CARDS WIN! 3 big takeaways from the Cardinals' 1st win of the season

CARDS WIN! 3 big takeaways from the Cardinals' 1st win of the season
Posted at 4:49 PM, Oct 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-07 20:45:38-04

Steve Wilks got his first victory as a head coach.

Josh Rosen got his first victory as an NFL quarterback.

Most importantly, the Arizona Cardinals are no longer the NFL's only winless team.

Behind a masterful performance on defense, the Cardinals went on the road and earned a win over their NFC West division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, 28-18 on Sunday to improve to 1-4 on the season. Here are three big takeaways from the Cards' win.

1. Defense rises up

No NFL defense has been on the field more this season than the Arizona Cardinals' defense -- and on Sunday, they were on the field for over two-thirds of the game. But even with that, as well as the absence of a pair of key starters due to injury Sunday, the Cards put together a fantastic performance on the defensive side of the ball.

The Cardinals forced five turnovers in the Bay Area on Sunday, including a forced fourth-quarter fumble by linebacker and 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick that was returned for a touchdown to seal Arizona's victory. Cornerback Bene Benwikere and safety Tre Boston each intercepted a pass from 49ers QB C.J. Beathard, and defensive end Chandler Jones had a monster game with a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a batted pass on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game.

Yes, the Cardinals were aided by injuries to 49ers running back Matt Breida and receiver Pierre Garcon -- and Beathard started in place of injured No. 1 QB Jimmy Garoppolo -- but Cards fans still had to like what they saw from their defensive unit Sunday.

2. Rosen struggles in road debut

The Cards' 2017 first-round pick had a good day, but after an outstanding debut last weekend vs. Seattle, their 2018 first-round pick struggled a bit Sunday.

Making his second career start and first on the road, Rosen opened the game with a bang by completing a 75-yard touchdown pass to second-round pick and Valley native Christian Kirk...

...but for the game, Rosen completed just 10 of 25 passes for 175 yards. Star receiver Larry Fitzgerald was MIA for most of the game, catching just two passes for 25 yards.

Rosen wasn't helped by dropped passes for the second straight game, but he didn't make many accurate throws in the second half, either. "We're not really clicking on all cylinders, but I think it shows what happens when we are. I think we can be unbelievably dangerous," Rosen said after the game.

3. Running game needs work

David Johnson managed a pair of gritty touchdown runs vs. the 49ers, but he didn't have much room to run for most of Sunday's matchup.

For the game, Johnson carried 18 times for 55 yards, just over three yards per rush. For the season, the Cards are averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry and just over 60 yards per game, both towards the very bottom of the NFL. Needless to say, Rosen could use more help from the rushing game going forward.