When Kliff Kingsbury was an assistant coach at the University of Houston, he liked to spend his Sundays watching DeAndre Hopkins dominate for the Texans.
The Cardinals' coach is enjoying this up-close view even more.
Hopkins had a phenomenal debut for the Cardinals following his blockbuster addition this offseason, catching a career-high 14 passes for 151 yards in a 24-20 road upset of the 49ers on Sunday.
The All-Pro receiver didn't find the end zone, but went down inside the 1-yard-line on a 33-yard reception late in the fourth quarter, and running back Kenyan Drake scored on the next play for the game-winning points.
"I love the way he plays the game on Sunday," Kingsbury said. "He plays with a passion and a toughness that's fun to be around. To watch him do it today – I didn't know he was going to go for that many catches. But he got hot, and Kyler (Murray) and him got in a rhythm. I'm just excited that he's a part of our organization."
There was never doubting Hopkins' talent, but it was fair to question if he would make this type of immediate impact. He had to deal with a new scheme, a new playcaller and a new quarterback, all while missing a significant chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury.
None of that mattered after kickoff, as Hopkins instantly became the go-to guy on an offense in need of one.
"Kyler kept giving me the ball, kept feeding me, and we kept making plays," Hopkins said.
Hopkins signed a contract extension last week that ties him to the Cardinals through the 2024 season. He is ecstatic to be with the Cardinals and has spoken of pairing with Murray for the years to come.
After one game, the Cardinals have to be thrilled with the duo's potential moving forward.
"After what you guys (in the media) saw today, the sky's the limit on what this team can do," Hopkins said.
TURNER BLOCKS 49ERS' HOT START
The 49ers dominated the early portion of the game, but linebacker Ezekiel Turner kept the Cardinals in the game with a critical blocked punt midway through the first quarter.
He shot up the middle and got a hand on the ball as it left Mitch Wishnowsky's foot. Linebacker Dennis Gardeck recovered at the San Francisco 10 and running back Chase Edmonds scored on the next play to cut a 10-point deficit to three.
"We knew we wanted to pressure this team early," Turner said. "We know what we have on our special teams unit, and we knew we had to do something to help the team. I just brought it. Got the look we wanted, and came out with a play to help the team."
NO AIR QUALITY ISSUES
There was some concern the game would need to be moved or postponed because the air quality was so bad in Santa Clara due to nearby wildfires.
It went on as scheduled, and defensive lineman Corey Peters said the poor air didn't have much effect on his breathing.
"I could tell the difference visibly, but being out there, I didn't notice a visible difference as far as my wind," Peters said.
THOMPSON, COLE LEAVE GAME
Second-year safety Jalen Thompson left the game with an ankle injury on the first defensive series and didn't return. Chris Banjo took his place and had a late interception, but it was negated by a pass interference penalty on linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Center Mason Cole injured his hamstring and was replaced in the lineup by second-year center Lamont Gaillard.
Images from the season opener in Santa Clara