Cardinals use Hopkins, Stellar Defense to beat 49ers 17-10

GLENDALE, Arizona: The Arizona Cardinals improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1974, posting a stellar defensive performance to a 17-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

DeAndre Hopkins hit a tough 9-yard touchdown with 5:13 left, hanging on to football despite a tight defense from Josh Norman of San Francisco. This gave the Cardinals a 17-7 lead, enough of a cushion to close the victory.

Kyler Murray completed 22 of 31 passes for 239 yards. Hopkins caught six passes for 87 yards.

Niners rookie quarterback Trey Lance had a top-down first start, making impressive plays with his arms and feet. But the San Francisco offense struggled in many of the most important moments, converting 1 of 5 chances in fourth.

Lance completed 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards and one interception. He also led the team with 89 rushing yards.

The Cardinals settled for a 10-0 halftime lead after Matt Prater missed a 61-yard field goal attempt at the end of the time limit. The 49ers (2-3) did a good job slowing down the Arizonas’ offense, which averaged 35 points per game, the best in the NFL.

The 49ers finally broke through on offense late in the third quarter when Deebo Samuel ran 13 yards for a touchdown, reducing the deficit to 10-7. Samuel arrived as the NFL’s main receiver and also proved to be a capable runner, taking Lance’s field and avoiding several Cardinals on his way to the end zone.

San Francisco had a few more chances in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t convert in the fourth downs. Kyle Juszczyk was stopped short on a fourth and one run for the Cardinals 48 and Arizona defensive lineman JJ Watt deflected a fourth baseman pass minutes later.

Arizona, the only undefeated team in the NFL, took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter thanks to an efficient eight-play, 66-yard drive topped off with a one-yard touchdown from James Conner.

Lance was making his first career start in place of injured Jimmy Garoppolo inactive for the game due to a calf injury sustained in last week’s loss to Seattle. The 21-year-old rookie got off to a rough start, throwing an interception after passing a pass past his intended receiver and straight into the arms of Arizona safety Budda Baker. He was also stopped on two fourth runs, one inch shorter than a touchdown.

On this play, Lance rushed to his right and looked poised to score, but Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Vallejo quickly moved closer, meeting the quarterback just before the goal line in a fierce collision. Simmons was assessed for a concussion after the game, but later returned to the game.

WATT PRESENCE

Watt had his best game with the Cardinals, realizing a big pass deflection in the fourth quarter and also securing his first tackle for a loss, stopping Elijah Mitchell for a 3-yard loss in the first quarter.

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has had a relatively slow start to the season this season in numbers. Even so, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was pleased with the attention Watt attracts from opposing blockers, making it easier for other defenders to play.

INJURIES

Cardinals: Cornerbacks Byron Murphy Jr. and rookie Marco Wilson were both inactive with rib injuries. … TE Maxx Williams was taken off the field in the second quarter after a knee injury. Williams caught a 14-yard pass, then his knee seemed to buckle as he went out of bounds. … LB Ezekiel Turner (shoulder) and C Rodney Hudson (ribs) started in the third quarter.

FOLLOWING

The 49ers are off next weekend before hosting the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 24.

The Cardinals travel to face the Cleveland Browns next Sunday.

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