Game rewind: Cardinals 31, 49ers 14
THE HERO Neil Rackers could have won the game by himself. Though the Arizona offense moved the ball up and down the field all evening, it often stalled in San Francisco territory, allowing Rackers to kick field goals of 40, 45, 48, 23, 43 and 24 yards. He personally out-scored the 49ers 18-14. He also put all nine of his kickoffs into the end zone – or beyond the end zone – to give San Francisco poor starting position for its offensive drives. Seven of those kickoffs went for touchbacks. Rackers has made all 16 of his field goals this season and – when he split the uprights with his 24-yarder with six minutes to play – the kicker set an NFL record for most field goals made in the first four games of a season. THE GOAT This goes to the entire San Francisco offense, which was blanked by an Arizona defense that was ranked 22nd in the NFL entering the game. The 49ers produced just 168 total yards and eight first downs - with seven drives producing no first downs, four producing one first down and the other two San Francisco possessions producing two first downs. That's horrible, folks. And it was a collaborative effort. Quarterback Tim Rattay was shaky and off target while losing turnovers on an interception and fumble. Left tackle Anthony Clement – making his first start as a 49er in place of the injured Jonas Jennings – was beaten consistently on the blind side as San Francisco quarterbacks were sacked five times. The rest of the offensive line also struggled. And the running game – given an early 14-0 lead to protect – again was ineffective, gaining just 51 yards on 14 carries, a 3.6 average. KEY STAT After punting three times and losing two fumbles on its first five possessions, the Arizona offense proceeded to score on eight consecutive series. The Cardinals went field goal, field goal, touchdown, field goal, field goal, field goal, touchdown field goal – and could have scored again on the final drive of the game, but instead let time run out after reaching the San Francisco 13-yard line in the final minute. THE TURNING POINT Despite allowing the Cardinals back in the game, the 49ers were on their way to assuming control going into halftime after Rattay hooked up with Brandon Lloyd on a 14-yard completion that put San Francisco in scoring range at the Arizona 31-yard line with 1:08 to play in the second quarter. But Lloyd was stripped of the ball by cornerback Eric Green, giving the ball back to Arizona, which then needed only 63 seconds to march down the field for a touchdown that cut San Francisco's halftime lead to 14-12. THE BIG PLAY Trailing 14-6, the Cards took the ball at their own 31 with 68 seconds remaining in the half after Green's fumble recovery. Quarterback Josh McCown completed three consecutive passes to take Arizona to the San Francisco 26. Then, after an incompletion, he hit Larry Fitzgerald for nine yards to give the Cards a third-and-1 at the 17 with just 12 seconds remaining before halftime. With time for only one more play before the Cards would have to settle for another field goal, McCown lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone, where Fitzgerald and Niners cornerback Willie Middlebrooks both were waiting. But Fitzgerald got inside position on Middlebrooks as both players went high in the air, then easily plucked the pass out of the sky over the outstretched arms of the shorter Middlebrooks, landing both feet just inside the corner of the end zone to pull the Cards within 14-12 and give Arizona momentum heading into the locker room at intermission – momentum the Cardinals would bring out with them in the second half and keep the remainder of the game. STANDOUT PERFORMER McCown, playing only because regular starter Kurt Warner was injured, had the best game of his career, embarrassing the San Francisco defense with career highs of 32 completions, 46 attempts and 385 yards passing. After a shaky start when he was sailing throws in the thin air, McCown got on target and was brilliant over the final three quarters, hitting Fitzgerald for one touchdown pass at Anquan Boldin for another. His passing kept drives going throughout the evening as Arizona converted on eight of its third-down plays. McCown also scrambled for 32 yards while producing a game-high 5.3 yards per carry. BY THE NUMBERS 0: Points scored by the San Francisco offense 1: Total times the San Francisco offense crossed midfield in first half 3: Total first downs in first half by 49ers 3.3 Average gain per pass play by 49ers 4: Fumble recoveries by 49ers in first half 6: Quarterback sacks by 49ers defensive end Bryant Young in four games this season 7: Offensive drives during which the 49ers produced 10 yards or fewer 8: Total first downs in game by 49ers 9: Offensive drives during which the Cardinals produced 30 or more yards 11: Offensive drives during which the 49ers produced one or fewer first downs 15: Combined receptions for Arizona starting receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald 16: Field goals by Arizona's Neil Rackers this season, an NFL record for first four games of a season 17.0: Efficiency percentage for Cardinals in red zone 18: Defensive players in uniform Sunday for 49ers 18:02: Time of possession by Arizona offense in second half 19:46: Time of possession by Arizona offense in first half 45: Game-high total of yards rushing by Kevan Barlow, on 10 carries 46.7: Average on seven punts by 49ers punter Andy Lee 50.9: Passer rating for 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay 78: Total yards of offense in second half by 49ers 83: Total offensive plays run by Cardinals 102: Receiving yards for 49ers' Brandon Lloyd – 61 percent of San Francisco's entire offensive output 109.3: Combined passer rating for opposing quarterbacks in 49ers' first three games 109.4: Passer rating for Arizona quarterback Josh McCown 132: Points allowed by 49ers in four games this season 218: Combined receiving yards by Boldin and Fitzgerald 227: Passing yards by McCown in first half 269: Total yards of offense in first half by Cardinals 463: Total yards of offense in game by Cardinals 1,894: Total yards allowed by San Francisco defense in four games this season FAST FACTS --- The 49ers saw their three-game win streak against the Cardinals snapped. San Francisco now holds a 17-11 lead in the all-time series between the two teams. This was only Arizona's second victory in the last 10 games between the teams and fourth in the last 18. --- The game drew a crowd of 103,467 at Estadio Azteca, setting a new NFL record for single-game attendance. It was the first regular-season game played outside the United States in the 83-year history of the NFL. --- 49ers safety Tony Parrish started the 119th consecutive game to begin his NFL career, the second-longest streak in NFL history for a defensive back. --- Former 49er Ross Kolodziej – who played for San Francisco in 2002 and 2003 – started at nose tackle for Arizona in place of injured regular Russell Davis. --- 49ers rookie quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft this year, recorded the first completion of his career on a seven-yard pass to Brandon Lloyd in the fourth quarter. Smith finished 6 of 10 passing for 34 yards and was sacked twice. --- Left tackle Jonas Jennings (shoulder), flanker Arnaz Battle (knee) and linebacker Julian Peterson (hamstring) all were scratched from the starting lineup before the game. Anthony Clement started in place of Jennings, Johnnie Morton started in place of Battle and Brandon Moore started in Peterson's spot.
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