For the second time this season, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals by the skin of their teeth, even if the scoreline read 36-26.
A few weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers escaped their Thursday Night Football battle against the Arizona Cardinals with a win, as they only beat Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury by three points. The win kept the Niners undefeated record intact, and while the Seattle Seahawks edged them in overtime on Monday Night Football last week, Kyle Shanahan’s side has remained the NFC’s best by record.
However, they came seconds away from losing to the Cardinals. With two minutes left, the 49ers were trailing 26-23 to their upstarts in the NFC West, and they needed a late catch-and-run touchdown from backup running back Jeff Wilson Jr. to take a 30-26 lead.
San Francisco would later seal the game with a fumble recovery touchdown in the final seconds, but this win could have easily been a second loss for Shanahan’s team. The 49ers were losing going into each quarter before star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who overcome two interceptions with four touchdowns on a 424 passing yard day, engineered a game-winning drive.
Garoppolo is the first 49ers quarterback since Steve Young to throw for 400 yards and throw four touchdowns.
Now 9-1, the 49ers needed to win in Week 11 over the Cardinals. They absolutely had to bank another game in the win column, because their upcoming schedule is a gauntlet.
Next week, the 49ers will have to face another NFC Super Bowl contender in the Green Bay Packers. Then, they’ll have to face the Baltimore Ravens, who have MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson and are arguably the best team in the NFL after convincingly beating the AFC’s other top two teams. And finally, the Niners will close their nightmare stretch of three games with a battle against the New Orleans Saints, who join the rival Seahawks as San Francisco’s stiffest competition in their own conference.
It doesn’t get that much easier afterward either. The Atlanta Falcons don’t look like pushovers anymore, the Los Angeles Rams are rarely an easy win in this competitive NFC West, and the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Week 17 are the “end boss” before the postseason.
While the 49ers won’t lose all six of those games, it is possible they only go .500 in that stretch, especially after looking vulnerable in their last three games against NFC West rivals. But now that they are 9-1, the Niners can realistically go 2-4 in that tough stretch and still easily make the playoffs with an 11-5 record.
The 49ers have shown so much heart in winning close games like this one against Arizona, and Garoppolo’s leadership has made the difference. Kingsbury and the Cardinals took away the Niners’ rushing attack, forcing Garoppolo to pile up yardage in an effort to move the offense. And in the end, he more than answered the call. When the 49ers face the Packers, Ravens, and Saints next, he’ll have to be equally up to the task.