11 Takeaways from a Thursday Night Thriller vs. Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. - It was a Thursday night thriller indeed as the San Francisco 49ers squeezed out a 28-25 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona put up a fight in the divisional clash that came down to the final minutes of the game. Jimmy Garoppolo is arguably coming off of the best performance of his NFL career as the 49ers notched their first win in Arizona since 2013. Here are the takeaways as the 49ers improve to 8-0.

1. Kenyan Drake, who was traded to the Cardinals earlier in the week with both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds ruled out, opened the game with a 36-yard carry. That was Arizona’s longest run of the game. Drake’s carry helped set up his 4-yard touchdown run. The 49ers have allowed scoring opportunties on opening drives in each of their past three road games (Los Angeles Rams - touchdown; Washington Redskins - field goal; Cardinals - touchdown)

2. On the 49ers opening drive, Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones’ helmet ran into George Kittle's knee. The tight end walked off the field on his own power to the blue medical tent. Kittle returned to the game on the 49ers following series. Kwon Alexander also left the game in the fourth quarter. The linebacker was dealing with a chest injury and did not return. According to Kyle Shanahan, Alexander will get an MRI on Friday.

3. San Francisco’s offense struggled to get going in the first quarter with two straight 3-and-outs to start the game. It wasn’t until their third drive where the offense registered its first, first down. During the drive on 3rd-and-3, Garoppolo connected to Kittle for a 30-yard touchdown. Kittle stiff armed Cardinals safety Budda Baker as the tight end stumbled into the end zone. Kittle gained 22 yards after catch on his touchdown. According to Next Gen Stats, since 2017, Kittle has gained more yards after the catch than any player in the NFL.

4. Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw recorded his first career sack against Kyler Murray. Murray got tripped up as D.J. Jones brought pressure up the middle when Greenlaw got to Murray for a loss of 19 yards. San Francisco has now registered five-straight games with at least three sacks. DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford also recorded sacks on Thursday.

5. If Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers wasn’t a decent barometer of Garoppolo and Emmanuel Sanders quick chemistry, Thursday night certainly proved it. On the 49ers fourth drive, Garoppolo was 3-for-3 on passes to Sanders for 64 yards. The 49ers capped off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne. Garoppolo was 5-for-5 passing, for 75 yards on that drive. According to NFL Research, with Bourne catching his first touchdown of the season, the 49ers have had 10 different players catch a receiving touchdown, the most of any team in the NFL.

6. It was a bizarre ending to the 49ers first half. In the red zone Tevin Coleman's 5-yard touchdown was nullified due to a holding penalty. Garoppolo threw a perfect pass to Deebo Samuel in the back of the end zone as the ball went right through the receiver's arms. The 49ers caught a huge break on 4th-and-1. Jeff Wilson Jr. was stuffed at the goal line, however the play was nullified due to an Arizona time out. On the following play, Garoppolo connected with Sanders in double coverage for the touchdown with seconds left on the clock.

7. The Cardinals went up tempo on their first drive of the second half. Arizona ran a 7-play, 83-yard drive that resulted in a KeeSean Johnson touchdown.

8. The 49ers responded back. Garoppolo orchestrated a 7-play, 75-yard drive that included big gains to Kittle and Sanders. Garoppolo capped off the drive with a 21-yard beauty to Dante Pettis in the back of the end zone. With Garoppolo’s touchdown pass to Pettis, he becomes the first 49ers quarterback with four passing touchdowns in the first three quarters since Jeff Garcia in 2003 against the Cardinals. Four touchdown passes is also a career high for the quarterback.

9. With under five minutes in the fourth quarter and Arizona trailing by 11, Murray connected to rookie wideout Andy Isabella for an 88-yard touchdown. The receiver reversed field and beat out San Francisco’s defenders en route to the end zone. The Cardinals completed a two-point conversion on a pass to Drake to cut the 49ers lead to three.

10. On San Francisco’s final drive, the offense managed to run down the clock with a series of run plays. On a crucial 3rd-and-9 at the two-minute warning, Garoppolo stepped up in the pocket, and delivered an 11-yard completion to tight end Ross Dwelley to seal the win.

“The play was called to Deebo," Shanahan said. "No. 1 in the progression. I think Jimmy had to scramble to the left. Got a huge play to Dwelley. Dwelley’s been huge for us this last month. We were messing with Dwelley all week. We said, ‘The No. 1 goal in this game was to win, but the No. 2 goal was to improve Dwelley’s yards per catch up.’ We think he was at zero or one. To do that on the last play was pretty cool. I know the guys were pumped up.”

11. Garoppolo finished the game 28-of-37 passing, for 317 yards and four touchdowns for a 136.9 passer rating. Garoppolo had his first 300-yard passing game since Week 15 of the 2017 season. Each of Garoppolo's four touchdown passes came on third or fourth down. The quarterback was 12-of-14 (65 percent) on money downs.

“(Jimmy) played great today,” Shanahan said. “He made a lot of plays in rhythm. Made a lot of off-schedule plays. They’ve got a great pass rush. They have some real tight coverages. They mixed up a lot of stuff. I thought Jimmy played a hell of a game. His best game yet, probably.”

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