SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It’s a good thing the NFL doesn’t award style points.
Nothing about the Arizona Cardinals’ 20-10 win against the San Francisco 49ers was exciting. Played in front of a half-empty Levi’s Stadium, the Cardinals methodically ran their way to an important victory. The Cardinals relied on Adrian Peterson all game, giving him a career-high 37 carries.
What it means: This was a game the Cardinals should’ve won and they did. They remain in the hunt in the NFC West despite the Los Angeles Rams’ decisive victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. The Cardinals continued to alternate wins and losses this season and have temporarily forgotten their blowout loss in London two weeks ago. A loss to the Niners would’ve reignited the fury and frustration after that loss to the Rams in Week 7, but the Cardinals were able to hold off a depleted Niners team without suffering a significant injury.
What I liked: Coach Bruce Arians has been critical of himself for abandoning the run too early. That wasn’t the case Sunday. Arians stuck with the run throughout the game, giving Peterson a career-high 37 carries, which he turned into 159 yards. In the process, the run game took a lot of pressure off quarterback Drew Stanton, who made his first start since Week 5 last year, coincidentally, at San Francisco. Stanton turned in a solid and effective performance, throwing for 201 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 15-for-30 passing. The commitment to the run ensured Stanton wasn’t asked to do too much, and Arizona controlled the clock.
What I didn’t like: The 49ers really had no right being in this game. Their offensive line sent out a patchwork unit and they kept suffering injuries throughout the game. In the first half, the Cardinals’ defense took advantage of San Francisco’s decimated line with three sacks and at least seven hits on quarterback C.J. Beathard. But Arizona’s defense didn’t come out of halftime with the same type of fire and urgency. That allowed the Niners to run a 13-play drive for 75 yards that ate more than five minutes to start the third quarter and concluded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Beathard.
Fantasy fallout: Tight end Jermaine Gresham had a tidy and efficient game with two catches, including one for a touchdown, on three targets.
Scuffle in Santa Clara: A late-game fracas caused a little excitement as the game was in the final minutes. After Beathard ran for a 12-yard gain, he was hit late and high by Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea. San Francisco offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson then hit Bethea, which ignited the brawl. After the fight ended and the sides were separated, Bethea received a personal foul, which was the only penalty enforced. Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick and 49ers running back Carlos Hyde both received personal fouls and were ejected for fighting, while Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker was ejected for fighting.
What’s next: The Cardinals won’t have much time to celebrate the win. They host the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in a game that could be for a second-place tie in the NFC West.