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The Setup
The Cards were coming off a loss to Seattle that all but knocked them out of the division
lead and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Niners were playing for pride and sentimentality; having been knocked out of the playoff chase with its inspirational head coach reported to be headed to greener pastures. By winning, the Cards would set a franchise record for number of wins (12); but they'd once again do it without their #1 and #2 QB's and - since long-range hopeful, Logan Thomas failed to pass muster in midweek workouts - they'd have to make do with Ryan Lindley (who, to date, had not shown anything resembling the necessary skill set of an NFL-caliber QB.

The Lede
Lack of oomph in 2H cost Cards a winnable game vs. Niners.

The Bottom Line:
Ryan Lindley came out doing all the things fans had hoped he'd do, but eventually succumbed to making a few rookie errors and was unable to dig his way out of what looked like a very diggable hole. From our viewpoint, Lindley was betrayed by a defense that looked tentative and repeatedly bounced off the mobile Colin Kaepernick and gave up a huge early long-gainer to Cardinal alum Anquan Boldin. With, perhaps, the exception of Acho;s sack, for whatever the reason, when the Cards tried to tap into their reserve energy to pull out the game, there just didn't seem to be much left.

Game Recap

1st Quarter
  • Cards received. TB on the KO. Arians mixed runs and short passes (including a 24-yarder to Fells) to move the team to the Niner 20, where he pulled a flea-flicker out of his proverbial bag of tricks with Lindley hitting a wide-open Floyd in the back of the end zone for Lindley's first TD pass to give the Cards an early lead. Cards 7 - Niners 0.

  • Niners returned the KO to their own 22. Three plays later (on a 3rd & 8) the Cardinal defense fell asleep and Kaepernick hit a wide open Boldin for a 76-yard home run to tie the score. . Niners 7 - Cards 7.

  • Ginn returned the KO to the Cardinal 22, and Lindley engineered a nice 12 play drive that brought us into field goal range at the Niner 29, but some questionable play-calling by Arians involving a deep handoff (that tricked nobody) to Kerwinn Willians on a 2nd & 10 resulted in a 7-yard loss that took the Cards out of field goal range. That's 3 points left on the field (& the margin we lost by). Punt was fair caught at the Niner 10. Niners reached the Cardinal 45 in 7 plays as the quarter ended (Kaepernick scrambled for +2 and +19 yards during the drive which was characterized by positive yardage gained on every play. Defense was a bit geeked up and whiffed on two many tackles/QB pressures - yet we're still all tied up). 1st Quarter Score: Niners 7 - Cards 7.

2nd Quarter
  • Defense tightened up, the NIners stalled at the Cardinal 35 and settled for a 53-yard Dawson FG that barely cleared the uprights. Niners 10 - Cards 7.

  • An off-side penalty on the KO gave the Cards the ball on their own 25.Completions of 19 yards to John Brown and 27 to Floyd has the Cardinals on the move and knocking at the Niner door at the 24. But Lindley then got sacked for minus-8 and two plays later, Lindley was picked off by Willhoite. Niner ball at their own 25. Completions of + 20 to Crabtree and +35 to Patton helped move the Niners to the Cardinal 19 where they settled for a 37-yard Dawson FG. Niners 13 - Cards 7.

  • A decent return of the KO by Ginn was nullified by a holding call (on Alexander) and gave the Cards the ball at their own 10. Lindley brought them down to the Niner 18 in 12 plays where The Cat was good from 36. The early part of the drive included four straight runs by K Williams and completions of +20 to Housler, +12 to Floyd and +18 to John Brown. Niners 13 - Cards 10.

  • 1:35 left of a first-half slugfest. KO was returned to the Niner 30. Cards held them to 3 & out. Ginn was forced out of bounds at the Card 25 after a 15-yard gain. 0:58 left on the clock. On the 4th play of the series (with 0:45 on the clock) Lindley hit Floyd deep for a 41-yard TD which was challenged over whether his hand crossed the plain of the goal line. Ruling was that it did, and the play stood. Cards 17 Niners 13.

  • SF took the KO to its own 25 and let the clock run out in 2 plays. First Half Score: Cards 17 - Niners 13.

3rd Quarter
  • Niners received. and returned the KO to its own 26. Niner drive stalled at their own 39. Lee's punt was downed at the Cardinal 13. The Cards moved into Niner territory, but on the 9th play of the dirve, Lindley was picked off by Willhoite. Niner ball at the Niner 18. On the second play of the series, Kaepernick scrambled for 30-yards. On the very next play, Gore rambled for +20. Two plays later, Keapernick scrambled for another 15-yards. Drive was capped by a 3-yard TD pass - Kapernick to Miller to give the Niners the lead for good. Niners 20 - Cards 17.

  • Cards returned the KO to their own 15 and lost 3-yards on a completion to Grice to end the quarter. Third Quarter Score: Niners 20 - Cards 17.

4th Quarter
  • Cards nnanaged to move near midfield in 8 plays but Butler had to punt from his own 48. Ball was downed at the Niner 6. (This is where we had the opportunity to pin them back in their own territory and then go on from there). But they managed to squirm out to their own 29 before a huge sack by Acho cost Kaepernick minus 15-yards and the Niners eventually had to punt from their own 26. Ginn returned the punt to the Cardinal 30 (well within striking distance of a FG). But after a 13-yard completion to Floyd, Lindley couldn't get anything going, and they punted from their own 49. Fair catch at rhe Niner 16.

  • Niners: 5:40 left. Harbaugh played it close to his vest and managed to get to the Cardinal 39 in 12 plays (& using up 3:40 before punting. (It was mostly Gore - who carried 6 times during this drive - who took the time off the clock).

  • Cards took over at their own 20 at the 2:00 mark. Two plays later, Lindley was picked off again (this time by Dahl). Three knees later, game over. Niners win. Final Score: Niners 20 - Cards 17,

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: Lindley was 23 for 39, 316 yards, 2 TD's and three interceptions.

  • Run Game: Cards ran the ball 25 times for 98 yards. K Williamscarried 17 times for 67yards.

  • Receiving: Floyd had a huge day, leading the Cards with 8 catches (some acrobatic) for 153 yards. John Brown followed with 4 for 51 yards and 2 TD's. Fitz was close to invisible with 2 catches for 29 yards. (No doubt he is still far from 100% due to injury).
  • Defense: Cards gave up 206 yards on the ground and 189 thru the air.

  • Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: 25 runs/40 passes.

  • Sacks: Lindley was sacked 3 times. (We sacked Kaepernick (once).

  • Leading Cardinal Tacklers: (With Foote out), Carson (9), Cromartie (7) and Minter (6) led the team in tackles.

  • Field Goals: Catanzaro was 1 for 1.

  • Turnover Ratio: -3. Lindley was picked off 3 times. No fumbles recovered by either team. No picks by the Cards.

  • Penalties: 3 for 21 yards (Niners were flagged 10 times for 178).

  • 3rd Down Efficiency: 4 for 10 (40%). Niners were 5 for 12 (41%)

  • Time of Possession: Us - 30:36/Them - 29:24

Bright Spots

  • Lindley's first half.

  • Williams did OK.

  • We gave up only 2 sacks by a tough defense.

  • Floyd had a huge day - the kind we expect of him all the time.

The Dark Side

  • Second time in a row we got outplayed in the second half.

  • Regardless of Lindley's first half, his three picks are tyoically enough to cost us a few football games (including this one).

  • Sloppy tackling and overeagerness (alternating with tentativeness) going after Kaepernick.

  • Defense gets beaten again by a surprise "big play"

    Some funky play calling by BA where a play-called would have too big a risk of resulting in a loss would take us out of field goal range.

    They made more big plays at crunch time/we didn't.

Last Word:
Well, we blew home field advantage throughout the playoffs and start the playoffs @ Carolina (who thumped Atlanta who thumped us). Hopefully, Stanton's infected knee will come around in time for the Panther game. On paper, we have our work cut out for us, but we're now at that point in the season where Arian's "one game at a time" approach is truly borne out. The Cardinal season is now officially one game long. Let's go out and win it!
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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012