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Kyler Murray, Cardinals Beat 49ers 17-10 in Trey Lance's Debut as Starting QB

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 11, 2021

AP Photo/Darryl Webb

The Arizona Cardinals remain perfect after beating the San Francisco 49ers 17-10 on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.

Arizona also spoiled the first start of Trey Lance's NFL career. The rookie quarterback was pressed into starting duty because of a calf injury to Jimmy Garoppolo.

James Conner helped give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead with a one-yard touchdown run on their first drive. A Matt Prater field goal at the 5:31 mark of the second quarter put them up two scores, and it looked like the home team was en route to a comfortable win.

Instead, the Niners defense kept the team in the game. A 13-yard touchdown run by Deebo Samuel with 1:42 left in the third quarter helped bring San Francisco to within three points:

San Francisco 49ers @49ers

Deebo finds paydirt in the desert ๐Ÿ™Œ <a href="https://twitter.com/19problemz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@19problemz</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsAZ?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsAZ</a> on FOX <a href="https://t.co/pDv4yDTN3g">pic.twitter.com/pDv4yDTN3g</a>

Inside the final eight minutes, Arizona's defense forced a turnover on downs, the fourth time in five tries San Francisco failed on fourth down.

The Cardinals offense couldn't find a groove all evening, finishing with 304 total yards. But a 30-yard pass from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins earned Arizona a 1st-and-goal, and they immediately reconnected on a nine-yard touchdown throw:

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.<br>DeAndre Hopkins.<a href="https://twitter.com/DeAndreHopkins?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DeAndreHopkins</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RedSea?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RedSea</a> <a href="https://t.co/LHyYjAaMLP">pic.twitter.com/LHyYjAaMLP</a>

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San Francisco settled for a 47-yard field goal by Joey Slye on its next drive. The 49ers were unable to get the ball back as Arizona ran the last 4:12 off the clock.


Notable Performers

Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals: 22-of-31, 239 yards, one touchdown

Rondale Moore, WR, Cardinals: five receptions, 59 yards; three carries, 38 yards

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals: six receptions, 87 yards, one touchdown

Trey Lance, QB, 49ers: 15-of-29, 192 yards, one interception; 16 carries, 89 yards

Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers: three receptions, 58 yards; one carry, 13 yards, one touchdown


Cardinals Overcome Misfiring Offense

Entering Sunday, the Cardinals were averaging an NFL-best 440.5 yards and 35.0 points per game. Murray had positioned himself at the top of the MVP race as well.

The explosiveness Arizona showed in its first four games wasn't on display in Week 5. In particular, Murray looked more like the player whose second-half fade in 2020 coincided with his team going 3-6 to close out the year.

The 24-year-old was struggling in the face of San Francisco's pass rush, and he wasn't using his mobility to much effect.

Kent Somers @kentsomers

Kyler doing what he did as a rookie, retreating straight back when under pressure. Heโ€™s lost 13 and 14 yards on sacks.

Underperforming my xG @AndyGlockner

Having Kyler Murray run less and grow as a passer = good<br><br>Having Kyler Murray stop running altogether = not good

Arizona's inability to sustain drives had a domino effect on the defense, thus leaving the door open for a San Francisco comeback.

Alex Clancy @ClancysCorner

The offense not staying on the field for more than 3 plays is now showing in the fatigue of the defense for the Cardinals

Chuck Harris @chuckh3

A lot of missed tackles on the last drive. Have to wonder if the Cardinals defense is feeling the offense's inability to extend the last 3 drives.

Nonetheless, Murray's two pivotal passes to Hopkins showed why he is so special and how his partnership with the three-time All-Pro is something of a cheat code. When little else is working, head coach Kliff Kingsbury can lean on the pair to create something from nothing.

Finding a way to win when you don't play that well is the sign of a true contender, too. Last year's Cardinals probably would've found a way to throw this one away.


Lance a Work in Progress

Based on Lance's performance Sunday, there may not be much of a quarterback controversy in the Bay Area once Garoppolo is healthy enough to play again.

The 2021 first-round draft pick clearly brings a different dimension to the offense in terms of how he can escape the pocket:

NFL @NFL

First snap of the game and <a href="https://twitter.com/treylance09?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@treylance09</a> is on the move! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FTTB?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FTTB</a> <br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsAZ?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsAZ</a> on FOX<br>๐Ÿ“ฑ: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/wt9738bXje">pic.twitter.com/wt9738bXje</a>

Lance also completed some passes that exemplified why San Francisco was so aggressive in trading up to get him:

NFL @NFL

This throw. ๐Ÿ”ฅ <a href="https://twitter.com/treylance09?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@treylance09</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsAZ?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsAZ</a> on FOX<br>๐Ÿ“ฑ: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/CHahHS0GIr">pic.twitter.com/CHahHS0GIr</a>

But this loss proved that the 21-year-old is likely facing a steeper learning curve than a typical rookie first-rounder under center. That's not too surprising for a player with only one full season as a starter at the FCS level before arriving in the NFL.

Ryan McCrystal @Ryan_McCrystal

On the podcast this week I discussed how Trey Lance didnโ€™t throw downfield often in college and was kinda meh when he did.. concern was, if he canโ€™t immediately do that for SF, suddenly that offense falls apart. Thatโ€™s pretty much how the first half unfolded.

David Lombardi @LombardiHimself

Nothing groundbreaking here, but the 49ersโ€™ precision short game under Trey Lance is still very rough around the edges. 5 missed high to Brandon Aiyuk on third down and JJ Watt deflected the fourth down attempt

Frank Schwab @YahooSchwab

I get you have to do what you have to do and this is an important game, but this is not a smart gameplan for Trey Lance. They're exposing him every single play.

Lance may not last long in the NFL if he continues to absorb the contact he took Sunday, either. In addition to his 16 carries, he was sacked two times and the Cardinals were credited with seven quarterback hits.


What's Next?

The Cardinals hit the road to play the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. The Niners are heading into their bye and won't be back in action until Oct. 24 against the Indianapolis Colts.

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