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The Niners and Cardinals were tied at 3 & 2, but had gotten there by different means. The Cards managed to eke out wins over Detroit, Tampa Bay and Carolina ((They lost to StL by one point but NO by a lot more). The Niners lost to the Seattle and the Colts while beating the Pack, StL and Houston, putting a one-sided 34 - 3 whomping on the Texans in their most recent game. In addition to being an early-season "tie breaker" this figured to be an "identity" game for the Cardinals (determining how we stacked up against one of the elite teams in the NFC West if not the entire League).
Turnovers and Niner Meat-grinder Take Their Toll in Card Loss.
The Bottom Line:
True to form, the Cardinals turned the ball over early a couple of times deep in their own territory only to have their gritty defense bail them out time and time again. The Cards had pulled to within a 2 pt conversion of tying the game, but once again was bitten 2 more by the Turnover Viper, and then couldn't stop the 49'ers from mounting an 18-play 9:32 drive in the 4Q that sucked the remaining life from the Cardinal effort. Once again, we had trouble containing a pass-catching TE (this time it was Vernon Davis).
Cards received. Arenas returned the KO to the Card 23. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. (Key Cardinal play was a sack by Dansby). Cards returned the punt to their own 44, but on the second play from scrimmage, Palmer's pass for Dray was picked off and returned to the Cardinal 7. But the Card defense held them to 3 & out, and SF settled for a 25 yard Dawson FG.TD. Niners 3 - Cards 0.
Arenas returned the KO to his own 12. Once again, Cards were held to 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Niner 32. Cards again held SF to 3 & out. A holding call on Benard on the punt pushed the Cards back to their own 3-yard line. On 3rd & 10, Palmer was picked off again on a pass intended for Fitz. Ball was returned to the Cardinal 11. Once again the Cardinal defense stood tall and held SF to 3, out & a FG. Niners 6 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. On the third play from scrimmage, Fitz turned a short pass from Palmer into a 75-yard TD. Cardinals 7 - Niners 6.
K Williams returned the KO to the SF 32. A neutral zone infraction on Moch (3rd & 4) helped sustain the SF possession and moved the Niners to the Cardinal 22 to end the quarter.
First Quarter Score: Cardinals 7 - Niners 6.
SF moved to the Cardinal 2 in 6 more plays (Key play - a 17 yard scramble by Kaepernick). But a pass intended for B Miller was picked off by Y Bell at the Arizona 1. A delay of game call pushed the Cards back even closer to the end zone and on 3rd & 7, Palmer was sacked in the end zone for a safety. Niners 8 - Cardinals 7.
Free kick was downed at the SF 29. On the second play from scrimmage, Kaepernick hit V Davis deep for a 61-yard TD. Niners 15 - Cardinals 7.
TB on the KO. On the second play from scrimmage, Palmer hit Golden deep for +53. On the very next play, Ellington motored 15-yards over RG for a TD. Niners 15 - Cardinals 14.
K Williams returned the KO to the SF 22. Niners were able to move to the Cardinal 38 in 6 plays and punted. Cards (aided by the challenge and reversal of an Ellington run for a 1st down) went 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Niner 42. 2:54 on the clock. Kaepernick hit Miller for +11 (Dansby covering), V Davis for +12 (Abraham covering) and V Davis (again) for a 35-yard TD. Niners 22 - Cardinals 14.
1:55 left. TB on the KO. Cards went 3 & out. Four plays later, Kaepernick ws sacked by Dockett and his fumble was recovered by DWash. Cards ball at the Niner 44 with 1:06 on the clock. A 44-yard TD pass to Floyd was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty on Floyd. Cards then wenr 3 & out and one play later, the quarter ended.. Halftime Score: Niners 22 - Cardinals 14.
K Williams returned the KO to the Niner 6, and the Cards held the Niners to 3 & out. Punt was downed at the Cardinal 39. Cards reached the Niner 15 in 7 plays (4 of which were runs for +11, +6, +14 and +5). Two plays later, Palmer hit Floyd for a 10-yard TD. 2-point conversion (a pass for Fitz that would have tied it) was no-good. Niners 22 - Cardinals 20.
Williams returned the KO to his own 26. Gore ripped off 32-yards over the middle,but an aborted snap and a SF penalty made SF punt from its own 48. Touchback. Cards moved from their own 20 to the Niner 31 in 10 plays, but on the 11th, Palmer's pass for Fitz was intercepted by Reid and returned to the SF 11. (Momentum-shifter). Quarter over 3 plays later. t Third Quarter Score: Niners 22 - Cardinals 20.
The Niners simply ran it down our teeth on an 18-play drive that drained 9:32 off the clock. 11 of those plays were runs (5-straight by Gore). Final play was a 6-yard TD run up the middle by Hunter. Niners 29 - Cardinals 20.
6:35 still left to play. TB on the KO. Two plays later, Alfonso Smith (on a run up the middle) fumbled. SF ball on the Cardinal 31. Three runs by Gore and a 44-yard FG that was good. Niners 32 - Cardinals 20.
TB on the KO. 4:15 left. Card drive fizzled on downs at the SF 48. 2:59 left. Three & out. Cards ball on their own 5 with 1:51 left (& no time outs). Five plays later, game over. Final Score: Niners 32 - Cardinals 20.
Turnovers rendered most game stats irrelevant.
Palmer threw 25 completions in 41 attempts for 298 yards, 2 TD's and 2 interceptions.
21 of our 46 total offensive plays were running plays.
Fitz led the team with 6 catches for 117 yards and a TD. Floyd (1 TD) and Ellington were tied for 2nd with 5 catches apiece.
Ellington (56) and Mendenhall (40) had a combined rushing total of 96-yards.
We lost 4 turnovers (2 interceptions plus fumbles by Fitz and A Smith).
We only gave up one sack and sacked Kaepernick twice, once by Dockett and a half-a-sack apiece by Dansby and Campbell.
Dansby led the team in tackles with 11, followed by Mathieu (6), Bell (6) anf Williams (5).
We outgained the Niners with 403 Net Yards to 387.
We "held" the Niners to 149 yards..
We were tackled for a loss 4 times (compared to 0 by our defense).
We led in Third Down Efficiency: 38% to 28%.
We were penalized 6 times(vs. 4 for the Niners.
Third Down Efficiency (1 for 13) was awful once again.
We got killed in Time of Possession: 25:41 to 34:19.
The defense (at least for 3 quarters) was outstanding.
Golden gives us missing deep-ball capability.
Fitz battled thru injuries to give us one long TD and 6 catches..
One sack given up by the O-line.
Third down conversion percentage was better than usual.
The Dark Side
Despite his stats, Palmer is not consistent enough and makes too many mistakes.
We wish Calais a quick and speedy recovery.
Another TE (V Davis) gave us fits.
Seattle in four days.
(It's always something). Winning teams usually have one or two relatively mistake-free games as part of their resumes. Where's ours?
We weren't expected to beat the Niners and lived up to those expectations, but for three quarters, we demonstrated that we belonged on the same field as those guys. What did us in, however, were miscues and turnovers. They're killing an almost poetic effort by our defense who deserves better.
We face an even bigger challenge at home vs. Seattle in four days. In addition to the need to regain depleted energy by Thursday night, we'll need to put on Big Boy Pants again but also load up on Mental Alertness tablets if we're to prevail over the Seahawks.