The 49ers entered Saturday’s game eliminated from postseason contention. They’ve spent weeks away from home after Santa Clara county banned contact sports. And their opponent was fighting for a playoff spot, beginning the day as the NFC’s seventh seed.
But San Francisco looked like the better team throughout, controlling much of the game en route to a 20-12 victory that complicates Arizona’s postseason hopes.
The Cardinals had two chances to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but weren’t able to capitalize on either. Though running back Kenyan Drake scored a one-yard touchdown to cut San Francisco’s lead to 14-12 with 12:08 left, Arizona’s two-point conversion failed. Quarterback Kyler Murray’s pass was too low for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone.
49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk caught his second touchdown pass of the game with 8:35 on the clock, but kicker Robbie Gould pushed the extra point wide right to keep the score within one possession at 20-12.
Murray kept his ensuing drive alive with a 30-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 43. But two plays later, 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon picked off Murray’s pass to the end zone intended for Christian Kirk.
San Francisco should have been able to put the game away with a 37-yard field goal, but Gould missed his third kick of the day — this one wide left. He previously was wide right on a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter.
But it was no matter. Murray took a big hit on his final fourth-down incompletion to Hopkins, sealing the game’s result.
San Francisco rushed for a season high 227 yards and Jeff Wilson was the star. He rushed 22 times for 183 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.
Starting his first game of the season, quarterback C.J. Beathard was 13-of-22 passing fro 182 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, though he did lose a fumble. Tight end George Kittle played for the first time since Week 8 and led the team with 92 yards receiving on four catches.
Murray finished 31-of-50 for 247 yards with an interception. He added eight carries for 75 yards.
Hopkins set a new single-season franchise record with 111 receptions, making eight catches for 48 yards.
With the loss, the Cardinals are now 8-7 and will need help to make the postseason. If the Bears win their next two games over the Jaguars and Packers, they will earn the NFC’s No. 7 seed.
An Arizona win also would have clinched a postseason berth for the Rams, but they can make that happen themselves with a win over the Seahawks on Sunday. Arizona plays Los Angeles in Week 17.
The 49ers are now 6-9 and might need a new defensive coordinator for 2021 after another big showing from Robert Saleh. Especially with San Francisco out of playoff contention, he’s likely to receive strong consideration for at least one head coaching job in January.