The San Francisco 49ers played a division opponent in a hard-fought game that came down to the wire. Sound familiar? Yes, but this time, the Niners won. After falling behind 16-0 in the first quarter, the 49ers fought back and beat the Arizona Cardinals, 36-26, for the second time in three weeks.
“It actually reminded me a lot of Monday Night, to where there were some things we got very excited about and then it felt like you blew it a number of times to where you kind of get crushed,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “The guys were just resilient and just kept coming. We were able to finish out the right way unlike we did last week. Two similar games like that and by no means was it perfect, but real proud of the guys how they just kept fighting. Found a way to get it done.”
This win was a true team win, filled with heroics from unexpected heroes.
Game, Set, Match
The 49ers took the lead with 0:38 to go in the fourth quarter, when, after tight end Ross Dwelley fought for a crucial first down, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pass over the middle to…Jeff Wilson, Jr., who ran it in for the go-ahead touchdown.
It was Wilson’s first career touchdown catch and first offensive snap of the game. Way to make it count!
“That was the route we liked him on. Something that we worked out with him in the week,” Shanahan said. “…It was neat watching him just because that was the play we were calling as long as we got the first. When they were reviewing it and watching Jeff do high knees in the huddle, trying to get warmed up for the route. Glad he had the time to get loose, because we got it versus the right look and he beat it versus zero and good job by Jimmy retreating because they brought a lot more than we could block. The O-Line gave him enough time and Jeff did his job perfect on it.”
The win was sealed sealed, however, when just-signed defensive end Damontre Moore forced a KeeSean Johnson fumble which Jaquiski Tartt recovered and D.J. Reed took in for a touchdown. Fun fact: Moore wasn’t even in the league a week ago.
With George Kittle out for the second straight game, Dwelley filled in at tight end. Along with the above-mentioned crucial first down, Dwelley recorded two touchdowns on the day, one of which came early in the second quarter with the 49er down 16-0 and put them back in the game.
“Ross has been great,” Shanahan said. “He’s been great all year. He was unbelievable stepping up, taking over for [FB Kyle Juszczyk] when Juice was out and he’s been great stepping up for Kittle when he’s been out. Ross has been one of the better football players on our team this year and doesn’t get a lot of accolades, because he’s not going to sit there and get a bunch of explosive plays, but he’s as good of a football player as we’ve got going right now.”
The touchdowns were the first of his career.
Ode to Ronald Blair
The aforementioned Moore was signed because Ronald Blair tore his ACL in Monday Night’s game and is out for the season. He may not be physically on the field, but Blair is still very much a presence.
When DeForest Buckner sacked Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray in the third quarter, he did Blair’s sack celebration.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) November 17, 2019
“I love Ron,” Buckner said. “He’s a brother to me. We’ve been roommates. We were drafted together. We’re family and just not having him out there hurts inside. He means a lot to everybody on the D-Line and everybody on the team. He’s one of the leaders, one of the quiet leaders on the team. Having the opportunity, it was just awesome.”
The Jimmy-Deebo Connection
Rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel is establishing himself in the 49ers’ wide receiving corps, and he sure stepped it up with Emmanuel Sanders playing through a rib injury and Kittle being out. In weeks 9-11, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been targeting Samuel on 25% of his routes.
“He’s one of those guys you love to have in your foxhole,” said Garoppolo. “He just gets banged up out there, keeps coming back, doesn’t even question it or anything. He’s a fighter, man. You love having guys like that on your team.”
Samuel finished the day with eight receptions for 134 yards, including a sideline grab that may very well be the catch of the year.
— NFL (@NFL) November 17, 2019
What’s even more incredible about Samuel is his ability to evade defenders. Per Pro Football Focus, over the last three weeks, Samuel has recorded 10 avoided tackles.
“Deebo Samuel is fearless,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “He’ll run through any catch. You get some receivers running across the middle, and they’re looking for who’s going to hit them. Deebo is looking for who he’s going to hit. That’s a much different mentality for most people…He’s running into a safety who’s breaking, and it could be a huge hit, and he’s not wincing, he’s not crunching up. He’s running through it, catching the ball, and keeping going. That’s a fearlessness that can’t be coached and can’t be taught. You either have it, or you don’t.”
Garoppolo had a record day, going 34-of-45 for 424 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. Both interceptions came with the 49ers in the red zone, and though that’s concerning, Garoppolo always seems to recover.
“Jimmy’s confidence never waivers,” said Juszczyk. “It’s been like that all year. Any time he’s made a mistake there’s no letup on him. Everybody has all the confidence in the world in him and he always just does a good job of showing that confidence when he’s in the huddle.”
For Garoppolo’s part, he credits the team.
“The defense played great, battled and just made it hard on those guys all day,” said Garoppolo. “I thought guys stepped up in big situations. When guys got their number called, a little banged up, some guys, and they just played through it. Up front, those guys are tremendous and the skill positions were awesome. It was a good team effort today.”
And last, but not least, on the game hero meter is defensive end Arik Armstead, who is having a monster season, including a team-leading eight sacks.
His eighth sack was crucial to the 49ers win, as it came with 3:05 left in the game and got the Niners the ball back, which set up the go-ahead touchdown. It was almost a defensive TD for Armstead when the ball came out, but the play was called dead.
“He’s balling right now,” said DeForest Buckner, who has been playing alongside Armstead since their Oregon days. “…He’s definitely had some adversity in his career, and to see him have the season he’s having right now, is just great to see. It’s finally all coming together for him. I’m still mad they took away that strip sack for a touchdown, because that was one hell of a play. I told him, if he made that play and they called it, he should have just ran out the tunnel. I mean, what else do you want him to do coach?”
And with that, the 49ers will get prepped to host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers this week for Sunday Night Football. Waiting all week for Sunday Night over here.