SANTA CLARA, Calif. -The 49ers had a chance against the first-place Cardinals, down six with the ball in Arizona's territory inside of two minutes left.
But on fourth-and-20, Blaine Gabbert's pass to Anquan Boldin was two-yards short of the first down, giving the ball back to Carson Palmer and the league's top-ranked offense.
San Francisco's defenders did well for the majority of the game, holding the high-powered Cardinals' attack to 337 yards, while getting 368 themselves. The 49ers had two first-half turnovers that led to six Cardinals points. The home team wound up defeated 19-13.
The Cardinals took the lead with 2:28 remaining on Carson Palmer's seven-yard scramble toward the left pylon, ending a 14-play drive that included two personal fouls called on the 49ers, including one for arguing with referees along the near sideline following a deep incompletion.
The other came on Quinton Dial's eight-yard sack, when he was flagged for roughing the passer. It was a questionable call, to be sure, with Palmer putting his head down to absorb the big hit, with his facemask hitting the top of Dial's helmet.
The 49ers were penalized 13 times by head referee Pete Morelli's crew, for 81 yards.
Six plays later, Palmer found speedy receiver J.J. Nelson for a 34-yard catch down to San Francisco's 1, setting up the touchdown.
The 49ers lone highlight of the first half was a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. It was Dawson’s 17th straight make.
It was an ugly start for both teams. Two San Francisco turnovers led to two Cardinals field goals as the teams went to halftime with Arizona winning 6-3. But as the 49ers' defense typically does, it was playing well at home.
Running back David Johnson scored Arizona's first touchdown on their first possession in the second half, making it a 13-3 game. The Cardinals had eight snaps inside the 49ers' 5-yard line because of four defensive penalties in the end zone on Jimmie Ward, Tramaine Brock, Eric Reid and Michael Wilhoite.
The 49ers responded with a six-play, 77-yard drive, culminating on tight end Vance McDonald's second touchdown in as many weeks. It was an eight-yard score on a crossing route.
San Francisco got production from their reserve tight ends on the drive after the team's leader in touchdown catches, Garrett Celek, was ruled out of the game after a first-quarter ankle injury. On the scoring drive, rookie Blake Bell had the longest catch-and-run of his brief career on a throw across the field from Gabbert. Bell rumbled 48 yards down the left sideline setting up McDonald's score.
Johnson ran a misdirection run from the left side to the right on a hole vacated by rookie defensive end Arik Armstead, who was replacing Glenn Dorsey, who tore his ACL in last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers tied the game late in the third with Dawson's second field goal, coming from 33 yards, that was set up by a 41-yard catch by Torrey Smith.
Gabbert completed 25 of 36 for 318 yards with an interception, including 226 yards passing in the second half. Carson Palmer threw for 271 yards on 24 of 40.
The Cardinals turned Bruce Ellington’s muffed punt into three points by driving 31 yards on eight plays before Chandler Catanzaro’s 31-yard field goal. The 49ers had the Cardinals stopped deep in their own territory before Ellington’s fumble was recovered at their 39-yard line.
There was a lengthy delay between second and third down at the 8-yard line after the referees disputed a spot following a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty on the 49ers.
Tyron Mathieu intercepted Gabbert’s pass to Quinton Patton on San Francisco’s next possession, leading to another 41-yard field goal after cornerback Tramaine Brock dropped an easy interception in the end zone on third down.
Mathieu’s interception was his third this against the 49ers this year, and his fourth for the season. Mathieu was everywhere in the first half, making stops in the back field and breaking up passes, in addition to his interception. He had a game-high seven 12 tackles.
San Francisco fell to 3-8 before next week's trip to Chicago.