Third-string QB Beathard throws 3 TDs, 49ers stun Cardinals
GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers hobbled into the game on Saturday with no further playoff hopes. This group included quarterback C.J. Beathard, Jeff Wilson's unannounced turnaround, and multiple defensive backups.
Then they went out and still slipped around the Arizona Cardinals.
Beathard threw three touchdown passes, Wilson ran 183 yards and San Francisco dealt a brutal blow to Arizona's playoff hopes by beating them 20-12.
For the 49ers, the win was pride for a team that went to the Super Bowl last year but survived a year 2020 that fell far short of expectations.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wasn't surprised by the performance.
"We're not proud of our record, we want to get better, but that doesn't say anything about who we are," said Shanahan.
Due to the defeat, the Cardinals (8-7) no longer control their own fate in the playoff race. If the Chicago Bears win their last two games, they will advance to the playoffs due to a draw with the Cardinals.
Beathard made his first start since 2018 and was 1-9 as the starting quarterback before being put into action against the Cardinals due to injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens.
It's been a difficult time in the past 12 months for Beathard, whose brother Clayton was fatally stabbed to death outside a bar in Nashville, Tennessee last December. The quarterback is popular with his teammates for his optimistic personality despite personal and footballing setbacks.
"So people don't mind breaking his neck," said Wilson.
Beathard wasn't great on Saturday but avoided big mistakes. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 182 yards, Wilson earned hard yards on the ground and the 49ers had two major defensive stops late in the fourth quarter, including Ahkello Witherspoon's interception of Kyler Murray's pass in the end zone.
"I think CJ played great," said Shanahan. "I thought he played some passing games, read some in the zone ... Just his leadership out there, the way the guys drew him."
Arizona started the day as the number 7 and final team on the NFC playoff field, but the game was a struggle from the start. The 49ers (6-9) went 14-6 on Beathard's 9-yard touchdown pass to defender Kyle Juszczyk in the third quarter.
Arizona scored their first and only touchdown early in the fourth quarter when the Kenyan Drake hopped on a pile and stretched his arm just enough for a 1-yard touchdown. Murray failed to bond with DeAndre Hopkins on the 2-point move and the 49ers were still leading 14-12.
The Cardinals' next offensive drive stalled at 35 as they finished fourth and second. Another attempt from Murray to Hopkins failed to connect and the 49ers took over the Downs.
A few games later, Juszczyk got his second touchdown of the day, on a 1-yard throw from Beathard with 8:36 in the fourth.
After the touchdown, San Francisco's Robbie Gould missed a crucial extra point that kept the game between 20 and 12 with possession. He also missed a 37 yard field goal attempt with 1:05 left. But the 49ers overcame those mistakes and fought for victory.
The Cardinals had a promising opening run that stalled in the red zone and settled for a 3-0 lead after a 27-yard field goal from Mike Nugent. It was a common theme for Arizona that moved the ball at times but couldn't hit big enough games on the field.
"We didn't execute as well as we probably could have done," said Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury. "I did not"
San Francisco took a 7-3 lead with a 21-yard pass from Beathard to Wilson late in the first quarter, and the 49ers took a 7-6 advantage at halftime.
Murray made 31 of 50 passes for 247 yards, no touchdowns and late interceptions. Hopkins, the NFL's premier receiver, had eight catches for 48 yards.
Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald had six catches for 28 yards on Saturday. The 37-year-old has caught at least 50 passes in 17 consecutive seasons, which is an NFL record.
This could have been the last home game of Fitzgerald's career. As in previous years, he will wait until after the season to make decisions about his future.
49ers: DB K'Waun Williams (knee / shin) left the game in the first half. ... OL Justin Skule (knee) left the game and was considered questionable.
Cardinals: LB Haason Reddick (thigh) left the game in the first quarter but returned early in the second quarter. He leads the team with 12 1/2 bags this season. ... RB Chase Edmonds (hip) left the game in the first half and has not returned. ... TE Dan Arnold was evaluated for a concussion. ... Murray was shaken in the last offensive of the game and carefully walked off the field. Trainers looked at his right leg.
The 49ers play their last home game of the year in Arizona against the Seahawks.
The Cardinals face the LA Rams in the season finale.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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