It was treat on Halloween night as we were treated to the best TNF game of the year. The undefeated San Francisco 49ers bested the plucky Arizona Cardinals 28-25 in a cagey fixture that had all the hallmarks of a tight divisional game.
The Niners were heavy favourites coming into Thursday night, and rightly so. However, the match up against the Cardinals had all the signs of a trap game. Short week, talented opposition, underrated coaching staff, on the road. Kliff Kingsbury and the rest of the Cardinals coaching staff should feel like this one got away, but the Niners are for real and the best sign that a team is for real – they can win the ugly ones.
Kingsbury and Kyler Murray may have just shown the rest of the NFL the game plan necessary to beat the 49ers. Murray got the ball out quickly to negate the pass rush of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford and DeForest Buckner. The similarities between Kyle Shanahan and Kliff Kingsbury were on full show. Constant screens, play-action and a stretch zone based run game which allowed recent acquisition Kenyan Drake to shine on his debut with 110 rushing yards on 7.3 yards per attempt and 1 touchdown. Whether it be David Johnson, Chase Edmonds or Kenyan Drake, Kliff Kingsbury has shown that the running back flourishes in his system.
Despite Kingsbury’s brilliant game plan, there was a pivotal moment in the game that came at the end of the first half. On 4th & goal for the Niners, Kyle Shanahan decides to go for it and the Cardinals get the huge stop. But Kingsbury had called a timeout. The Niners make no mistake a second time and score on the next play. These are the moments where a having a seasoned coaching staff is the difference between winning and losing.
On the 49er side of the ball, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had his best game as a 49er with 317 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Jimmy G showed flashes of Tom Brady-like footwork and calmness under pressure to convert on 3rd down over and over and over again. Jimmy G was 11/13 for 3 touchdowns on third down, including the crucial third down to ice the game.
Just as Kenyan Drake went off for the Cardinals, the Niners’ recent trade acquisition Emmanuel Sanders had 7 catches for 112 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Arizona Cardinals are officially ‘spooky’ this year with Murray under centre and Kingsbury calling the plays. It’s remarkable that the NFC West has produced so much talent this year. But just as the Cardinals proved they shouldn’t be counted out, the 49ers and in particular Jimmy Garoppolo, once again proved that they can get it done when it counts.