Niners were one of two teams still undefeated (Pats were the other). Cards were coming off a loss to the Saints, following a 3-game winning streak (Atl, Cincy and Giants). A comparisom of rosters and W&L made this game look like a gimme for the Niners.
Cards come up short - lose to Niners 28 - 25.
The Bottom Line:
Cards Scored first, gave up two early TDs and trailed the Niners by more than a TD before nearly catching up in the 4Q, when Murray hit Isabella on a short crossing route, and the phantom WR out of BC outran everybody to bring the Cards to within a FG of the lead. But Cards couldn't seal the deal and the Niners drained the remaining 4:00+ off the clock. Margin of winning IMHO was the same as the margin for error - penalties, passes dropped, open field tackles, one-on-one battles. Niners won all of these by healthy margins and, looking back on it all, it's pretty amazing that the game wound up being all that close.
Cards lost the toss but Niners deferred. Cards scored on their first possession, featuring healthy doses of their new super hero, Kenyan Drake (including a 36-yd run and 4-yd TD blast.
Cards surprisingly stoned the Niners exhanging two scoreess possessions, but following that, Jimmy Garoppolo hit his (who else) TE (Kittle) who broke a few tackles en route to 30 yd TD.
Niners posted two TDs in the 2Q: (1) a 7-yd Td pass from Garoppolo to Bourne and (2) a 1-yd TD pass from Garoppolo to Sanders to close off the 1H and make it 21 - 7 Niners.
The two teams swapped TDs in the 3Q with Murray connecting with KS Johnson for 9-yds & a a TD and Garoppolo hiting Pettis for a 21-yd score.
This made it 28 - 14 Niners heading into the 4th quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Murray scrambled for 21 yds and moved his team to the Niner 18, where Arizona failed to convert a 3rd & 13 and had to settle for a 36-yd Gonzalez FG., Niners 28 - Cards 17..
This might be a good time to digress. You all have heard of Andy Isabella, right? (#2 draft pick who was frequently inactive as he "learned the Cardinal offense amidst rumors that "they had special things in store for the BC speedster. Well, Mr. Isabella caught a short inside pass from Mr. Murray and proceeded 88-yds to the house. (2-pt conversion was good). Niners 28 - Cards 25). (Paraphrasing Troy Aikman or was it Jack Buck) - "This game has changed, hasn't it?"
Well, not really. with 4:53 left, the Niners returned the KO to their own26 and never gave it back. They ran off 12 plays and used up the clocks.. There was one disputed play on that drive (where they awarded the Niners a questionable 1st down (was Coleman's foot out of bounds?) that might have given the Cards the ball with 2:27 to play and 3-points to make up. But the call (as they did most of the evening) went the Niners way. Game over.
After the 1Q, the Cards were never in this football game (until they were).What separated the Niners and the Cardinals were the percentage of close-calls that went in the Niners' direction - whether they were jump balls, penalties, 3rd down conversions or time-management issues. Take a good long look at the Patriots. Do they lose anywhere near half their close calls)?
Review the play by play log and identify the number of penalties or mental errors that interrupted momentum or gave the Niners and an extra opportunity to convert a 3rd down or Garoppolo an extra split-second to escape and extend a play. I bet what you find are fairly inoccuous miscues that mak their presence felt later in the game when you need a break (that never comes).
The "good news" is that many of these deficiencies are a function of inexperience (both by the QB and the coach) and can be "grown out of." The "bad news" is that eliminating those kinds of mistakes is not automatic - you have to accept the fact that they exist and then be willing and able to eliminate them). The Cards look willing and pro-active to get their act together. whether they actually do so is still not a slam dunk.
I still see the Cardinals as a .500-capable team whose destiny will be determined by the good and bad bounces created by the football gods. My hope for them is that they ride the crest of the good breaks and deal with the bad ones as well as they're able.
And yeah, it was a moral victory, but we should be able to be satisfied with it on one level but not happy at all about it on another.