Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had been relatively quiet in the previous 11 quarters entering Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
In the first five quarters of the season, he had 10 receptions for 137 yards and three touchdowns, including four catches for 54 yards and a score in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2.
However, he suffered injured ribs in that game and didn’t practice the next week before totaling 21 yards on three receptions at Jacksonville. With four catches for 67 yards last Sunday against the Rams, Hopkins had seven receptions for 88 yards on 13 targets in those 11 quarters.
When asked about his numbers Friday, Hopkins said, “No, man, I don't really look at numbers. I don't look at numbers until the end of the year until y'all guys tell me.”
That elicited some laughter, and there were more laughs after the game against the 49ers when there was a number he was glad to talk about after some typical Hopkins catches in the team’s 17-10 victory.
When it was noted that he became the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions prior to turning 30-years-old while passing Larry Fitzgerald, he said, “I got to thank all 20 of my quarterbacks (laughter). I should buy all those guys something like a nice watch.”
Hopkins and Fitzgerald had 764 receptions when Sunday began and Hopkins now has 770. He won’t turn 30 until next June, so every reception in the final 12 games of the season will add to the milestone.
Hopkins also said, “In all seriousness, that's a great accomplishment. Honestly, I just I just go out and play ball. I just want to win and be reliable for my team. I really try not to look into that stuff; just go out and work and keep my head down. Draft day, I didn't think I was gonna be a first-round guy, so we were preparing to rent out the restaurant (for the celebration) for three days.”
As for his approach to the game, Hopkins said, “That's always been my mentality; just go out and work. The media always puts other receivers and other people like that in front of me and I love it because for me it's all about team success. But to have that accolade, I'm pretty sure somebody will come in and beat that pretty soon, but to have that right now, that's a great honor especially a guy like Larry, who's one of the best out there, definitely a Hall of Fame guy and other guys that you know, I beat to get that record. But hopefully it leads to wins. And that's all that matters to me.”
Quarterback Kyler Murray said, “It’s incredible. It’s a testament to him, what kind of guy he is, what type of player he is. For him to be who he is, he’s so unselfish, a team player, I could go on, but he’s just a great guy and a great teammate. It’s a huge deal for him. He’s going to go down as one of the best. I’m just glad I get to throw him the ball.”
As for it happening in a game where he made several plays that helped the team gain a gritty victory, Murray added, “I think it’s huge, just to go 1-0, 2-0 in the division, that makes it even bigger. The fact that it was a divisional game is a big deal for us. Keep trying to go 1-0, keep trying to win the division, it’s huge.”
One of his most important plays, one that could be overlooked, was on second-and-8 from the Cardinals 27-yard line with 3:25 remaining in the game. Murray hit Hopkins for an 11-yard gain near the sideline and he made sure to go down and stay in bounds so the clock would keep running. Running back James Conner ran for eight yards on first down with 2:40 to play and the 49ers called their final timeout.
Conner then got the Cardinals’ 20th first down of the game on a four-yard run, the clock reached the two-minute warning and three kneeldowns meant game over.
Kingsbury said, “It was awesome. Yeah, he’s sly like a fox. That’s what I tell him. Sometimes he’ll look at you like he doesn’t know what’s going on, but he always knows what’s going on. He is very in-tune as a football player, and that was a big-time play by him. A great route and a great heads-up play.”
Concluded Murray, “I think that was an underrated play. In the moment, I was like, ‘He really just did that’ because it was really heady of him, knowing we have to stay in bounds and run the clock. He’s just a great player.”