A question that has been answered for at least this week was whether the San Francisco 49ers, in their Sunday game against the Arizona Cardinals, would miss rookie holdout wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Quarterback Shaun Hill guided his team on an 80-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter, enough for San Francisco to squeak past Arizona 20-16 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The running attacks of both teams, for the most part, were non-existent as both teams combined for a paltry 61 yards – a typical first-half for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Which meant that both teams would have to rely on the air to get anywhere. A curious fact in this game was that reserve running back Tim Hightower – not exactly known for his volume of pass receptions – somehow managed to catch more passes from Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (12) for more yardage (121) than the usually-dangerous duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald (8 and 90 yards) combined.
But defense – especially run defense – was the rule of the day, although I will submit the argument that strictly on a statistical basis, neither QB distinguished themselves. The first quarter was rather nondescript as the only scoring was by way of the foot as 49ers kicker Joe Nedney booted a pair of field goals, giving San Francisco a 6-0 lead.
Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers would add a 44-yard FG, narrowing the 49ers’ lead to 6-3; however, 49ers running back Frank Gore would score on a 6-yard scamper, helping San Francisco regain the lead at 13-3 at the 2:23 mark of the second quarter. Rackers would add a 29-yard FG at exactly 0:00 of the first half, allowing to go to their locker room with only a seven-point deficit at 13-6.
The Cardinals would get into the touchdown column as Warner and Fitzgerald hooked up on a 5-yard TD pass, tying this affair up at 13; the fourth quarter began with a 43-yard Rackers FG, and for around 7 minutes and 26 seconds, it was a battle of field position and attrition as neither team could mount much offense.
But the tide turned for the 49ers as Hill directed an 80-yard drive which culminated in a Hill-to-Gore TD pass, giving San Francisco a 4-point lead – one that they would hang onto for dear life, giving them a rare win in Glendale, AZ.
Neither QB, statistically, did anything special as Hill went 18-for-31 for 209 yards and a TD while Warner went 26-of-44 for 288 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions. Rushing just didn’t happen as Gore led San Francisco with 22 carries for only 30 yards and a score while rookie Beanie Wells led all Arizona rushers with 29 yards on 7 carries.
Veteran Isaac Bruce led the 49ers receivers with 74 yards on 4 receptions while tight end Vernon Davis caught five for 40 yards; the aforementioned Hightower led all Cardinals receivers with 12 catches for 121 yards while WR Jerheme Urban added 74 receiving yards on 5 catches. Fitagerald caught 6 passes for 71 yards and a score.
With the win, San Francisco (1-0) will take momentum back home as they have their season-opener next week, hosting the 1-0 Seattle Seahawks while Arizona (0-1) will try to recover as they travel to Jacksonville to take on the 0-1 Jaguars.