Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


Recap: 49ers embrace the role of spoiler with 20-12 upset win over Cardinals

Dec 26, 2020 at 4:30 PM--


1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
SF 7 0 7 6 20
ARI 3 3 0 6 12

The injury-depleted San Francisco 49ers weren't expected to have much of a chance against the playoff-contending Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, but they played the role of spoiler with aplomb and delivered a satisfying and unexpected 20-12 win over the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

The 49ers were without a number of key players on defense, including defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (knee), cornerback Richard Sherman (calf), and safety Jimmie Ward (concussion), in addition to players on injured reserve such as defensive linemen Nick Bosa (knee) and Dee Ford (neck/back) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (toe). They were also down to their third quarterback on offense in C.J. Beathard and were without running back Raheem Mostert (ankle) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring), but the 49ers got strong performances on both sides of the ball to come away with their third win over the Cardinals in their last four meetings.

Beathard finished with 182 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions while running back Jeff Wilson rushed for a career-high 183 yards on 22 carries. Meanwhile, the 49ers' defense held the Cardinals to just four of sixteen on third-down opportunities on the afternoon. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 247 yards on 31-of-50 passing with zero touchdowns and one interception while running for 75 yards on eight carries.

As It Happened


The Cardinals wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as they took the opening kickoff and put together an 11-play, 74-yard drive that culminated with a 27-yard field goal by kicker Mike Nugent. Much of the drive's yardage came on a 38-yard completion from Kyler Murray to wide receiver Christian Kirk, but the 49ers held firm when the Cardinals reached the red zone.


The teams traded punts following the field goal, then the 49ers hit paydirt on their second possession of the game when Beathard found Wilson for a 21-yard touchdown to take a 7-3 lead. The pass capped the drive at 74 yards in seven plays, with one of those plays being a 24-yard completion to tight end George Kittle in his first game back since spending time on injured reserve with a foot injury.



The defenses took over for much of the remainder of the first half, with the lone scoring after the touchdown being a Nugent field goal that came from 43 yards out with 35 seconds remaining to cut the 49ers' lead to 7-6. The field goal capped a 10-play, 34-yard drive for the Cardinals, with one of those plays being a 4th-and-3 conversion run by Murray at the Cardinals' 48-yard line. The 49ers moved the ball to their own 48-yard line on the next possession, but a Beathard fumble that was recovered by Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons ended the drive with eight seconds remaining. The Cardinals got off two passes before the half but went to the locker room without adding to their point total.

The 49ers hit the ground running after halftime, moving 63 yards in seven plays to set up a 41-yard field goal attempt from Robbie Gould. But Gould's attempt sailed wide right, leaving the score at 7-6 while marking Gould's first miss from inside the 50-yard line in 31 attempts. The defense was able to regain momentum, however, forcing the Cardinals to a three-and-out with the help of a second-down sack by cornerback K'Waun Williams.

The 49ers marched downfield again after the stop and this time made sure not to come away empty-handed. Things got rolling with a 23-yard run from Wilson, then the offense moved into the red zone two plays later with a 27-yard completion to Kittle. Beathard later found Jerick McKinnon for a clutch 10-yard completion on a third-and-10 play to set up first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, then he connected with fullback Kyle Juszczyk for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead.


The 49ers' offense got the ball right back after linebacker Fred Warner forced and recovered a fumble on tight end Dan Arnold on the opening play of the next series, but the Cardinals forced a three-and-out to take back possession at their own 13-yard line. Murray and the Cardinals offense began to make some waves from there, as after he ran for a first down on a fourth-and-five at the Arizona 42-yard line, Murray found wide receiver Keesean Johnson for a 45-yard gain to the 49ers' 15. Running back Kenyan Drake dove into the end zone from one yard out to finish the 14-play, 87-yard drive, but an ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the 49ers with a 14-12 lead with 12:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.


The Cardinals forced a three-and-out after the touchdown, but they turned the ball over on downs on the following possession after going for one fourth-down conversion too many. Having converted their first three previous fourth-down conversions of the game, the Cardinals decided to go for another from their own 35-yard line with just over nine minutes on the clock. But the 49ers were ready this time as Warner tipped a pass from Murray to give prime field position to his offense.

The offense responded with a quick touchdown, as after a 34-yard run from Wilson, Beathard found Juszczyk from one yard out for his third touchdown pass of the game and a 20-12 lead. But Gould came up wide right on the extra point, leaving the Cardinals within one score with 8:36 to play.


The Cardinals took over and moved inside the red zone in eight plays. But the 49ers came up big on defense yet again, this time courtesy of cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who intercepted Murray in the end zone with 4:42 to play.


The 49ers moved into field goal range yet again, taking over three minutes off the clock in the process. But Gould's uncharacteristically bad day continued, this time missing a field goal from 37 yards with 1:06 remaining. There was one more stand left in the 49ers defense, however, as the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs after six plays with 20 seconds remaining. Beathard was able to take a knee from there to seal the victory for the 49ers.

The loss dropped the Cardinals to 8-7 on the season, putting them in a much tougher spot as they attempt to earn a place in the NFC playoffs. The 49ers improved to 6-9 on the year with the win.

Notes


The Cardinals headed into this game needing a win plus a Chicago Bears loss or tie, or a tie plus a Bears loss in order to clinch a playoff spot. The Bears (7-7) will be on the road against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13) tomorrow (1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST, CBS). The Bears now control their own playoff destiny, meaning they'll get into the playoffs with wins over Jacksonville in Week 16 and the Green Bay Packers in Week 17... With the win, the 49ers improved their lead in their all-time series with the Cardinals to 32-27... Beathard's touchdown pass to Wilson in the first quarter marked the sixth consecutive game the 49ers have scored a touchdown in the first quarter. It's the first time that's happened for the 49ers since 2002, according to the game's television broadcast... The Cardinals were listed as six-point favorites over the 49ers heading into Saturday... Cardinals wide receiver Deandre Hopkins was limited to eight catches for 48 yards after hauling in 14 catches for 151 yards in the Week 1 win over the 49ers... A second-quarter reception cemented another 50-catch season for Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who now has seventeen consecutive seasons of 50 receptions or more. That mark ties 49ers legend Jerry Rice for the most 50-catch seasons in NFL history, according to NFL Research.

Up Next


The 49ers will be back at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona next Sunday as they close out the season against the Seattle Seahawks (4:25 p.m. EST/1:25 p.m. PST, FOX/NFLNetwork). The Seahawks have already clinched a playoff spot and just need a Week 16 win over the Los Angeles Rams to clinch the NFC West. Either way, the Seahawks will be playing for seeding next week while the 49ers will again be looking to play the role of the spoiler. The Cardinals will finish their season on the road against another NFC West foe in the Los Angeles Rams (4:25 p.m EST/1:25 p.m. PST, FOX).


SF Team Stats ARI
398 Total Yards 350
171 Passing Yards 230
227 Rushing Yards 120
8.3 Avg Yards per Pass 4.9
7.6 Avg Yards per Run 4.4
1 Fumbles Lost 1
0 Int Thrown 1
3 Sacks Allowed 3
27:44 Time of Pos 32:16
4 Penalties 4

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
C.J. Beathard 13/22 182 3 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Jeff Wilson 22 183 8.3 0
C.J. Beathard 3 18 6 0
Brandon Aiyuk 1 16 16 0
Jerick McKinnon 1 4 4 0
Kyle Juszczyk 1 3 3 0
Tevin Coleman 2 3 1.5 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
George Kittle 4 5 92 0
Jerick McKinnon 3 4 28 0
Jeff Wilson 1 2 21 1
Kendrick Bourne 1 1 16 0
Brandon Aiyuk 1 2 15 0
Kyle Juszczyk 2 3 10 2
Richie James 0 1 0 0
Jordan Reed 0 2 0 0
Tevin Coleman 1 1 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
C.J. Beathard 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Robbie Gould 0 2 0 2
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 5 39 2 50
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Jerick McKinnon 65 16.3 0 19
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
River Cracraft 1 4 0 4
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Fred Warner 8-6 0 0 1
Tarvarius Moore 7-4 0 0 0
Ahkello Witherspoon 7-0 0 1 0
Marcell Harris 6-2 0 0 0
Jason Verrett 6-1 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 6-1 0 0 0
K'Waun Williams 5-1 1 0 1
Arik Armstead 3-2 0 0 0
Darrion Daniels 1-1 0 0 0
Kerry Hyder 1-1 1 0 0
Mark Nzeocha 1-0 0 0 0
D.J. Jones 1-0 1 0 0

Cardinals Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Kyler Murray 31/50 247 0 1
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Kyler Murray 8 75 9.4 0
Kenyan Drake 18 45 2.5 1
D.J. Foster 1 0 0 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Christian Kirk 7 10 76 0
KeeSean Johnson 2 3 50 0
DeAndre Hopkins 8 12 48 0
Larry Fitzgerald 6 8 28 0
Dan Arnold 3 5 25 0
Chase Edmonds 2 3 8 0
Darrell Daniels 1 2 7 0
Kenyan Drake 2 2 5 0
Seth DeValve 0 1 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
DeAndre Hopkins 1 0
Dan Arnold 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Mike Nugent 2 2 43 0
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Andy Lee 4 44.5 2 52
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
D.J. Foster 21 21 0 21
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Budda Baker 7-2 0 0 0
Jordan Hicks 3-3 0 0 0
Isaiah Simmons 3-0 0 0 0
Byron Murphy 2-3 0 0 0
De'Vondre Campbell 2-3 0 0 0
Chris Banjo 2-3 0 0 0
Devon Kennard 2-2 0.5 0 0
Tanner Vallejo 2-1 0 0 0
Patrick Peterson 2-1 0 0 0
Haason Reddick 2-1 1.5 0 1
Rashard Lawrence 2-0 0 0 0
Zach Allen 2-0 0 0 0
Markus Golden 1-2 0.5 0 0
Trent Sherfield 1-1 0 0 0
Domata Peko Sr. 1-1 0 0 0
Leki Fotu 1-0 0 0 0


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