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The Setup
A huge game because (1) w
e were playing the Niners - a division opponent, (2) we were shooting for 3 & 0 (against last season when 6 losses were too many for us to reach the playoffs) and (3) we were going into an abnormally early bye week.

Cards won their last game - from behind...on the road...vs. the Giants. The Niners lost to "da' Bears." Improbable as this might sound - Cards were undisputed leaders of the NFC West division (undefeated in 2 games; the Rams, Niners and Seahawks each having lost once). Niners were smarting from a rash of injuries and off the field issues. (So were the Cardinals (who were without Palmer, Abraham and Zastudil but it just seems as if Niners fans whine more). Abraham was expected back this week but was placed on IR la couple of days before game-time. Regular season contests were overshadowed by a media-onslaught centered around a cluster of domestic abuse and drug scandals involving NFL teams and players. Specific to that - Niners were said to be playing Ray McDonald Sunday despite his off-the-field problems. Cards indefinitely suspended Dwyer (who had been arrested Wednesday for domestic abuse violations alleged to have occurred in July).

The Lede
Smoked! Cards Rally/Hang On to Beat Niners 23 - 14


The Bottom Line:
The Niners started quickly and posted a 14 - 6 halftime lead, but (consistent with a familiar pattern) were outscored 17 - 0 in the second half. The Card defense uncharacteristically looked unprepared for what looked suspiciously like a zone-read (or maybe even a single-wing) Niner offense, with Kaepernick the running/passing threat taking direct snaps from center with RB's Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde serving as countervaling running threats. (Kapernick wound up the leading ground gainer for SF , carrying 13 times for 54 yards).

The Cards (also consistent with a familiar pattern) posted 17 unanswered second-half points to pull out the win. To us, what turned the tide were (1) a series of penalties (from a Niner team that, at best, might be described as "chippy"), (2) a blocked FG by Tommy Kelly and (3) halftime adjustments made by Todd Bowles - which included things so simple as our pass rushers getting their hands up to block the passing lanes and penetrating the LOS to blow up efforts by the Niner OL pull on Kaepernick's waggles and zone-read sweeps. After taking control of the game midway through the 3Q, the Cards almost gave it away - up by 6 with 6:54 left to play - when Fitz (trying to run after a catch at the four yard line) was stripped of the ball to turn a certain 9 and possibly a 13 point game-icing lead to a Niner possession. But fortunately the Cardinal defense rose to the occasion and - after Tony Jefferson shot the A-gap to deliver a picture-perfect sack and derail the Niner effort to move past their 19-yard line. The Niners were forced to punt and Stanton aided by a defensive interference call on Cook and an impressive 20-yard burst up the middle by Ellington drained all but 0:29 (of the remaining 3:23) off the clock to where Catanzaro put the game out of reach with a 35-yarder.

Game Recap

1st Quarter
  • Cards received. TB on the KO. A 38 yard completion from Stanton to Floyd put us within range for Catanzaro to kick a 51-yard FG. He remained perfect for the year. Cards 3 - Niners 0.

  • TB on the KO. Kaepernick took his offense 80 yards on 12 plays (& 5:38) capped by a 2-yard TD pass to Crabtree. Running mostly a zone-read offense, Kaepernick was close to unstoppable pecking away at the Cardinal defense. (Aside from one 23-yard completion to Carrier, the longest gain of the drive was only 10 yards).. Niners 7 - Cards 3.

  • Cardinals countered with a 17 play (8:03) drive of their own - aided and abetted by four Niner penalties (one declined) - that carried over into the second quarter. 1st Quarter Score: Niners 7 - Cards 3.

2nd Quarter
  • The Cards reached the Niner 8-yard line, but a false-start flag on Massie moved us back to the 14, where "the Cat Man" was good from 32. Niners 7 - Cards 6.

  • TB on the KO. This time, Kaepernick drove the Niners 80 yards in 14 plays (that consumed 8:35), with Hyde circling left end and diving at the pilon for a 6-yard score. Niners 14 - Cards 6.

  • TB on the KO. After a 13-yard completion to M Floyd, the Cards went nowhere. The Niners returned the punt to their own 32, but the Cardinal defense bent but didn't break. On the 10th play of the Niner drive, they punted from the Cardinal 41. Fair catch at Cardinal 15. Three more plays/quarter over. First Half Score: Niners 14 - Cards 6.

3rd Quarter
  • Niners received. TB on the KO, but 5 plays later, had to punt. Fair caught at the Cardinal 15. A 45-yard acrobatic catch by Floyd moved us to the Niner 38, and three plays later, Stanton hit John Brown (who outran the secondary) for a 24-yard TD. Niners 14 - Cards 13.

  • KO returned to the SF 17. Cromartie injured on second snap and had to leave the game (He was carted off the field but later on seen walking to the lockers). Cardinal defense (and offsetting penalties on the Cromartie play) forced SF into a 3 & out. Fair caught at the Cardinal 34. Two roughness penalties on the Niners helped set up a 21-yard TD completion to "The Smoke Man" (who once again got behind the Niner secondary). Cards 20 - Niners 14.

  • TB on the KO. Kaepernick drove his team to the Cardinal 17 in 9 plays as the quarter ended. (An unsportsmanllike flag on Boldin for head butting undermined the drive). Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 20 - Niners 14.

4th Quarter
  • Niners reached the Cardinal 28 where, on 4th & 17, Dawson's 45-yard FG attempt was blocked by Tommy Kelly. (Talk about a game-changer!) Starting at our own 47, with 13:26 left to play, the Cards ate up 6:20 on11 plays that ended on the Niner 5, when Stanton's completion to Fitz was caught at the 4, but fumbled away. Niners ball on their own 5 with 6:54 left.

  • Niners managed to dig their way back to their own 19-yard line, but a sack by Jefferson (for minus-9) forced them to punt from their own 10. Ginn was pushed out of bounds at his own 42 with 3:52 left to play. Cards chewed all but 0:34 off the clock with a 9-play drive - featuring two early passes (one by which John Brown drew an interference call) but mostly Ellington running the ball and Stanton kneeling. Catanzaro iced it with a 35-yarder with 0:34 to go. Cards 23 - Niners 14.

  • Three plays later (& I sweated every one of the final 0:34 seconds) - game over. Final Score: Cards 25 - Giants 14.

Game Stats
It was the penalties and the blocked FG that did the Niners in. (That plus key catches by Floyd and the two TD's by our new #3 wideout, Smokey Brown).

  • Passing Efficiency: Stanton was 18 for 33, 244 yards, 2 TD's and no interceptions.

  • Run Game: Cards ran the ball 27 times for 86 yards. Ellington carried 18 times for 62 yards.

  • Receiving: Floyd led the Cards with 5 catches (some acrobatic) for 114 yards. John Brown followed with 4 for 52 yards and 2 TD's. It looked like Fitz would be shut out for the second time in his long career, but he, Carlson and Ellington ended up with 3 catches apiece..
  • Defense: Niners ran for 82 net yards (on 24 carries) and 236 net passing yards. Kaepernick (who ran 13 times for 54 yards) completed 29 of 37 passing attempts for 245 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions.

  • Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: 27 runs/34 passes.

  • Sacks: Stanton wasn't sacked. (We sacked Kaepernick (once (by T-Jeff).

  • Leading Cardinal Tacklers: Jefferson led the team in tackles with 10, followed by Johnson (8), Mathieu (6) and Foote (6)

  • Field Goals: Catanzaro was 3 for 3.

  • Turnover Ratio: -1. We lost a fumble (Fitz) and didn't intercept a pass or recover a fumble (but Kelly did block a kick).

  • Penalties: 5 for 36 yards (Niners were flagged 9 times for 107).

  • 3rd Down Efficiency: 8 for 13 (61%). Niners were 6 for 13 (46%)

  • Time of Possession: Us - 27:40/Them - 32:20

Bright Spots

  • We (finally) beat those guys.

  • We're 3 & 0 and picked up a game on the Niners.

  • We came from behind (once again!) to post 17 unanswered 2nd half points.

  • The Cards have given up zero 4Q points in 3 games.

  • We won our second game in a row without Palmer, Abraham and Zastudil.

  • Catanzaro (3 for 3) continued his perfect FG streak.

  • The emergence of John Brown.

  • We held the Niners to 82 net rushing yards (28 by their RB's/54 by Kaepernick).

  • Tommy Kelly's punt block..

  • Honey Badger was third in total tackles.

  • Stanton looked solid if not sensational (certainly good enough to be a good #2).

  • Cardinal defensive coaching staff made subtle but effective halftime adjustments to contain Kaepernick & Co.in the 2H. Defense was then able to shut down the Niner offense despite Fitz's fumble fumble late in the game.

  • We are who we are - If we stay steady and remained poised, we have enough juice to beat elite teams like the Niners.

The Dark Side

  • At least thru the first half, it seemed as though the Niners prepared better for the Cardinals than did the Cardinals for the Niners.

  • If it weren't for the Niner penalties and the blocked kick, we might not have won this sucker.

  • Our vaunted secondary allowed Crabtree to grab 10 passes, Stevie Johnson to catch 9 and Q six.

  • Just one sack and not much of a pass rush. We have an extra week to read our press clippings and pat ourselves on the back. That's dangerous - got to keep grinding.

Last Word:
What better way to go into our bye week than undefeated - after a win over the Niners. While it would have been nice to be in better control over a football game than we were in the first half of both this game and the Giant contest, we did demonstrate enough consistency in the second half of both to slam the doors on opposing defenses while finding a way to score points on offense. I think these traits are signiifcant indications of who we are as a football team - well-coached...with a deeply stocked roster...can affford to play to its strengths for 60 solid minutes...and letting the other team "beat itself." In short - keep doing what we're doing and remember what we did to get us there. Great team win.
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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012