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5 takeaways from the 49ers’ thrilling win over the Cardinals

What we learned from San Francisco’s return to the win column.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers got back to winning on Sunday - their ninth of the season. The Arizona Cardinals again proved a tough test for a 49ers team coming off a short week after a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. San Francisco played Arizona just two weeks ago in a nail-biter, and this week was no different. The 49ers emerged from a 16-point deficit to earn the win thanks in large part to fourth-quarter heroics.

Here are our takeaways from San Francisco’s exciting divisional win:

Take it or leave it, folks

This is the Jimmy Garoppolo we’re going to get. He’s a gunslinger. He takes chances. He impresses. He disappoints. Welcome to the 49ers franchise quarterback thrill ride, and we’re all on it together. Garoppolo authored a signature performance against the Cardinals on Sunday that came complete with everything you’ve come to expect. Jimmy G completed a whopping 34 of 45 passes for a 75-percent completion rate. He threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns, the first 49ers quarterback to hit that mark since Joe Montana and Steve Young. Garoppolo also mixed in a pair of ugly interceptions that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He tipped the scales in his favor by leading the 49ers offense on two go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter, completing 7 of 8 for 58 yards and a touchdown in the final two minutes. Are you not entertained?

Shanahan’s got a problem

Garoppolo’s peaks and valleys are enabled by the 49ers’ complete lack of a run game over the past few weeks. Over the first seven games, the 49ers averaged 4.6 yards per carry and were among the best rushing offenses in the NFL. Over the last three, facing the Cardinals twice and Seahawks once, Shanahan’s backfield could only manage 2.7 yards per carry. It’s a problem exacerbated by tight end George Kittle’s two-game absence while dealing with knee and ankle injuries. Veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders has also been on and off the field with a rib injury, allowing the Cardinals and Seahawks to hone in on the run game. Shanahan will need to make adjustments to ensure the 49ers don’t become completely one-dimensional over the final six games of the season.

That’s my ball, punk

Deebo Samuel was a bully on Sunday, playing like the “Friday” character that inspired his nickname. The 49ers’ rookie wideout caught eight catches on ten targets for 134 yards, averaging 16.8 yards per reception. Samuel is the first rookie receiver in franchise history to put together back-to-back games with over 100 yards receiving. It’s a milestone that points toward the growing chemistry between Garoppolo and the 49ers’ second-round pick. Both the 49ers quarterback and veteran Richard Sherman praised Deebo’s “fearless” style of play after the game, on display when he made a juggling contested catch in double coverage. The 49ers’ passing offense is in desperate need of go-to targets outside of Kittle and Samuel, and Samuel is quickly establishing himself as the leading candidate. Shoutout to Eric Crocker for the header.

Undrafted and underrated

An undrafted free agent scored every 49ers touchdown on Sunday. With Kittle out, second-year tight end Ross Dwelley picked up the slack with four catches for 14 yards and two touchdowns. He should’ve had three, but the play was negated by a questionable holding call on center Weston Richburg. Dwelley also caught a pivotal third-down reception that was reviewed, giving the 49ers a first down on the game-winning drive. Receiver Kendrick Bourne caught another touchdown pass, his second on the season. Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. played his first snap of the game on first down with 39 seconds remaining. He beat his man out of the backfield and took Garoppolo’s quick pass over the middle 25 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Levi’s Stadium went nuts, and so did Wilson. It was his birthday, too.

Still at the top

Every win from here on out is crucial to the 49ers’ playoff outlook. Sunday was no different. The 49ers’ win over the Cardinals kept them atop both the NFC and the NFC West. A loss would’ve been catastrophic, sending San Francisco to second in their division behind the Seahawks and fifth in the conference. From first-round playoff bye to wildcard, swapping places with Seattle. The 49ers now face a three-game stretch consisting of the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints. It’s a three-game gauntlet against three playoff teams that will shed plenty of light on the playoff picture heading into the final weeks of the season.