The Arizona Cardinals have – if they haven’t done so already – made believers out of the NFL, NFL fans and myself. It wasn’t that long ago that the Cardinals were also-rans on a regular basis. Enter head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the wise decision to start Kurt Warner over the overrated Matt Leinart. Warner threw for 3 touchdowns while getting some help from the San Francisco 49ers late in the game with some questionable time management, allowing Arizona to get past San Francisco 29-24 on Monday night.
The game started promising enough for the 49ers as kick returner Allen Rossum returned the opening kickoff 104 yards for a TD, giving San Francisco a very early 7-0 lead; they would increase their lead to 13-3 on a 31-yard TD pass from Shaun Hill to wide receiver Josh Morgan. The Cardinals at that point began to get their offensive groove on as Warner’s 46-yard pass to WR Steve Breaston set up a TD pass to Anquan Boldin that got the Cardinals to within 14-10; a 33-yard field goal by kicker Neil Rackers narrowed the 49ers advantage to 14-13. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis‘ 18-yard TD catch would give the 49ers a 21-13 lead that they would take into the third quarter.
Arizona would finally take the lead until linebacker Karlos Dansby’s 34-yard interception would set up a TD pass from Warner to Boldin, giving the Cardinals a 29-14 lead, but the 49ers would have a couple chances to win the game. The first opportunity ended on an INT by Hill by defensive back Adrian Wilson; San Francisco would get one last chance, but poor time management, combined with a stout goal-line defense by the Cardinals sealed the deal.
Hill had a mediocre performance, going 19-of-40 for 217 yards with 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s while Warner fared much better, going 32-of-42 for 328 yards and 3 TD’s. Frank Gore led the 49ers rushing attack with 99 yards on 23 carries while Arizona’s Tim Hightower had a team-high 22 yards. James Hill led all 49ers receivers with 7 receptions for 84 yards while Morgan caught 4 passes for 54 yards and a score; Davis had 18 receiving yards and a TD. Breaston led the Cardinals receivers with 7 receptions for 121 yards while Boldin caught 7 passes for 92 and 2 scores; Larry Fitzgerald chipped in with 49 receiving yards and a TD. Arizona (6-3) plays again on Sunday when they fly north to Seattle to face the Seahawks while San Francisco (2-7) returns home to host the St. Louis Rams – also on Sunday.