The energy was gone. Markus Golden could sense it.
So before third down, with the 49ers six yards from scoring a touchdown that very likely would’ve put the Cardinals away even though most of the fourth quarter remained, the defensive end waved his arms furiously up and down, exhorting the crowd – and his own teammates – to believe.
“I felt it,” Golden said. “The energy didn’t feel right. I was looking like I was going crazy, wasn’t I? In my body and my mind, I just started feeling the negative energy like we weren’t believing. I had to spread the energy I felt to everyone else.”
Antoine Bethea stopped C.J. Beathard from scoring, forcing a field goal. Josh Rosen then directed a couple of touchdown drives, including a game-winner with 34 seconds left. Larry Fitzgerald broke 100 yards. (Remember how Byron Leftwich said with Fitz, “the plays are still there in him”?) David Johnson did some cuts here and there. Rosen-to-Kirk became a thing again on one very important play.
No one is proclaiming all the issues of the Cardinals’ offense fixed. There will be much tougher tests than the 49ers at home. But with 186 yards in the last 15 minutes and a dramatic win, maybe Leftwich will get this thing going where it needs to go quickly. Maybe the Cards won’t need Golden to wave his arms, or have Fitz spike the ball, to believe.
“I mean, we won, which is awesome,” Rosen said.
-- The last time the Cardinals were able to rally from a fourth-quarter deficit of 12 or more points? Back to Sept. 12, 1999, at Philadelphia. The Cards were down, 15-3, early in the fourth quarter Sunday.
-- You watch that fourth quarter, and how can you not think that, with the right work, Rosen can be the real deal?
-- Golden wasn’t just the emotional leader. He also had a team-best seven tackles, a sack, and looked the best he has looked since returning from his knee injury.
-- OK, Golden wasn’t the only emotional leader. Larry Fitzgerald gives a boost just by being Larry Fitzgerald. He makes catches, it inspires the state. “Every time they’re chanting, ‘LAR-RY, LAR-RY,’ I’m chanting ‘LAR-RY’ as well,” safety Budda Baker said. “The same way the fans feel is the same way we feel too.”
-- Beating Richard Sherman for his long catch of 37 yards was kind of cool too for Fitz. “He’s still a handful and he’s crafty and he finds a way,” Sherman said.
-- For a minute there, that Jermaine Gresham fumble-looked-like-it-was-touched-by-a-Niner-out-of-bounds-but-wasn’t seemed like a microcosm of the season.
-- Patrick Peterson wasn’t around after the game to talk. He was man-to-man with Marquise Goodwin on Goodwin’s 55-yard catch-and-run TD, but he had a nice pass breakup on a bomb to Goodwin late in the game that was important in an eventual punt. Interestingly, Wilks had Peterson break down the team in the locker room.
-- Chandler Jones didn’t have a sack, but he was the reason both Golden and Zach Moore got sacks in the game and was disruptive.
-- Linebacker Josh Bynes gave a lot of credit to the defensive line, which was without Corey Peters, and that was deserved. Most of the game, Robert Nkemdiche and Rodney Gunter especially seemed to play pretty well.
-- Haason Reddick also seems to be "getting it" more and more at linebacker.
-- The Christian Kirk bad – fair catches at the 9- and 5-yard lines aren’t ideal.
-- The Christian Kirk good – that nine-yard TD catch, holding on to the ball as he got hammered by cornerback Jimmie Ward. “I laid there for a second because it didn’t feel good, getting hit like that,” Kirk said. “I kind of had to let that wear off. But it feels amazing. A lot of pent-up emotion.”
For a lot of guys.