The 49ers will make their second appearance on primetime when they face their division rival Arizona Cardinals tonight. To say this game means a lot to both clubs is an understatement. The 49ers trail the Cardinals by 3 games in the NFC West with just four games remaining. The Cards can wrap up the division title with a win while the 49ers need a win to keep postseason hopes alive.
These teams always seem to play each other tough, especially on the national stage. Last season, the 49ers lost a Monday night heartbreaker is the desert, 29-24. In 2007, Alex Smith lead a dramatic late drive in the season opener on MNF, pulling out the win 20-17. Both teams will certainly be prepared and deliver some excitement.
Joe Staley could be making his return tonight as he’s listed as questionable on the injury report. We’ll have the inactives 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
49ers Inactives: QB Nate Davis (3rd QB), CB Nate Clements, CB Marcus Hudson, LB Diyral Briggs, C Cody Wallace, T Joe Staley, DT Baraka Atkins, WR Isaac Bruce
Cardinals Inactives: QB Brian St. Pierre (3rd QB), CB Greg Toler, LB Reggie Walker, LB Will Davis, G/T Herman Johnson, G/T Brandon Keith, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban
Neil Rackers kickoff was short and fielded by Delanie Walker. 1st and 10 from the 25, Alex smith looked for Vernon Davis over the middle but Adrian Wilson had tight coverage and was able to knock it away. 2nd and 10, Smith couldn’t find anyone open and rolled out of the pocket and decided to take off down the right sideline for a gain of 5. 3rd and 5, Smith threw for Davis crossing deep. Smith knew he could take a shot after a neutral zone infraction on the Cards. That will result in a first down. 1st and 10 from the 35, Smith completed to Walker for a gain of 1. Calais Campbell was flagged for offsides again. Smith’s cadence is getting to AZ early. 1st and 5, Gore got the carry, but was stopped by Dansby in the backfield. 2nd and 5, Smith threw deep for Walker on a seem as he knew he could take another shot after another offsides by Arizona. So far, Smith’s cadence has been their best offensive weapon. 2nd and 1, Smith play faked and wanted to hit Crabtree on a deep post. The pass sailed too long though, incomplete. 3rd and 1, Gore lowered his head and plunged forward against the tackle of Dansby, good enough for the first. 1st and 10 from the SF 48, Smith was under pressure, but was able to get the ball to Gore as he was hit for a gain of 3. 2nd and 7, Gore got the handoff from the shotgun and bounced out to the right. A good block from Baas who pulled gave him a gain of 6. 3rd and 1, Gore ran straight ahead and was tripped up just as he got past the sticks. 1st and 10 from the AZ 41, Smith handed off to Gore as he faked the end around to Josh Morgan. There wasn’t much running room as Gore picked up 1. 2nd and 9, Smith’s pass was batted at the line by Dockett and intercepted. Dockett appeared to fumble the ball or if he didn’t have posession, the ball would be ruled incomplete. Singletary wants the officials to take a second look and threw the challenge flag. SF will be charged with a timeout as the ruling on the field stands.
1st and 10 for the Cards from the AZ 46, Hightower got the carry, but Takeo Spikes knifed into the backfield and stopped him for a gain of 1. 2nd and 9, Justin Smith threw down Warner as he got rid of the ball, forcing the incomplete pass. 3rd and 9, Steve Breaston appeared to have a step on Dre’ Bly, but Bly made a fantastic play to dive and break up the throw. The 49ers punt return team nearly had about four guys block the punt, but it somehow got off clean and Arnaz Battle signaled for the fair catch at the 19.
1st and 10 from the 19, Smith avoided the rush and threw to his checkdown, but Gore could only get back to the line. 2nd and 10, Smith hit Crabtree on the WR screen to the right. He mad a great move on the first man and picked up 8. 3rd and 2, Gore got some great blocks to the right side and then cut back left for a huge gain of 36. 1st and 10 from the AZ 37, Smith couldn’t find anyone open as Campbell closed in for the sack. 2nd and 16, Smith had Crabtree open and it would have been a tough catch, but Crabtree nearly hauled it in off the fingertips. 3rd and 16, Smith threw for Jones who was hauled down before the pass got there by McFadden. No flag from the refs and Lee comes in to punt. Brit Miller downed a great punt by Lee at the 6.
Arizona’s ball at the 6. 1st and 10, Hightower bounced left and fumbled the ball and it was returned for a TD by Bly. The refs though Hightower’s knee which it clearly did not by the replay. All the refs can do though is award the ball to San Francisco though as they blew the play dead before Bly took it back 8-yards for the would be touchdown. The refs confirmed the mistaken fumble. Bly won’t get a TD and the 49ers are out of first-half challenges. Goldson forced the fumble.
1st and goal from the 9, Gore cutback and plunged ahead down to the 5-yardline. 2nd and goal, Smith hit Davis on the quick slant for the touchdown. The ball was right on the numbers and had to be thrown perfect as Wilson had good coverage. Glen Coffee also made a nice block on Smith’s blind side to give him time to throw.
49ers 7 – Cardinals 0
The Cardinals will start their drive from the 25. 1st and 10, Warner threw quick left to Boldin who made a goo grab for a gain of 7. 2nd and 3, Warner hit Stephen-Howling on the slant. Willis grabbed him from behind and stripped the ball. Mark Roman picked it up and brought it back to the 28.
1st and 10, Smith hit Moran Norris out of the backfield for a short gain of 3. 2nd and 7 from the 25, Smith threw quick left for Walker on a semi-screen for a gain of 2. 3rd and 5, Smith was pressured up the middle but he was able to buy some time for Crabtree to get open, but only for a gain of 3. Nedney will come on and connect from 37 yards out to but the 49ers up by two scores.
49ers 10 – Cardinals 0
Manny Lawson was clearly held on the kickoff return. That penalty will back the Cards up to their own 16. 1st and 10 for AZ, a nice play by Haralson who took on the block and shed it inside to stop Wells for a gain of just 3. The clock will wind down on a very productive first quarter for the home team.
2nd and 7 fro AZ from the 19, Warner looked for Bolding crossing but his receiver slipped. 3rd and 7, Warner hit Early Doucet who found a hole in the zone for the first down and a gain of 12. 1st and 10 from the 31, Beanie Well had a good run bouncing out to the left for a gain of 23. 1st and 10 from the SF 46, Warner threw for Fitzgerald down by the goal line. Goldson rolled with Fitz as he came to the ground and appeared to come up with the ball. The officials initially spotted the ball and then ruled it incomplete as Goldson started to return the ball. On the replay, it appeared to me that the ball was moving around as the receiver hit the ground. I do think it hit the ground in the end zone angle as Goldson gained control. The officials appeared to get it right and confirmed it after the AZ challenge. 2nd and 10, Waner hit Fitzgerald as the pressure arrived. Flags on the field as Spencer was called for a face mask. 1st and 10 from the 18, Warner looked for Breaston in the end zone. Bly nearly got his hands on it, but it sailed incomplete. 2nd and 10, Wells had a nice run out to the right side and he was probably helped by a block in the back by Fitzgerald. That negates the play and will back AZ up. 2nd and 20, Warner looked for Breatson along the left side. Goldson came up with his 2nd great play, cutting in front and picking it off. The 49ers only rushed 2 on that play.
1st and 10 for the 49ers from their own 12, false start by Davis will back them up 5. 1st and 15, Gore broke loose up the middle, cut left, broke a tackle and got some good blocks by his receivers for a gain of 31. 1st and 10 from the 38, Gore ran behind the right guard for a gain of 1. 2nd and 9, Smith’s pass was batted at the line and he caught his own pass to keep it away from the Cards, but it’ll be a loss of 6. 3rd and 15, the Cardinals brought pressure up the middle and Smith had to backpedal before throwing it at the feet of Coffee. Andy Lee will punt. Breaston picked up the ball after it bounced and cut back before he was leveled by Coffee. Brian Jennings was called for a hold so that gives Arizona an additional 10 yards on the return. The Cardinals changed their minds on the penalty and will back the 49ers up 10 yards and make them kick it again. Take 2, Jason Hill made a nice tackle as Breaston bounced left. Another flag though, this one on Arizona for unnecessary roughness. In a strange turn of events, the Cardinals would have been better off taking the first kick and penalty. Now they’ll have the ball at their own 14.
1st and 1o from the 14, Warner hit Boldin who was cut down by Roman after a gain of 3. 2nd and 7, Justin Smith wasn’t going anywhere, plugging the lane and tackling Stephens-Howling after a gain of 3. 3rd and 4, Warner hit Breatson, but hit foot was on the right sideline as he made the catch. Ben Graham will punt. Battle caught the punt and bounced around the left side for a moderate gain of 6.
49ers ball, 1st and 10 from their own 32, Smith hit Morgan on a comeback to the right for a good gain of 8. 2nd and 2, Gore continues to have success up the middle, finding a nice hole for a gain of 8. 1st and 10 from the SF 48, Smith was hit by Hayes as he threw incomplete. 2nd and 10, Smith threw for Morgan, but the defender got there as the ball arrived to force the incomplete. 3rd and 10, Smith hit Crabtree who would have had an easy first. He slipped though, got back up and made a great move and stiff arm to move the chains – great play. 1st and 10 from the 37, Gore took the handoff and moved the pile for a gain of 3. 2nd and 7, Smith hit morgan who will actually lose yardage. 3rd and 8, Smith put it right there for Davis, but Wilson made a great play to get his hand on it. Nedney’s 53-yard field goal attempt was long enough, but missed right.
1st and 10 from the 43, Warner hit Breaston who caught the ball on his knees for a 15-yard gain. 1st and 10 from the SF 42, Wells bounced out right and plunged violently ahead for a gain of 4. 2nd and 6, Warner tried to set up the screen to the right, but the pass was high. 3rd and 6, Brown read Boldin’s route and picked it off at the 32. That was a great catch by Brown.
*** The 49ers have forced 4 first-half turnovers for the first time siince 1/6/02 against the Saints (4 INTs).
1st and 10 for the 49ers from the 32, Smith hit Gore in the left flat. He made one move on Wilson to pick up 8. 2nd and 2, the 49ers were called for delay of game. That brings up the two minute warning. 2nd and 7, Smith hit Hill to the right as the Cards showed blitz. A nice play call picks up the first down. 1st and 10 from the 45, Smith put it there for Crabtree who couldn’t make the grab on the dig route. It would’ve been a difficult catch. 2nd and 10, Smith’s pass was well behind Crabtree. 3rd and 10, Smith hit Davis over the middle who ripped it out of there against the coverage of Wilson. 1st and 10, Smith hit Morgan for a gain of 7. 2nd and 3, Smith hit Crabtree crossing. It was a great grab as he outran the defense cutting back for the 35-yard touchdown.
49ers 17 – Cardinals 0
Stephens-Howling made a good move to bounce of a tackle on the kick return and get out to the 42. (:42 remaining in the half) 1st and 10, Warner dumps to Boldin over the middle and the Cardinals will use their second timeout. (:34) 2nd and 3 from the 50, Warner got it off to Fitz over the middle for a gain of 9. 1st and 10, Brooks flew around LT Mike Gandy and knocked the ball out of Warner’s hands.
49ers ball with 7 seconds left at their own 43, Smith’s pass was ahead of Crabtree along the sideline. 2nd and 10 with 3 seconds left, Gore got the carry and bounced around the right side for a gain of around 9. That ends the first half and the Faithful out a Candlestick give their team a well deserved applause after a very good first half.
Train will take the field for their halftime performance.
*** This marks the first time the 49ers have forced 5 first-half turnovers since 9/14/97 against New Orleans.
Alex Smith was 15 of 27 passing in the first half for 112 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. His favorite target was Crabtree who had 4 catches for 61 yards and the touchdown. Frank Gore also had a huge first half with 104 yards on 13 carries. Despite passing much more lately, the 49ers talked this week about needing balance on offense. So far, today’s effort has fit that mold to a tee. Though they have twice as many pass attempts, the running game has been mixed in nicely by offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and the Cardinals defense has been kept off balance. The Cardinals are never out of any game and the 49ers cannot rest on this lead in the second half. The Cards will also get the ball to begin the second half.
The Cardinals will begin the second half with the ball at their own 24. 1st and 10, Wells ran up the middle and was brought down by Willis after picking up 5. 2nd and 5, Live Brown and Deuce Latui were called for a false start. 2nd and 10, Wells got a nice hole on the right side, where the 49ers dropped to coverage and picked up 12. 1st and 10, Well sprinted around the left side and was brought down by Goldson after a gain of 9. 2nd and 1, Warner threw it up for Fitzgerald between the double coverage of Spencer and Goldson. Amazingly, he nearly made the grab, but was shaken up on the play. He hit the ground hard and was helped to the sideline. 3rd and 1, Warner tossed it left to Wells who got around the left edge for a gain of 11. 1st and 10 from the SF 45, Willis wrapped up Wells’ ankles after a gain of 6. 2nd and 4, Wells dove ahead near a first down, but will be short by about a yard. 3rd and 1, the 49ers strung Wells out to the right and Willis finished it off with the TFL. Graham will punt. Jason Wright decided to backpedal on the AZ punt team all by himself and that moves the Cards back 5 yards. Arizona downed the ball and dropped it. Battle picked it up smartly and at least gained a few more yards. Smart play by the veteran.
*** Michael Robinson has a stinger and his return is questionable.
1st and 10 for the 49ers from the 10, Gore ran up the middle, but couldn’t find much room and picked up just 1. 2nd and 9, Gore got the carry to the right and was stopped right at the line of scrimmage and actually lost 1 yard on the play. 3rd and 10, Smith hit Davis crossing, but the ball bounced off his hands incomplete. Lee’s low kick bounced and was fielded by Breaston around midfield before retreating 5 yards on the return.
*** Larry Fitzgerald has a right knee sprain and his return is questionable.
1st and 10 from the 35, Aubrayo Franklin made a nice play to drop and leap up to tip Warner’s pass at the line. 2nd and 10, Ray McDonald was called for a neutral zone infraction. 2nd and 5, Warner threw for Doucet who initially made the grab, but Brown knocked it away as he came to the ground. 3rd and 5 from the 50, Doucet pushed off of Brown to make the catch down the right sideline. 1st and 10 from the 21, Wells got outside the left tackle for a nice gain, but he was aided on a hold so that one’s coming back. 1st and 20 from the 31, Warner hit Hightower on the screen for a gain of 7. 2nd and 13, Justin Smith got good pressure up the middle and knocked down Warner’s pass. 3rd and 13, Brooks came around the left side and hauled down Warner for the sack, making a Cardinals field goal 6-yard more difficult. Rackers 48-yard field goal attempt squeaked in just above the cross bar.
49ers 17 – Cardinals 3
Coffee returned the kick out to the 22. 1st and 10, the 49ers got some good running room for Gore as he hit the hole in the middle for a gain of 5. 2nd and 5, the 49ers came with the heavy set and Rachal pulled to the middle as Gore rumbled ahead for a gain of 10. 1st and 10 from the 37, Smith hit Norris out of the backfield who made a good catch for a gain of 3. 2nd and 7, Wilson undercut the route by Walker and picked off Smith’s pass.
Arizona’s ball, 1st and 10 at the SF 43, Warner hit Boldin who was thrown down by Spikes after a gain of 9. 2nd and 1, Wells cut back in the middle for no gain. 3rd and 1, Warner faked the handoff and hit Wells out of the backfield for a big gain down to the 10. 1st and goal from the 10, great penetration by the front line forced Wells outside where Willis dragged him down for a loss of 2. 2nd and goal from the 12, Warner hit Stephens-Howling who was brought down by Lewis at the 7. That brings an end to the quarter.
3rd and goal, Warner hit Stephens-Howling out of the backfield who was tackled at the 1. Cards go for it on 4th down and Wells got in on second effort. Ray McDonald blocked the extra point to keep the 49ers on top by 8.
49ers 17 – Cardinals 9
Coffee fielded the kickoff on a bounce and did well to get out to the 33. 1st and 10 for the 49ers, Smith gave to Gore who ran behind the left guard for a gain of 4. 2nd and 6, Gore got a hole to the right side and cut back for a big gain. Holding against Josh Morgan will bring it back 10 yards, but it’s still a first down. 1st and 10 from the 50, Smith tried to hit Walker along the right side, but it was broken up. 2nd and 10, Coffee got his first carry of the game and wiggled through the middle for a gain of 5. 3rd and 5, Smith’s pass is batted down at the line and that’s force a punt. Breaston called for the fair catch at the 11.
1st and 10 for the Cardinals from their own 11, Wells ran up the middle and was hit by Goldson who jarred the ball loose yet again. Haralson fell on the ball to give the 49ers their sixth turnover of the game. Apparently the 49ers do pretty well on primetime when it comes to turnovers. They picked off Jay Cutler 5 times on Thursday Night Football earlier this year.
1st and 10 from the 16, Gore got the carry and followed his blocks to the right for a gain of 16. 1st and goal from the 5, Gore couldn’t fine running room and was stopped for no gain up the middle. 2nd and goal, Gore followed the block of Norris up the middle for a gain of 3. The 49ers will take their first timeout before running the 3rd down play. 3rd and goal from the 2, Gore rumbled in for the score on the left side – with some assistance from Norris who came in to help move the pile.
49ers 24 – Cardinals 9
Stephens-Howling returned the kick to the 24. 1st and 10 for AZ, Warner hit Hightower in the left flat for a gain of 7. 2nd and 3, Brooks flew off the line of scrimmage and hit Warner, knocking the ball loose. The Cards recovered. 3rd and 7, Willis came up the middle and literally jumped on Warner for the sack. Battle muffed the punt, but it rolled out of bounds.
1st and 10 from the 22, Gore got the carry and picked up 3. 2nd and 7, Coffee got the carry, but Arizona had a good push on the right side to shut it down for a loss. 3rd and 10, Smith hit Davis who sprinted past the sticks and turned around to make the catch in front of Wilson. 1st and 10 from the 38, Norris got the carry and plunged ahead for a short gain.
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