SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Christian Kirk was a high draft pick in April, but didn’t go in the first round like he wanted.
There were two supposed reasons for that: questions about his top-end speed and the ability to play outside receiver. The Cardinals’ rookie wide receiver answered them in one fell swoop in Sunday afternoon’s 28-18 victory over the 49ers.
On the Cardinals’ first offensive play from scrimmage, Kirk flew past San Francisco cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Rosen.
“I said over and over again it was something I could do,” said Kirk, who the Cardinals nabbed in the second round. “That’s why every opportunity I get to show it, I’m going to show it.”
Kirk continued the fast start to his career against San Francisco, catching three passes for 85 yards, including his first career score.
“It’s always something about your first one,” Kirk said. “To be able to get it on the first play of the game on a deep pass, just in that moment and help boost our team to get a win – it just felt amazing.”
When the Cardinals drafted Kirk, they had future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald in the slot, but were confident Kirk would find a role.
“I don’t understand the question mark that was over him coming out of the draft, talking about his speed,” Wilks said. “You saw that today. He’s an inside guy, outside guy. We do a god job of moving him around and getting him in a position to be successful.”
LIMITED USAGE FOR FITZGERALD
Fitzgerald was limited to a pair of catches for 35 yards. One of the catches came right before the half in the middle of the field when the 49ers were guarding the sideline.
Rosen downplayed the lack of action for Fitzgerald, pointing out he would have had better numbers if certain throws were accurate. One bootleg, in particular, which would have been a big gain if not for an overthrow.
“For the most part, he was pretty involved,” Rosen said. “I just missed him here and there.”
Even when Fitzgerald wasn’t catching the ball, he played a pivotal role offensively. He drew the safety help on Kirk’s long touchdown, which opened up the deep part of the field.
“You can see those dreads from anywhere,” Rosen said. “He’s an asset on the field whether he’s got the ball or not. You’ve got to pay him a whole lot of attention. It frees up a lot of other guys.”
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN SUFFER INJURIES
Left guard Mike Iupati left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Daniel Munyer for a pair of drives but returned to the game. Right tackle Andre Smith left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by John Wetzel.
Wilks didn’t have an injury update on the linemen after the game. Safety Zeke Turner was tended to by trainers in the fourth quarter but Wilks believes he was just cramping up.
The 49ers lost running back Matt Breida to an ankle injury in the first half. Breida, who entered the contest averaging 7.6 yards per carry, had eight rushes for 56 yards before exiting.