It’s too bad the Arizona Cardinals cannot play the San Francisco 49ers every week. Josh Rosen led a game winning drive for the Cards, capping it off with a touchdown pass to Christian Kirk and a two point conversion catch from Larry Fitzgerald to win the game, 18-15. The Cardinals improved their record to 2-6 in a defensive battle against the 49ers. Both of their wins this season have come against the 49ers and improved their winning streak to eight games against them.
Rosen led the Cardinals to their second win of the season, with a 252 yard, two touchdowns and one interception performance. This was his best game as a pro, setting his career high in yards and touchdowns in a game. These stats don’t initially pop out, but for Arizona fans it’s a welcome sight from a player who has struggled so far. The Cardinals had ten days to perfect their game plan for this matchup and prep their new offensive coordinator for his first game. Byron Leftwich was promoted to OC after Mike McCoy was fired following an embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Broncos. Leftwich’s goal was to get David Johnson more involved in the offense, and he sure did.
This was one of Johnson’s better performances of the season, but there is certainly more to do. They used screen passes and handed him the ball 16 times for 100 total yards. This was the most involved Johnson has been since week four, and the hope is that this will be a consistent trend. Fitzgerald was also heavily involved, with 102 yards, a touchdown catch and a two point conversion catch that put the Cards up three late. Kirk had the catch of the game as he ran to the middle of the end zone and caught Rosen’s bullet so seal the win.
The defense didn’t force any interceptions, but they pressured C.J. Bethard and sacked him four times. The run defense improved immensely and only allowed 107 yards, while the secondary held Bethard in check with 190 yards. Just 297 yards allowed is a huge step in the right direction for this defense.
Steve Wilks has a great defensive team, and this is what keeps the Cardinals in games. Leftwich has been in Arizona for three years, and if he continues to improve the offense then Wilks’ defense will continue to save the team. The issues with the offense are still visible since Rosen was sacked three times. The line has been an injured mess all season. Johnson having a hard time running and Rosen being pressured too much does not bode well for a relatively young team. Rosen also has to make better decisions. He threw an interception into double coverage, and he has very little mobility in the pocket. His growth will continue to improve, and Leftwich seems to be letting him do more.
The Cardinals have a talented roster and are under performing all around. Leftwich seems to have a vision for how he wants the offense to play, and defensively they stepped up today. Wilks and the staff have been criticized all season. Leftwich seems to be the step in the right direction, but time will tell if his style is actually different from McCoy. Arizona has won two games this season, and both have been against the 49ers. Leftwich’s real test will come in two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs’ defense has found their rhythm and the offense is incredible. Offense and defense will be tested. This will be Rosen’s first match up against one of the best teams in the NFL right now.