Cardinals Win Season Opener 23-13

The Cardinals first game of the year was a roaring success as they defeated the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Arizona dominated the 49ers in the second half, holding the ball for nearly 23 minutes in the final two quarters of play. Brad Wilbricht wraps up Sunday's action and breaks down what transpired in the Cardinals 23-13 win.

The Cardinals got off to a sluggish start on both sides of the ball but picked up steam in route to a season-opening win against the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona converted on several key third downs and limited the 49ers to only 15 plays on three possessions in the second half.

Despite committing three first half turnovers, the 49ers went into the locker room with the score tied 10-10. The Cardinals could not capitalize on San Francisco's miscues as they allowed 220 total yards of offense in the first half. RB Frank Gore continued his assault on the Cardinals defense, racking up 80 yards on 11 carries in the initial half of play.

Although J.T. O'Sullivan was picked off by Adrian Wilson late in the first quarter, he was efficient in first half action. O'Sullivan completed 10-of-14 passes for 141 yards. However, O'Sullivan's opportunities would be limited thereafter as he threw only six passes in the second half.

On offense, Veteran QB Kurt Warner managed to get into a rhythm early in the second quarter but was quiet outside of that. He finished the first half 6-of-11 for 75 yards. Following a 40-yard completion to WR Steve Breaston, Warner did manage to connect with WR Larry Fitzgerald on a fade route for a 1-yard touchdown.

After being shutout in the first half, WR Anquan Boldin got in on the action during the Cardinals first possession of the second half. Warner targeted Boldin several times on the drive and the two connected on three passes for 47 yards. Boldin finished the game with eight catches for 82 yards.

Despite constant pressure from the 49ers defense, Warner stood in the pocket and began to dismantle the 49ers secondary in the second half. Although he was sacked three times, Warner ended the day completing 19-of-30 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown.

Utilizing the no-huddle offense, the Cardinals marched down the field on their initial drive of the second half. However, a clipping penalty on guard Reggie Wells and a 49ers sack derailed the Cardinals momentum as they were forced to settle for another short Rackers field goal.

On the ensuing kickoff, Rackers popped up the kick and the Cardinals recovered the ball in San Francisco territory. Shortly thereafter, the Arizona offense received another break when 49ers DE Ray McDonald was called for a roughing the passer penalty after the Cardinals came up short on third down attempt.


RB Tim Hightower
(Getty)

Following the 49ers second crucial mistake in a matter of minutes, Arizona took full advantage as RB Tim Hightower scored his first NFL touchdown from 1-yard out. Hightower's rookie debut resulted in 13 yards on eight carries and most importantly the go ahead touchdown late in the third quarter.

After building a 10-point cushion with four minutes left in the third quarter, the Cardinals were unable to keep the 49ers off the scoreboard. Timely play by O'Sullivan kept the San Francisco drive alive, setting up a 30-yard field goal by Joe Nedney.

With an opportunity to take control of the game, the Cardinals offense drained the clock with an 18-play 62-yard drive that led to Rackers' third field goal of the game. Warner and Boldin continued to click through the air while RB Edgerrin James ate up yardage on the ground. James was a workhorse throughout the game, racking up 100 yards rushing on 26 carries.

During the possession, head coach Ken Whisenhunt rolled the dice and converted a 4th-and-1 as Hightower burst through the line to keep the drive alive. The Cardinals continued to convert on key third downs and were able to keep the 49ers offense off the field. The Cardinals final drive lasted over 10 minutes as they held the ball for nearly 23 minutes in the second half.

The Cardinals defense sealed the victory as Travis LaBoy stripped O'Sullivan of the ball, forcing the 49ers fifth turnover of the day.

Arizona heads back home next week to square off against the 0-1 Miami Dolphins. The Cardinals have an excellent chance at starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 1991.


Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com

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