The 49ers 23-7 win over the Cardinals clinched their first winning season since 2002 when the team last made the playoffs. With a 9-1 record and five-game division lead with six games to play, the 49ers seem destined to return to the playoffs this season. The 49ers easily handled the Cardinals but you would not know the game was one-sided by looking at the final score. The 49ers mostly stopped themselves on offense than the Cardinals defense keeping them from reaching the end-zone. The rain might have played a factor in the 49ers unable to convert turnovers into touchdowns. The rain did play a factor in the first-half for kicker David Akers who missed three field goals. I attended yesterday’s game and I have never heard a crowd that loud at a Niners game. Even in the middle of the fourth quarter as the 49ers were well on their way to victory and the stadium half-empty, the crowd was just as loud. Check back later as I will be posting pictures from the game.
The 49ers were fully focused on the Cardinals game and did not seem to be looking ahead to the Ravens game now being called the Har-Bowl. Get ready for Thanksgiving tonight 49er Faithful. Our team will be on full display for the NFL nation to see what the 49ers are all about. This will also be a great opportunity on Thanksgiving to shut-up all the family members who still do not give the 49ers credit and respect. Check in all week at Niner Noise for full coverage of the Har-Bowl. Until then, let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets.
= VERY GOOD
The offense finished with 431 total yards with 387 coming in the first three quarters. Even with the offensive outburst the 49ers could only get 23 total points. The offense had red-zone issues and QB Alex Smith, who is normally a red-zone passing machine, missed two touchdown passes that sailed over Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree who were wide open. Smith ended his streak of 151 passes without an interception in the red-zone when his pass in the fourth quarter was picked-off by Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington. Smith ended the day 20-of-38 passing for 267 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. I counted about five passes that Smith overthrew that should have been completed. Against the Ravens Smith will need to make the throws more accurate. The wide receivers also dropped some of Smith’s that should have been caught.
The offense started two first-half drives inside the Cardinals’ 39-yard line and only came away with three points. In the first-half the offense had six possessions that ended with six field goal attempts. The 49ers led at halftime 9-0. After the 49ers went up 23-0 with a little over four minutes left in the third quarter the offense had out gained the Cardinals offense by 300 yards (370 to 70) and humiliated the Cards in time of possession with 31:16 to 9:30. The concern is the 49ers ended the game winning by only 16 points. The 49ers are close to getting elite status in the NFL but only winning by 16 points after dominating the Cardinals as much as they did gives the naysayers fuel for not respecting the 49ers.
Michael Crabtree looked like a top-ten draft pick in the game with seven receptions for 120 yards. In first drive of the second half Crabtree caught a pass for 29-yards that included a specular catch-and-run that saw him break four tackles. The catch-and-run helped the 49ers score their first touchdown of the game after 13-play, 84-yard drive. The TD pass was caught by seldom used WR Kyle Williams who had career highs in receptions (5) and yards (54). Williams was put in the game to replace Braylon Edwards who did not have a catch. Jim Harbaugh said after the game Edwards is not fully recovered from his injury which is why Williams went into the game. Edwards may not be 100% but I think his benching had to do with him missing passes he should have caught.
This stat says everything you need to know about the 49ers defense not only in the game but how the defense operates: Through the first three quarters the Cardinals offense had more turnovers, five, than first downs, four.
Cardinals QB John Skelton was a big reason why their offense could not get going against the 49ers. Skelton was benched after three quarters completing just 6-of-19 passes for 99 yards with three interceptions to Patrick Willis, Donte Whitner and Dashson Goldson. Skelton’s QB rating on the day was a horrible 10.5
The defense was able to limit the damage done by the lone threat on offense, WR Larry Fitzgerald, to only three receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown. It is hard for an offense to get their play making receiver the football when your QB cannot get the pass off in time. The 49ers defense finished with two sacks and 11 passes deflected.
The 49ers defense made the Cardinals offense look amateurish only allowing 149 passing yards and 80 rushing yards. The 49ers defense still has not given up a rushing touchdown this season. This will help the 49ers in containing Ravens RB Ray Rice in the Har-Bowl.
One way to limit Cardinals rookie return man Patrick Peterson from doing damage? Don’t kick a punt until 42 minutes after the start of the game with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. Peterson averaged 11 yards on two returns.
The MVP of the 49ers and Mr. Automatic David Akers did not look like his normal self. It may have been the rain but Akers missed 3-of-6 field goals with two of the missed attempts blocked. With the 49ers strong defense there was no damage other than the 49ers not being able to extend their lead. This was a one-time, off-game for Akers. He is still as reliable and accurate as ever.
Coach Harbaugh was able to keep his players focused on the Cardinals after a huge win over the Giants and their biggest game of the season against the Ravens on Thanksgiving Night, four days from now. Harbaugh’s offense and special teams could have played better but when you have the type of defense like the 49ers, the defense can be leaned on to carry the team to victory. I am nitpicking here but Harbaugh should have known he couldn’t challenge Bruce Miller’s reception at the goal line in the first quarter. Harbaugh made up for it by challenging Beanie Wells’ non-fumble call which was overturned and lead to a 49ers field goal.
Offense coordinator Greg Roman had his running backs lining up as wide receivers on the outside. Multiple times I saw Frank Gore lined up on the outside despite him being hurt. None of the passes went to the RB’s in the wide receiver slot but Roman could be setting up the play for the Ravens or the following game. Roman found a way to use Gore successfully despite a hurt knee and ankle. Gore had 24 carries for 88 yards.
One of the things that makes defensive coordinator Vic Fangio so valuable to the defense is he gets opposing offenses to play uncomfortable and out of their game plan that leads to mistakes and frustration. This was on full display yesterday as the Cardinals were flustered all game. See Dashon Goldson and Cardinals receiver Early Doucet’s fight in the game.
NEXT UP: @Ravens
The Har-Bowl. This game is huge for both teams and their playoff races. If the 49ers cannot convert field goals into touchdowns against the Ravens they will lose unlike Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.