DeAndre Hopkins has 111 catches this season after the eight he hauled in Saturday, giving him a franchise record with one game left. He has been the epitome of a great trade haul.
But it was the one he couldn't quite bring in Saturday that stuck out, not because Hopkins made a bad play – indeed, it would've been a carbon copy of the amazing touchdown catch he made to beat the Eagles last week – but in part because everyone expects those freak hands to hold on to such a catch. And because Hopkins was down for a moment, making everyone just a little scared (just like Kyler Murray's final injury in the game.) And because it kind of exemplified what the Cardinals weren't quite able to do in a crushing loss to the 49ers.
Chase Edmonds being out of the game didn't help. But after the Cards piled up over 500 yards against the Eagles, you thought the offense might've found a groove. You'd have thought the defense was in a good position to make C.J. Beathard beat them, and not let running back Jeff Wilson push 200 yards rushing by himself (or beat the Cards for a third time on a the same type of angle route that got Wilson a game-winning TD catch against the Cards last year, or Raheem Mostert a long TD catch in the opener.)
But the details, while important, wasn't as much of the story as the overall malaise that seemed to be a part of Saturday's game. With the playoffs out there to take, the Cards didn't take them. Are things different if Murray doesn't throw the interception on second down? If Dan Arnold hauls in the bomb in the first half he should've had? If Hopkins could've clutched that TD right before halftime? Maybe.
It's moot now. Now the Cardinals are all about the scoreboard watching, both Sunday and next week.
-- We will see on the Murray injury. He did not speak to the media, and all we know is that it was a leg injury. NFL Network reported he should be OK after being leg-whipped. The Cards need him to have a chance in L.A. There won't be any official updates until Monday.
-- Hopkins only had 48 yards on his eight receptions, none longer than nine yards. The 49ers did a nice job making Murray look uncomfortable most of the night, whether because of pressure or because of the coverages he was seeing. Still, Hopkins' record is impressive (topping the 109 catches Larry Fitzgerald has had twice in his career.)
"It's expected," wide receiver Christian Kirk said. "Not surprised by it. The plays he's made all season, the caliber of play he puts on every single Sunday, the guy just shows up and he's an elite, impact player. He shows every week why he's the best receiver in the league."
-- Fitzgerald had six catches (but for only 28 yards), pushing him to 54 this season and making him a perfect 17-for-17 for 50-reception seasons. The 17 straight years of 50 catches ties Jerry Rice for the most consecutive 50-reception seasons in NFL history.
-- Kirk's 38-yard catch on the first possession of the game gave him more receiving yards than he had had in any of the previous FOUR games. But twice he and Murray couldn't connect in the end zone – once on that first possession when Kirk was clocked as he tried to catch the ball, the second on Murray's interception) and those missed opportunities were costly.
-- Center Mason Cole was called for two false starts Saturday, after being flagged for two the previous game. That's not something you usually see called on a center. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said he was just told Cole was moving the ball early.
"That's kind of the only feedback I've received, but that's something that can't happen, obviously," Kingsbury said. "You go third-and-two to third-and-long, and it makes it really tough to survive in this league."
-- The Cardinals seemed like they often had to play out long yards. They had 30 first down snaps Saturday and averaged only 2.4 yards, and a play that tied for the longest on first down – an 11-yard pass to Dan Arnold – was negated when Arnold lost a fumble.
-- What else can you say about Haason Reddick? Another 1½ sacks to bring his total to 12½ this season and his free agency continues to get more intriguing. You'd love to bring him back. But the price, especially this offseason, matters.
-- The Cardinals could only convert 4-of-16 third downs, a brutal number. They also went for it on fourth down six times, converting four. The first fail hurt, as the 49ers went on to score a touchdown. Then again, the Cards' lone touchdown drive came after a fourth-down conversion. The second came on the Cards' final offensive snap of the game.
-- The Cardinals were lucky it was the other team that missed some kicks Saturday, because it kept them in the game. Robbie Gould missed two field goals and an extra point, and that's not something you usually see from the veteran. And the Cards' opponents rarely miss field goals, for whatever reason.
-- OK, just to clarify: The Cardinals are rooting hard for the Jaguars against the Bears and the Seahawks (!) against the Rams. The Bears and Rams losing makes a postseason opportunity more likely. No question, the Cards missed a chance to allow themselves to sleep easier though.
That's enough for tonight.