QB Kurt Warner (Streeter Lecka/Getty)
The Cardinals survived a scare from a gutsy San Francisco 49ers squad, but managed to hang on for a 29-24 victory. Despite the win, Arizona took a step back on both sides of the ball after committing double-digit penalties and failing to muster any production in the running game. Brad Wilbricht breaks down Monday night’s game and wraps up the action from University of Phoenix Stadium.
Thanks to questionable clock management and play calling by the San Francisco 49ers, the Cardinals came out on top and improved their record to 6-3 on the season. While Arizona was out-of-sync in all facets of the game, timely big plays helped seal the victory as the Cardinals now hold a four-game lead in the NFC West division.
The Cardinals' seventh consecutive home win got off to an inauspicious start as 49ers’ return specialist Allen Rossum returned the opening kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown. Down 7-0, the Arizona offense drove 65 yards on nine plays but was forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal from kicker Neil Rackers.
San Francisco went on to put up two more touchdowns in the first half and took a 21-13 lead into the locker room at halftime. WR Josh Morgan reeled in a 31-yard pass from QB Shaun Hill early in the second quarter and TE Vernon Davis made an acrobatic touchdown grab with just 29 seconds left in the initial half of play.
Despite nearly allowing the game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds, the Cardinals’ defense held San Francisco to only a field goal in the second half. Arizona forced Hill into three turnovers, picking off two passes and forcing a fumble. On the final play of the game, backup RB Michael Robinson was stuffed from two yards out as time expired on the 49ers’ upset bid.
Cardinals’ QB Kurt Warner continues to perform at an MVP level, completing 32-of-42 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, he protected the ball against an aggressive San Francisco defense and did not commit a turnover. Warner has now thrown for over 300 yards in three consecutive games and has tossed two or more touchdowns in eight straight contests.
Surprisingly, WR Steve Breaston has developed into a go-to target for Warner. Breaston led Arizona in receiving, hauling in seven passes for 121 yards. Pro Bowl wide-outs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald remain constant fixtures in the offense as both players reached pay dirt on Monday night. Boldin finished with seven grabs for 92 yards and two scores while Fitzgerald caught eight balls for 48 yards and one touchdown.
WR Steve Breaston
After a breakout performance last week against the St. Louis Rams, RB Tim Hightower fell on hard times against the 49ers. Hightower managed only 22 yards on 13 carries and was held out of the end zone for just the third time this season. As a team, the Cardinals were limited to 46 yards rushing on 19 attempts, marking Arizona’s second least productive effort of the season.
On defense, the Cardinals held San Francisco RB Frank Gore to 99 yards on 23 carries and narrowly kept him out of the end zone on the second to last play of the game. Gore’s pass catching abilities were also corralled as he finished with just one reception for six yards.
Making his first start in place of QB J.T. O’Sullivan, Hill nearly led the 49ers to an upset victory. He finished 19-of-40 for 217 yards and two touchdowns but also flung a pair of interceptions. WR Jason Hill was the 49ers’ main receiving target as he led the team with seven catches for 84 yards and a score.
Although LB Karlos Dansby committed a crucial personal foul penalty on the 49ers’ final possession of the game, he lead the Cardinals’ defense with 10 tackles. SS Aaron Francisco played arguably his best game of the year, finishing with seven stops on the evening. Arizona’s usually disruptive pass rush was largely ineffective and was held without a sack for the first time all year.
Next up for the Cardinals is a road matchup against the struggling Seattle Seahawks. QB Matt Hasselbeck is expected to return to action for the first time in six weeks and will look to help boost the 2-7 Seahawks.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at email@example.com