SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Josh Rosen got word a couple of days before the game that the Arizona Cardinals would take a deep strike on the opening play in hopes of waking up a struggling offense.
It couldn't have worked any better.
Rosen threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Christian Kirk on Arizona's opening snap and the Cardinals then turned the game over to their opportunistic defense to earn their first win of the season, 28-18 over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
"We were just trying to get a spark in any way possible and just try to get our offense going," Rosen said. "We haven't been scoring as many points as we wanted to. I think we took a really good first step."
The Cardinals (1-4) gained just 145 yards the rest of the game but it didn't matter because the defense took the ball away from the 49ers (1-4) five times, including a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Josh Bynes and two more turnovers that set up short TD runs by David Johnson on drives that went a combined 44 yards.
For a team that had scored just 37 points through four games, fewest for the franchise since 1945, and gained just 834 yards in the first four games, tied for the fewest in the NFL in 16 years, this game signified progress.
"We'll take all of the ugly ones we can get," receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "It wasn't pretty but we started off with a bang. The fireworks came early and they came late. So that was good."
Fitzgerald had just two catches for 35 yards but proved to be a capable decoy on the first play when free safety Adrian Colbert jumped up in coverage, allowing Kirk to get open deep.
That was one of the few poor plays by San Francisco's defense, but that was enough for a loss.
"It was just an undisciplined play by me," Colbert said. "I saw Larry flash and it was just a bad play on my part. It is something that I have to correct."
Here are some other takeaways from the game:
The Niners had the decided edge in yardage (447-220), first downs (33-10) and offensive plays (92-49), but still ended up on the losing side. San Francisco set a franchise record for plays and had the most for any team in a loss since 2013. But the five turnovers, including four by backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, were the most for the team in five years.
"You look at a lot of those (stats), it's hard to find how you lost a game," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Then it's very easy when you look at the turnover column. I haven't been part of any game, I don't think many people have, where five turnovers to zero leads to a win. We have to improve that drastically to have a chance."
TAKE IT AWAY
The Cardinals had plenty of contributors on defense on a day when they could have easily been tired. Tre Boston and Bene Benwikere had interceptions, Bynes had the fumble return for a TD after a strip sack by Haason Reddick, Chandler Jones had his own strip sack and recovery and Patrick Peterson returned a fumble 49 yards to set up Johnson's first TD run.
"We just knew that we had to dig deep," Jones said. "It wasn't about being tired, but it was about walking off that field with a win. That was our biggest thing tonight."
Matt Breida got off to a fast start for the 49ers with eight carries for 56 yards and a 5-yard TD catch in the first quarter before going down with a sprained right ankle. The injury initially looked to be much more serious, but Breida was able to walk on it during the game and isn't overly concerned.
"I didn't know what happened at first," he said. "It was just a little tweak. I have been battling through injuries the past two weeks. I was just trying to get out there and play. I will be all right."
Beathard fell to 1-6 as a starter in his career as he once again held onto the ball too long and made too many mistakes. Beathard completed 34 of 54 passes for 349 yards but threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles.
"You can't win ball games turning the ball over five times," Beathard said. "I feel like we played well in all the other aspects except for turnovers. Just got to take better care of the ball."