In the heated and physical game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, defense and turnovers were the main storylines. The 49ers defense forced four turnovers, to the Cardinals’ two turnovers in the game. This in turn led to San Francisco being able to win, 32-20, against their division foes.
Early in the game for the Niners the defense bailed out the offense who could not score a touchdown after getting inside the ten-yard line three times. San Francisco did manage six points on two field goals, but Colin Kaepernick (252 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) had a pass intended for FB Bruce Miller tipped at the line that led to an interception on the third drive of the game. Kaepernick could not get his offense into the end zone despite starting the three drives at the seven-, eight- and three-yard line.
In the beginning, the offense was playing like it was 2011 with all of their red zone woes. A lot of credit is due to Arizona’s defense that ended the Niners’ first drive with a goal-line stand, a three-and-out on the second and an interception by safety Yeremiah Bell on the third series of the game.
The 49ers offense was given the great field position because of interceptions by Carlos Rogers and Eric Reid in the first quarter. With the offense stalled, the defense ended the Cardinals’ offensive drives with a punt, interception, punt and interception. But on Arizona’s fourth drive, Carson Palmer (298 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) connected with Larry Fitzgerald (6 rec., 117 yards, 1 TD) for a 75-yard touchdown pass to go up, 7-6.
After Kaepernick threw his first interception, the Cardinals started the drive at their own half yard-line. Three plays later, rookie Corey Lemonier recorded safety on Palmer to give San Francisco an 8-7 lead. It was Lemonier’s first sack of his career. Kaepenerick would repay his defense for the INT with a 61-yard touchdown bomb to Vernon Davis on the following drive.
The back-and-forth between the two teams continued after Carlos Rogers gave up a 53-yard reception to receiver Brittan Golden. On the next play, running back Andre Ellington ran in a 15-yard rushing score to pull the Cardinals into one point of the lead at 15-14.
Towards the end of the first half, Kaepernick was able to pad San Francisco’s lead with another TD to Davis to make it 22-14. The Niners had possession of the football again before the end of the half, but Kaepernick fumbled at San Francisco’s 44-yard line with just over a minute left. To the rescue again came the Niners defense who forced Arizona to punt.
Kaepernick opened the second half with a three-and-out because of a stingy Cardinals defense. Arizona’s defense was led by linebacker Carlos Dansby who had a great game with nine tackles, half a sack and ten passes defended. It seemed like Dansby was running in to make a tackle on every play. He stripped Vernon Davis of a reception that went incomplete and he tipped the pass that led to Kaepernick’s first interception.
On the following drive, Palmer threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to receiver Michael Floyd. Down 22-20 after the TD, head coach Bruce Arians decided to go for two, which failed because of the Niners defense. The touchdown in the third quarter was it for the Cardinals scoring points in the game.
The game changing play came with the 49ers up 22-20 late in the third quarter. Patrick Willis forced a fumble that stopped a Cardinals drive that was at San Francisco’s 31-yard line. After the turnover, Kaepernick led the offense on an impressive drive 18-play, 89-yard touchdown drive. Kendall Hunter ran for a six-yard TD to make the score, 29-20. The drive was decisive because it ate up nine minutes and 34 seconds off the clock.
Kaepernick made Vernon Davis the MVP on offense with eight receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side of the football, Carlos Rogers was the star of the game with seven tackles and one interception.
Next up, the Niners travel to Tennessee to take on the 3-3 Titans.