3 Things We Learned From the 49ers 36-26 win Over Cardinals
The San Francisco 49ers bounced back from their first defeat of the season by holding off a spirited effort from the Arizona Cardinals to claim a 36-26 win in Week 11. It was an unconvincing performance from the 49ers, who needed to fight back from a 16-0 deficit after an extremely slow start to the first half from San Francisco.
Yet the Niners deserve significant credit for surviving a huge scare from a three-win team that is fast becoming one of the most dangerous in the league as Kyler Murray continues to make massive strides. The 49ers' ninth victory of the campaign secures their first winning season since 2013. Here's what we learned from a thriller at Levi's Stadium.
No character concerns for San Francisco
Coming off a gut-wrenching loss to the Seattle Seahawks in overtime on Monday Night Football, it would have been easy the 49ers to collapse when they fell into a huge hole early on. Missing George Kittle, Matt Breida and Joe Staley and with Emmanuel Sanders clearly limited, even the most ardent Niners fan may have feared the worst as San Francisco's offense struggled to get going in the first quarter.
However, the Niners, on the back of the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo, found a way back into the contest and was able to close out an emotional game that bore many similarities despite two red-zone interceptions from their quarterback. That the 49ers were able to prevail despite the Cardinals having the lead and the ball with under five minutes remaining speaks to the character of a team that will have their resolve tested significantly in the coming weeks and in the playoffs.
"I think we got stronger from the Seattle week, even though it didn't go the way we wanted. I think we got stronger from it and I believe we got stronger today," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "This game had a lot of similarities to that [Seattle game], which I think really challenged our will, challenged our guys' character. I think the guys were ready for it. We rose to the occasion."
They rose to the occasion and will need to do so consistently down the stretch as they run a gauntlet that starts with a primetime clash with the Green Bay Packers in Week 12.
Garoppolo much more than a game manager
Garoppolo has been hit with the 'game manager' label throughout this season as the 49ers defense has regularly carried the load but, for the second time in three weeks against the Cardinals, it was the Niners' starting quarterback who did the heavy lifting. In racking up 424 yards and four touchdowns, Garoppolo joined Joe Montana and Steve Young as just the third 49ers quarterback to throw for over 400 yards and four scores.
In a game they could not afford to lose and in which the Niners were unable to move the ball on the ground, his historic performance could hardly have been more important. The red-zone interceptions he threw were ugly and came as a result of horrendous decisions.
Though he was playing against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, Garoppolo again showed he can carry the offense. By beating the blitz to hit Jeff Wilson for the decisive score, Garoppolo also produced another clutch game-winning drive, of which he now has five in his career.
Samuel a go-to target
Though his role will decrease slightly when Kittle returns and Emmanuel Sanders gets back to full health, Deebo Samuel's second straight 100-yard performance should have secured his place as a go-to target for Garoppolo. Samuel was the most consistent receiver in the Niners' loss to the Seahawks and was borderline unstoppable against the Cardinals.
He made eight receptions, including one incredible juggling catch over two defenders on which he hurt his shoulder, for 134 yards. The rookie wide receiver was electric after the catch, demonstrating elusiveness and aggression in shaking off would-be tacklers almost at will. It was a display that earned Samuel effusive praise from Richard Sherman.
"Deebo Samuel is fearless. He'll run through any catch," Sherman said. "You get some receivers running across the middle and they're looking for who is going to hit them. Deebo is looking for who he's gonna hit. That's a much different mentality." That mentality is paying huge dividends for Samuel, who became the first 49ers rookie to make eight catches for over 100 yards in successive games, earning the trust of his quarterback in spectacular fashion.