The Arizona Cardinals faithful are hoping Monday night’s 24-9 loss against the San Francisco 49ers won’t initiate a repeat of last season. The Cardinals raced to 7-3 start a year ago only to finish losing four of their final six games. Similar to 2008, Arizona has all but wrapped-up the NFC West although they were unable to clinch the division against San Francisco in front of a national audience.
After sweeping the season series from the 49ers last year, the Cardinals are now winless against San Francisco for the second time in the last three campaigns. QB Kurt Warner was under constant duress all evening and Arizona was unable to overcome seven turnovers. Furthermore, the Cardinals managed only 11 first downs and committed 11 penalties for 78 yards.
Five Arizona players fumbled including three by the team’s running backs. Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling were all unable to hold onto the ball, forcing the Cardinals’ defense into inopportune spots throughout the game. Wells led the team in rushing with 79 yards on 15 carries and also scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. However, a late fumble lead to the 49ers’ final score and a 24-9 lead.
Warner experienced his worst game of the season, completing just 16-of-29 passes for 178 yards and he failed to thrown a touchdown for the first time this year. San Francisco’s pass rush got to Warner early and often registering four sacks and forcing Warner into three turnovers on the night. San Francisco linebackers Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks were a two-man wreaking crew as Willis tallied four tackles for a loss while Brooks racked up three sacks.
Arizona’s usually potent wide receiving corps was held in check as second-year WR Early Doucet led the team with two catches for 41 yards. Like Warner, Pro Bowl wideouts Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were limited to one of their lowest outputs of the year. Boldin tallied five grabs for 40 yards while Fitzgerald reeled in just two passes for 22 yards. Fitzgerald was briefly sidelined with a knee injury but returned to action in the second half.
On a positive note, the Cardinals’ defense performed admirably despite being on the field for over 36 minutes of the game. Arizona limited the 49ers to just 327 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers. In addition to turnovers and penalties, the Cardinals inability to stop the run led to their demise. San Francisco RB Frank Gore compiled 167 yards on the ground and his 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
Next up for Arizona is a two-game stretch against two of the NFL’s worst teams. The Cardinals have another chance to clinch the NFC West next week at the Detroit Lions and return home to host the St. Louis Rams in Week 16. With catching the Minnesota Vikings for the second NFC playoff seed now out of reach, Arizona will turn its focus towards securing a better record than the eventual winner of the NFC East.
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