The result of Monday night’s game was a rare game of happiness for the 49er Faithful. For the first time all season the 49ers played well in each quarter and held a lead all game. Keep in mind the 27-6 win was against the Cardinals who entered the game on a five-game losing streak. The 49ers looked great on offense and defense because a great game plan played a huge role in the win. But any NFL fan watching Monday Night Football this week saw how pathetic of an effort the Cardinals put up and we are lucky the 49ers took full advantage and did not allow the Cardinals to come back in the second half. Yes, with the win we are one game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West however I will not start thinking playoffs until the 49ers return back to .500. The 49ers will need to beat the Packers at Green Bay, the Seahawks at home and the Chargers in San Diego for this to happen. Only after the Chargers game if the 49ers are on a four-game winning streak with a record of 7-7 will I entertain the thoughts of the playoffs. Until then playoffs are just wishful thinking. Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets (GGN). GGN’s are awarded based on the 49ers play and range from 1 being the worst, to 5 being the best.
You wouldn’t know that Frank Gore ran the football only five times by looking at the 261 rushing yards the 49ers had after the victory over the Cardinals. Backup Brian Westbrook accounted for 136 of those rushing yards as he became the featured running back after Gore suffered a broken hip early in the game. Gore will be out for the rest of the season and this presents a harder challenge for the 49ers to win the NFC West. Still, seeing Westbrook run all over the Cardinals showed he has not lost a step however it was just one game and his real test will come against the Packers. Mike Singletary only used Westbrook five times rushing the football before Monday Night’s game and gained nine yards. My concern with Westbrook is that he has only been used sparingly and will now become the featured running back and used a lot more. If Singletary had used Westbrook more in the beginning of the season this would not be concern and more importantly Gore may have not suffered his injury with more rest during the season.
Quarterback Troy Smith had a beautiful throw on his only touchdown pass of the game, a 38-yard score by Michael Crabtree. Smith finished the game with only 129 passing yards and one interception. The interception was Crabtree’s fault as the pass went through his hands, hit his helmet and landed in the hands of Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams. With how the 49ers dominated rushing against the Cardinals all Smith had to do was effectively hand-off the football.
The 49ers offensive line had their best game as a group this season. More importantly rookie guard Mike Iupati and tackle Anthony Davis looked like veterans on the national stage. Iupati is a master at pulling on run plays and led the way on Westbrook’s eight-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that widened the 49ers lead to 21-3. Davis had his best game of his short career going up against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Danrell Dockett. Dockett finished the night with only three tackles and no sacks. Center David Baas also played a part in helping the offense finish with 261 rushing yards.
For the first time all season the defense did not allow a touchdown and only gave up six points. This the first time I have awarded five GGN’s this season to any group because of the way the defense shutdown a lost Arizona Cardinals offense. The 49ers D basically only had to stop the pass because the Cardinals all but abandoned their running game rushing only 11 times all game for a total of 13 rushing yards. When Derek Anderson did pass he was not successful thanks to blanket coverage by the 49ers secondary. It seemed as if the 49ers cornerbacks and linebackers knew where the passes where going before the Cardinals receivers did. Cornerback Nate Clements did a great job limiting Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to only four receptions for 37 yards and no touchdowns.
Linebacker Takeo Spikes had a great game with two tackles, a pass deflection and an interception. The interception came late in the third quarter and resulted in a field goal to make the score 27-6 and sealed the win for the 49ers. Spikes is a talented veteran that often gets overlooked because of Pro Bowler Patrick Willis.
The special teams unit was all about returner Ted Ginn Jr. Monday night. Ginn only had two kickoff returns but made the best out of both of them. Ginn’s first one was his most impressive as he returned the kickoff for 41-yards that set up the 49ers second touchdown of the game. The 49ers only had to drive 55-yards thanks to the return. Ginn has not been impressive returning punts this season but averaged 27-yards on his two punts returned on Monday night. Ginn returned his second punt for 42-yards which set up the 49ers third touchdown score to go up 21-3.
Even though kicker Shane Andrus missed his first two field goals of the game (47, 37) he made his next two from 38 and 26 yards. Andrus made all three extra points.
The game against the Cardinals was a great time for Mike Singletary’s version of how to run an offense to be effective. Seeing how punch-less the Cardinals were playing I can see why Singletary had offensive coordinator Mike Johnson run the football 47 times and passed only 23 times. Singletary’s offensive philosophy only works when the 49ers are playing a bad defense and the Cardinals are the worst defense the 49ers will play this season. Running the football 47 times will not work against the Packers.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky had a great game plan to take away the Cardinals passing game with tight coverage all game. Manusky was not forced to deal with the Cardinals running game as they took out that portion of their offense on their own. The game plan worked so well the 49ers did not need to make adjustments as the game went on.
Up Next: @ Green Bay
Enjoy the big win over the Cardinals as the next three weeks will be huge tests for the 49ers. This weekend poses the 49ers hardest game down the stretch against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers who are coming off a defeat at the hands of the Falcons and are a game out of first-place behind the Bears.