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Cards were coming off a Bye week after a gut-wrenching tie with Seattle followed by a MNF shellacking by the Panteras. Niners had lost to the Saints 41 - 23. Cards remained 1.5 games behind Seattle but had benefitted from a rash of losses by their other two division rivals (the Rams and Niners). At 3 - 4 - 1, the Cardinals have to consider every remaining game - including this one - a "must" game. Cards are beaten-up - their starting LT (Veldheer) is on IR and defensive cog (Mathieu) will be out from 3 - 6 games. The Niners are pretty much done, with the transition from Gabbert to Kaepernick at QB pretty much implemented. Seattle beat NE late Sunday night but Cards still have an outside shot at the playoffs.
Nail-Biter: Cards 23 - Niners 20.
The Bottom Line:
Let's just put it this way - athletics, politics, you name it - it's been a horrendous week, and as we sped into the 4th quarter of the Cards - Niners game, it didn't look like things were going to get any better. It shouldn't have been that close - the Cards had been outplaying the Niners in just about every aspect of the contest, but just couldn't seem to put them away. As it turned out, the two teams were within 2-minutes of going into OT all tied up at 20 - 20, but the Cards were able to move into chip-shot FG range, and - unlike the Seattle tie - Catanzaro nailed the winner.
The Cards had uncharacteristically scored 7 point in the 1Q and had built up a 20 - 10 lead heading into the lockers at halftime. But the Niners were able to narrow the 10 -point margin to 7 in the 3rd period and tie the score 20 - 20 late in the 4Q.
Cards regained possession of the ball with under 2-minutes to play and managed to move the ball deep into Niner territory so that Chandler Catanzaro was able to boot the chip-shot FG that won the game for the Cardinal.
It wasn't pretty, but we needed the win. Yay!
Cards scored first and led 7 - 0 at the end of the first quarter. They expanded their lead to 20 - 10 at halftime, but the Niners narrowed the score at 20 - 13 by the end of the 3rd quarter. They tied the score 20 - 20 with a late 4Q touchdown (on a Kaepernick roll out), but crunch time heroics by Fitz, Floyd and David Johnson set up a Catanzaro Cardinal game-winner: 23 - 20.
Cards won the toss and received. TB on KO. The two teams exchanged 3 & out. (Sack by C Jones was a key Cardinal defensive play). On the third play of the next Cardinal possession. Nelson coughed up the ball after catching a 17-yard pass. Niner ball. Cards held them to 3 & out again. Cards fair caught the punt at their own 9 and put together an 11-play drive resulting in a 3-yard completion: Palmer to D Johnson. Cards 7 - Niners 0.
TB on the KO. Niners held to 3 & out (again). Punt fair caught at the Card 23. Cards moved to their own 28 and had to punt. Cards recovered a (challenged) fumble on the punt to retain possession at their own 44 as the quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Niners 0.
A defensive pass interference on the first play of the quarter moved the ball to the Niner 18. On the very next play, David Johnson burst up the midde for 18 yards and a TD. (Johnson Dove for and hit the stantion similar to the play a week or so ago where he was ruled out of bounds. This time (after official review), it was ruled a TD. Cards 14 - Niners 0.
TB on the KO. Kaepernick marched steadily (with consecutive gains of +5, +10, Inc., +32 and +11) and on the 7th play of the drive, hit Kerley for 17 yards and a TD. Cards 14 - Niners 7..
TB on the KO. Cards moved to the SF 21 in 7 plays, where, on the 8th, Catanzaro was good from 39. Cards expand their lead to 10 pts. Cards 17 - Niners 7
SF returned the KO to their own 14. 3:44 till the helf. Kaepernick ran off 15 plays capped by a 49-yd Dawson FG. (Cards coudn't stop Kaepernick on 3 third or fourth downs on the drive). Cards 17 - Niners 10
Golden returned the K to the AZ 18 (1:32 till halftime. They reached the SF one-yd line where - with 0:02 on the clock - Catanzaro was good from 19. Cards 20- Niners 10..
First Half Score: Cards 20- Niners 10.
TB on the KO. Cards held SF to 3 & out. Punt ran out of bounds by Smokey at the AZ 36. A 33-yard completion to Gresham followed by a 33-yd hookup with Fitz put the ball on the Niner 7. On the next play, Palmer was sacked for minus9 yards. On the very next play after that, Palmer was sacked by Harold and his fumble recovered by SF at the Niner 20. (3 - 7 points squandered).
A 45-yard completion to Patton brought the Niners to the Card 35, but the defense stiffened and SF had to settle for a 53-yd Dawson FG. Cards 20- Niners 13.
Golden returned the KO to his own 18. They couldn't get past their 39 and punted. Kerley was pushed out of bounds at the SF 21. Niners held to 3 & out. Golden returned the punt to the Card 35. On the third play of the possession, Palmer's pass for Nelson was picked off by Reid. Niners took over at the Card 40. Penalties prevented the Niners from getting past the Card 46 in 6 plays. Punt was fair caught by Peterson at the Card 13. Cards ran off two plays as the quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 20 - Niners 13
Cards couldn't make it past their own 33. quigley's punt was fair caught by Kerley at the Niner 26. Ninersmanaged to reach the Cards 47 in 9 plays but were forced to punt. Punt was downed at the Cardinal 4. Cards reached midfield in 7 plays, but on the 8th (with just 3:24 on the clock), Palmer threw a "turkey" directly into the arms of Hodges who retunred it to the Niner 43.
Six plays later (including a +19 yd scramble by Kaepernick) the SF QB scrambled around RE for the tieing TD. Cardinals 20 - Niners 20
1:55 left to play. Ellington returned the KO to the Card 15. An acrobatic +26 yd completion to Floyd (that survived a challenge) sustained the Cardinal drive and moved AZ from its 15 to its 41-yard line. 1:35 left. Palmer hit D Johnson for +8, Fitz for +14, D Johnson for +12 before D JOhnson burst up the middle for +9. Palmer then used two plays to spike the ball and move it to where Catanzaro was most comfortable kicking from it, and Cat-man was good from 34-out to win the game with no time left on the clock. Cardinals 23 - Niners 20
Final Score: Cardinals 23 - Niners 20
Notable Game Stats.
Passing: Palmer was 30 for 49, 376 yards 1 TD's and 2 Interceptions. (Kaepernick was 17 for 30, 210 yds, 1 TD's and 0 picks).
Rushing: D Johnson gained 55 yards on 19 carries & 1TD'. (Hyde picked up 14 yds on 13 carries. Kaepernick led the Niners with 55 yards (and one TD) on 10 carries.
Receiving: Fitz led the Cards with 12 grabs for 133 yards. Floyd was nexrt with 101 yards on 5 catches. D Johnson had 5 for 46. (Kerley had 102 yards & a TD on 8 catches. Hyde caught 6 passes for 36 yards). .
Turnovers:Minus-3. Cards fumbled away 2 and Palmer had 2 passes intercepted. Cards recovered one fumble/intercepted no passes.
Penalties: Cards were penalized twice for 10 yards. Niners were penalized 9 times for 100 yards.
Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 23/49. (SF: 28/30)
Kicking: Catanzaro was 3 for 3 in FG attempts. (Dawson was 2 for 2).
Net Punting Yards: Quigley averaged 37.3. (SF punter averaged 41.7)
Tackles: Jefferson and Bucannon led the Cards with7tackles each followed by Cooper (6)
Sacks: Cards sacked Kaepernick 3 times (C Jones 2, Campbell 1.). Palmer was sacked twice)..
Interceptions: Palmer was picked off twice (Kaepernick wasn't intercepted)
Third Down Efficiency: Cards were 7 of 14 for 50%. (SF was 7 of 17 for 41%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 5 (40%). (Niners were 2 of 2 for 100%).
Time of Possession: Cards 32:18 / Niners 27:42
Card rush defense gave up an average of 3.0 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.5)
Cards scored first for a change.
Tough catches by Fitz and Floyd..
While D Johnson didn't rack up as many rushing yards, he did pick up some clutch yardage and scored 2 TD's (Call him "Davey Touchdown").
Cards stoned Hyde cold and held Niner rushers to 83 yards.
2 Sacks by Chandler Jones
Consistency by Catanzaro
Defense was gritty - especially during the first 3 quarters (converting TD's into FG's)
Just 2 penalties
Even when you cancel out the interceptions/fumbles, Carson Palmer connected when he had to.
The Dark Side
We're back to .500. We didn't gain any ground vs. Seattle (who won last night) but we're still very much in the hunt.
Two things balanced each other out - Cards gave up minus-3 turnovers but SF committed 9 penalties (vs. our 2). Factor in home field advantage and a modest athletic edge and the game came out pretty much as expected (albeit a bit closer than it should have been).
We play the Vikings next Sun. and then the Falcones. Both teams are struggling and we should have at least an even shot at winning. (Last night's game was physical. Team injury status may be pivotal).
This may be one of those seasons where a .500 club somehow sneaks into the playoffs. The familiar "one game at a time" cliche could never be more apt than right now. Tough win, but nevertheless a "W." Way to go.