CARDS WIN! 3 takeaways from the Cardinals' last-second victory over the 49ers

Posted at 6:03 PM, Nov 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-13 20:10:49-05

A win is a win, as they say, and the Arizona Cardinals will certainly take it.

But boy, do the Cards have some issues to deal with if they want to make the playoffs for the third straight season.

Thanks to a last-second 34-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro -- Arizona's only points of the second half -- the Cards held off Colin Kaepernick and a mediocre but stubborn 49ers team, 23-20 at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.

Here are three big takeaways from the win, which moved the Cardinals to 4-4-1 on the season and dropped the 49ers to 1-8.

1. Questionable play-calling

Cards coach Bruce Arians made some, shall we say, interesting decisions Sunday, especially in the second half. Against a team that was giving up nearly 200 rushing yards per game, Arians decided instead to have the Cards attempt 49 passes and just 23 rushes against the 49ers.

Granted, the Niners were loading up the box in an effort to keep star running back David Johnson in check, and they did (55 yards on 19 carries). But limiting the opportunities of a man who's so good at making something out of nothing is a head-scratcher nonetheless.

Also, the Cards won despite an awful decision with three minutes to play, when the Cards had a 20-13 lead and the ball near midfield. Rather than attempting to eat up clock by running the ball, Arians decided to pass on first down. The result: A Carson Palmer interception that led to the 49ers' game-tying score with under two minutes to play.

Yes, hindsight is always 20/20 -- but there's no doubt the hyper-aggressive Arians made some poor decisions Sunday, and it nearly cost the Cardinals the game and a legitimate chance to make a late-season playoff push.

2. Larry Fitzgerald is good at football

Larry Fitzgerald, AKA the Ageless One, moved into sixth place on the NFL's all-time receptions list Sunday when he caught a ridiculous 12 passes for 133 yards Sunday. He survived an injury scare late in the first half to return and make some huge catches for the Cards down the stretch, including a 14-yard reception on Arizona's game-winning drive.

Fitz helped the Cards jump out to an early 14-0 lead by making some incredible catches (or ordinary ones, if you're Fitz), including this one. In case you forgot during the bye week: The 33-year-old's still got it.

3. It's pros and cons time!

Let's use this third point to do a lightning round of positives and negatives from Sunday:

Good: Three sacks and eight tackles for a loss by the Cards defense, including a pair of sacks by Pro Bowl linebacker Chandler Jones; the reemergence of Michael Floyd, who made an incredible grab on the Cards' game-winning drive; and Johnson's nose for the goal line, as the second-year pro became the first-ever Cardinal to score at least 10 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons.

Bad: A dropped pass by second-year receiver J.J. Nelson, whom Arians declared as the team's No. 2 wideout behind Fitzgerald, led to a Palmer interception in the second half; Palmer's mediocre 74.9 passer rating overshadowed his near-400-yard game as he made some awful throws down the stretch; and Arizona's secondary, which was missing safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder injury) was burned multiple times, including for a second-quarter Niners touchdown.

Ultimately, the bad outweighed the good Sunday. The Cardinals have a lot to sort out before they hit the road to face the Vikings next weekend.