The Cardinals weren’t at full strength on Sunday, but you’d never know that by the way they played against the 49ers.
Running back James Conner scored three touchdowns, Colt McCoy played well in place of injured quarterback Kyler Murray, and the Cardinals completed a season sweep of their NFC West rivals. The 31-17 win moves them to 8-1 on the season and ensures they’ll remain in first place in the division regardless of how the Rams fare on Sunday night.
McCoy went 22-of-26 for 249 yards and threw a short pass that Conner took 45 yards for a touchdown. McCoy also ran seven times for 23 yards and pilot a controlled, efficient offense in his first start in Arizona.
The Cardinals were also without wideouts DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green to start the day, but neither their absences nor the loss of running back Chase Edmonds to an ankle injury on the first play of the game threw them off stride. Conner ran 21 times for 96 yards and caught five passes for 77 yards while Eno Benjamin chipped in with 39 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Benjamin’s score made it 31-7 in the third quarter and the Cardinals were pretty much in cruise control at that point. A fourth quarter interception by Budda Baker erased any hopes of a comeback and went in the books as the third 49ers turnover of the game. Tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk both lost fumbles in the first half and the Cardinals sacked Jimmy Garoppolo five times.
Markus Golden had three of those sacks and the Cardinals defense certainly did its part to make sure the team didn’t suffer from all the missing offensive pieces. They’ll be back at home to face the scuffling Panthers in Week 10.
The 49ers fell to 3-5 and they’ll remain at home to take on the Rams in a game they will really need to win if they want to harbor any serious notion of challenging for a playoff spot down the stretch.