Conner, McCoy lead Arizona Cardinals to 31-17 victory over San Francisco 49ers

Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs toward the end zone to score against the...
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs toward the end zone to score against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)(Tony Avelar)
Updated: Nov. 7, 2021 at 3:23 PM MST
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SANTA CLARA, CA (3TV/CBS 5) -- After a heartbreaking match up with the Green Bay Packers last week to give the Arizona Cardinals their first loss, backup quarterback Colt McCoy and running back James Conner led the Cardinals to victory on Sunday afternoon, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-17. McCoy finished with 249 passing yards and one touchdown and Conner finished with 173 total yards and three touchdowns.

The Cardinals defense came to play after a forced fumble from cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. caused Niners tight end George Kittle to lose the ball to break open the game. McCoy led the Cardinals marching down the field, and Conner finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, putting the Cardinals up 7-0 in the first quarter.

The Cardinals quickly put the Niners away after a punt and continued rolling. McCoy flicked the ball to Christian Kirk, who then launched the ball 33 yards down the field, where it was caught by Antoine Wesley, putting the Cardinals at the Niners one-yard line. Conner pummeled through for the touchdown on the next play, and Cardinals were up two scores after the first quarter.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners couldn’t find a groove early in the game after two turnovers. After the Cardinals touchdown drive, Garoppolo attempted a deep pass to former Arizona State Sun Devil Brandon Aiyuk, who fumbled after a hard tackle from Isaiah Simmons. Cardinals regained control, and a field goal by Matt Prater put the Red Birds up 17-0 with just over four minutes left in the half. However, the Niners came back to life just before halftime, and a 6-yard pass from Garoppolo to Kittle put the score at 17-7.

Conner added on to his career day, with a 45-yard pass from McCoy for the touchdown to open up the third quarter. Conner cut through the Niners secondary, and was off to the races, giving the Red Birds a commanding 24-7 lead. Conner joins Tim Hightower and Ernie Nevers as the only players in Cardinals history to have 10 or more rushing touchdowns in their first season with the team.

The Niners couldn’t stop the Cardinals rushing game. With just over eight minutes in the third quarter, another former Sun Devil, Eno Benjamin, cut through the Niners defense for a 21-yard touchdown, recording his first NFL touchdown and giving the Cardinals a 31-7 lead. However, the Niners had an answer, scoring another touchdown after a 11-yard pass from Garoppolo to Aiyuk in double coverage, cutting the lead to 31-14.

The Niners attempted to spark a comeback with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, but a interception by Budda Baker on Garoppolo sealed the game for the Cardinals. The Cardinals moved to 8-1 on the season after the 31-17 win.

Chandler Jones also made history after a sack against Garoppolo. Donning a Freddie Joe Nunn t-shirt under his jersey, Jones paid homage to Nunn after surpassing him as the Cardinal’s all-time sacks leader. Markus Golden also posted three sacks for the Red Birds in Sunday’s victory.

Stars Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins were ruled out hours before the game after injuries caused them to be sidelined. Kliff Kingsbury said leading up to the game both players would be game-time decisions. Murray injured his ankle last week against the Packers and Hopkins is dealing with a hamstring injury.

The Cardinals will go back home to Glendale to take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at 2:05 p.m.