds once again. In three consecutive series, they gave up a touchdown after getting flagged on a 3rd down stop, fumbled the ball on a beautiful catch by Brandon Aiyuk, and then allowed a field goal on another drive they kept alive with a penalty after a 3rd down stop. Although the 49ers were finally able to get in the end zone before the half. James Conner was able to put the dagger in early, opening up a 17 point lead and silencing the crowd. The 49ers were never able to start a comeback and the Cardinals ran away with the victory, 31-17.



Arizona Cardinals




Colt McCoy: 22/26, 249 yards, TD | 7 carries, 23 yards

Chris Streveler: 1 carry, 2 yards


Colt McCoy was everything Kliff Kingsbury could have asked for. He was accurate, safe with the ball, elusive in the pocket, and operated with the poise you would expect from a vet like Colt. Most of the game he stayed close to or even behind the line, executing the screen game to perfection. When it wasn’t available, he was able to extend beyond the play and hit the crosser, typically Christian Kirk, and still managed to get one over the top to him as well. The most impressive aspect was they were still able to keep the linebackers guessing all game, creating big opportunities to run after the catch. I’m not sure if it was great planning by Kingsbury or poor preparation from Shanahan, but either way it was effective. Chris Streveler served as the backup and had one carry on a designed run they clearly weren’t looking for Colt to run.



Running Backs


Chase Edmonds: 1 carry, 3 yards

James Conner: 21 carries, 96 yards, 2 TD | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 77 yards, TD

Eno Benjamin: 9 carries, 39 yards, TD


Chase Edmonds logged one snap in this game. On 1st down, he took an inside handoff and limped off the field with an ankle injury. No further updates have been given as of yet in regards to the extent of the injury. It should also be noted that Justin Pugh, one of the better pass-blocking guards in the league, was also lost to injury. Speculations range anywhere from calf strain to Achilles so it’s definitely worth monitoring. Eno Benjamin received a heavier workload later in the game while the Cardinals were running out the game, but he did offer us one of the more entertaining runs of the game.



This game ended well before the final whistle. It ended with 13 and a half minutes left in the 3rd when the Cardinals executed a screen pass to perfection, resulting in a 45-yard touchdown by an untouched Conner. This was the kind of play that somehow eluded the 49ers’ gaze all game. The line was generating a decent amount of pressure and Arizona countered with screens and dump-offs that San Francisco was seemingly unprepared to cover. It looked as if they were defending against Kyler and were not able to adjust.



Though most of his big plays were through the screen game, he was consistent on the ground. He picked up first downs, got the ball in the end zone when he saw red zone touches, and ran with violence. We were given front row seats to see what prime James Conner can do. Dre Kirkpatrick may have eaten a shoulder from Benjamin, but he was also nice enough to eat a stiff arm from Conner on the first run of that drive. An impressive day all around.




Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Christian Kirk: 6 targets, 6 receptions, 91 yards

Zach Ertz: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 27 yards

Rondale Moore: 5 targets, 5 receptions, 25 yards

Antoine Wesley: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 62 yards

Darrell Daniels: 2 targets, 1 reception, 0 yards


Christian Kirk played a massive role in the offense today and was one of their most important players on the field. He hauled in Colt’s 50-yard pass, his only field stretcher on the day, on a drive that started from Arizona’s seven-yard line. He was the only receiver Colt seemed to target over five yards, but also the alternate target on screen passes on the few occasions the 49ers were able to defend it properly. Kirk also added a pass to Antoine Wesley that was challenged as a touchdown by Kingsbury but ultimately stood as a completion to the one-yard line. Darrell Daniels did not play nearly the role Wesley played and was just the extra pieces. Also worth noting the perimeter blocking and the patience with which they operated. This was not a conventional game, but they showed up as a team.



Zach Ertz was disappointing. He was the only member of the Cardinals that I could say did not play with the same level of fire and toughness. Two of his three catches ended up one yard short of the first down marker on solo tackles. There wasn’t so much of a fight, as he tried using his momentum to carry the line and just failed both times. It’s great that he was secure with the ball, but it remains lackluster. Rondale Moore subbed in for passing game Chase Edmonds if you split Edmonds up like Shohei Ohtani. Moore was mostly used in screens hovering around the line of scrimmage, and didn’t run many routes beyond the sticks. If Edmonds misses time, and this lineup rolls out again next week, he may be limited to another game of being an extension of the rushing game.


San Francisco 49ers




Jimmy Garoppolo: 28/40, 326 yards, 2 TD, INT | 1 carry, 3 yards


It’s clear that Jimmy G is done in San Francisco. It’s just a matter of when will it end. The 49ers are running out of reasons to keep Trey Lance on the bench with Jimmy pumping out performances like this. He is still sailing passes like he did when he started. He doesn’t feel the pressure well enough to get rid of the ball in a timely fashion, like he did when he started. There’s more things that are coming out that are all similar. The step back this season is impossible to hide and a playoff run looks pretty far fetched. With Deebo playing hurt, he isn’t used to checking off of him for anyone else so the timing is lacking. He’s holding the ball too long, and then not finding himself able to look off defenders because they all know what’s coming. All the missed time is coming to fruition.



Running Backs


Elijah Mitchell: 8 carries, 36 yards | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 43 yards

Kyle Juszczyk: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards

JaMycal Hasty: 1 carry, 2 yards


The carries may have been minimal, but this was still one of Elijah Mitchell‘s best games. Prior to today, Mitchell had just four targets all season. He caught all five this week and they were all a bit different. The main difference was some were planned like a perfectly floated screen, and some were rushed dump-offs that Mitchell was able to convert into first downs. He looked good on the ground as well, finding the gaps and seeing them develop before they open. It’s good to see his ability catch up to his stat lines as he’s only going up from here. Kyle Juszczyk and JaMycal Hasty had quiet days as the negative game script never allowed the run game time to get rolling.



Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Brandon Aiyuk: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 89 yards, TD | 1 carry, -2 yards

Deebo Samuel: 9 targets, 5 receptions, 63 yards

George Kittle: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 101 yards, TD

Mohamed Sanu Sr: 3 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards


Brandon Aiyuk just showed everyone 2020 Aiyuk and it was impressive. His lost fumble inside the 10 will be the glaring error on the day, but everything else, including the catch on which he fumbled, added up to a strong performance. His targets were hard-fought and often got hit at the catch point, sometimes from multiple defenders, but still managed to come down with the pass. These kinds of consistent big-time catches and high-effort plays are what led him to see his path open up last year, hopefully, he can keep the momentum.



Deebo Samuel had a quiet day outside of his 32-yard screen pass. It was hard to tell if it was the calf that was bothering him or the blanketed coverage. His inability to get open led to a lot of hesitation by Jimmy, a low catch percentage, and an interception when Jimmy forced it into triple coverage. The offense as it is run clearly needs a healthy Deebo because they were too predictable early without him at full speed. Mohamed Sanu didn’t see a lot of action but he did initially look to suffer a knee injury jumping up for another sailing pass. Thankfully, he seems to be fine.

George Kittle wanted to let everyone know he was back in a big way. After a 19 yard catch on the opening drive and then a big defensive stop, Kittle was in a zone. Sadly, it seemed he may have been trying to do too much and fumbled on the very first play of the drive after a great catch. For a guy that was supposed to be on a pitch count, he was all over the field. It’s possible the game script opened up more opportunity to stay on the field as he wouldn’t be asked to run block down three scores in the second half. He did get in the end zone which has been his kryptonite and it was on a broken play. He moved well in coverage and made a strong play for the ball which is something they have otherwise lacked outside of Aiyuk.



Chris Sanzo (@Doombot12_FF on Twitter)

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