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Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after scoring the game-winning touchdown over cornerback Rashard Robinson #33 and cornerback Jimmie Ward #25 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. Arizona won 18-15.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) reacts after catching the game-winning touchdown over Rashard Robinson (33) and Jimmie Ward (25) of the 49ers on Sunday.


SANTA CLARA — What had been a respectable showing for the 49ers’ pass defense — or at least an improvement over its last outing — all went up in smoke once Carson Palmer had the ball in his hands with 2:24 to go in overtime.

Some miscommunication in the 49ers’ secondary opened the door just enough for the Arizona Cardinals quarterback to find Larry Fitzgerald open for a 19-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left in overtime, handing San Francisco a gut-wrenching 18-15 loss Sunday.Prior to the touchdown, Palmer completed 5 of 7 passes for 58 yards on the decisive drive, taking advantage of the 49ers’ zone defense on the first two plays then finding a soft spot in coverage on the game-winning throw.

Up until overtime, the 49ers had held Palmer to a reasonable 240 passing yards, and sacked him six times.

That would have represented a vast improvement over the 292 yards they allowed to Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams 10 days prior. Goff was not sacked and threw for three touchdowns Sept. 21 at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers have now allowed 961 passing yards this season, ninth most in the NFL.

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Palmer began the drive with a pair of 11-yard completions to Andre Ellington, quickly moving the ball to the Arizona 47 with 1:54 to go in the extra session.

“When you play zone with a four-man rush, you drop and they checked it down to the back right away,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “We want those to be five-yard gains. We’ve got to break to the ball a little bit faster, make better tackles in that situation.”

Just before the touchdown, the only one of the game, NaVorro Bowman picked up a shoe that had come off Ellington’s foot. He flung it out of the way, returned, then got the call from the 49ers sideline as to what defense to run for the next down.

The sequence of events might have been just enough to throw off the 49ers for the game-deciding play.

“Things are going fast, you’re trying to get the communication in for the calls, you get it to NaVorro, he relays it to the D-Linemen, the secondary,” Shanahan said. “(Arizona) got up there, they got set fast, and there was just a little hesitation in our secondary.

“We ended up getting to the right spots, but we were a foot behind, and when you do that versus a good quarterback and especially (Fitzgerald) going down the seam, they made us pay.”

Bowman was emphatic after the game that officials should have blown the whistle to make sure the shoe was not in anybody’s way.

Shanahan said, “We ended up being on our assignments. We were a little off our landmarks.”

Fitzgerald ran past nickel back K’Wuan Williams and had inside position on Rashard Robinson, giving Palmer a sizable target for the throw. The 49ers had three safeties in the game with four linebackers.

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The Arizona Cardinals have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, making it tough to identify their 10 best players. The mixture of veteran and young talent makes them such an intriguing team entering the 2017 season. We will evaluate the 10 best players on the roster entering the upcoming year.

10. Carson Palmer, quarterback

Yes, Palmer is getting up there in age (37), but he has still been incredibly productive. While he had an incredible 2015 season in which he threw for 4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions, he had a slow start to 2016. Last year, he wound up with 4,233 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Obviously, a large part of this had to do with David Johnson taking work off his plate, but there’s no question he can still produce at a high level.

9. Karlos Dansby, linebacker

Dansby turns 36 years old this season, but his production has still been unreal. He’s not the same pass rusher he used to be, but he’s fresh off a season with the Cincinnati Bengals in which he racked up 114 combined tackles with one sack. This will be his third stint with the Cardinals, but he can still make an impact.

8. Mike Iupati, guard

Iupati is a four-time Pro Bowler who made the game in four straight seasons (2012-2015) before last year. He’s a vital part of the Cardinals’ success both in the running and passing games. He should continue to excel in the 2017 season. Expect Iupati to be a big reason why this team returns to the postseason if it can pull off the feat.

7. Markus Golden, linebacker

Golden had a superb breakout season in 2016, racking up 51 tackles, 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He can do a little bit of everything, and it’s safe to say that the Cardinals got a steal in the second round when they drafted him. I love what he brings to the table and think he’ll be a vital part of this defensive unit for many years to come.

6. Deone Bucannon, linebacker

Bucannon’s role is different from many linebackers in the NFL, but it’s perfect for him. He racked up 91 tackles, six for loss, and four passes defensed last year. His ability to fly all over the field and make an impact in both the passing game and rushing game is impressive.

Arizona Cardinals strong safety Deone Bucannon (20) lines up against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

5. Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver

The fact that Fitzgerald is one of the oldest wideouts in the NFL doesn’t change the fact that he’s still an exceptional wideout. He follows a season in which he caught 107 passes for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns. He’s reliable, makes big plays when they matter most, and is still a brutal matchup for any cornerback in the NFL.

4. Tyrann Mathieu, safety

Mathieu was coming off an injury entering the 2016 season, so his numbers don’t explain the type of player he really is. He’s a ball-hawking, big-hitting safety who can change the game in many ways. Mathieu is well on his way to being one of the more dominant players at his position in the NFL, a scary thought when considering the rest of the defensive talent the Cardinals have.

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Back in 2015, the Arizona Cardinals became one of six NFL teams to use virtual reality in their training efforts. Now, the Cardinals are including their fans in the virtual reality experience, thanks to an extended partnership with Cox Business, the team announced.

Under the partnership, Cox will provide the Cardinals with technological needs including the introduction of a free virtual reality station for fans at University of Phoenix Stadium. According to the announcement, the VR experience will allow fans to envision themselves on the field at Cardinals practice, on the field for player introductions, and standing alongside team captains for the traditional coin toss.

Virtual reality training is nothing new for the Cardinals, who have been using technology from STRIVR to run practices and give players all-important repetitions from behind the safety of a headset since 2015, according to a article. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians bought the technology for his team after connecting with STRIVR CEO Derek Belch through Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

“I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to do this,” coach Bruce Arians told “I always thought if you could put a headset on and play football in a room with live pictures, how much better you could get without sweating.”

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was one of the first to try STRIVR’s technology. He described it to his teammates as, er, indescribable. “I try to tell guys, ‘It’s cool,’ but then they put it on and it’s ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it.’ You can’t describe how real it really is,” Palmer told

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In fact, Palmer is partly responsible for the virtual reality fan experience that the Cardinals are installing in the concourse with Cox’s technology assistance. He told in 2015 that he had suggested the team should consider having a couple headsets available for fans around the stadium so they could see football from inside the pocket. Now, fans can do just that — and at no cost to them.

Ed Aaronson, who is the vice president for Cox Business in Arizona, said in the announcement that Cox has been providing the Cardinals with technology for a decade and that the expanded deal between the two organizations paved the way for a more fan-centric focus.

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Notes: CB in for workout; Diverse coaching tree; Playing safer

Cardinals cornerbacks Justin Bethel (left) and Brandon Williams might have more competition for the starting spot.

It’s tinkering season for General Manager Steve Keim.

Coach Bruce Arians confirmed that the Cardinals are taking a look at veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers. He received a physical on Tuesday to check for any lingering issues from a concussion that sidelined him last season, and is slated to work out for the team on Wednesday.

Arians has been happy with the play of cornerback Justin Bethel in the early stages of training camp but the Cardinals have always liked to kick the tires on potentially fruitful additions. Flowers, a 2013 Pro Bowler with the Chiefs, only played in six regular season games last year, but had a 25-yard interception return against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals in the preseason.

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