The main areas of concern for the Cardinals were an astounding 12 penalties and two turnovers. Arizona racked up 82 yards of penalty yardage as a result of costly errors on both sides of the ball. The two turnovers came on interceptions tossed by QB Kurt Warner whose lackluster performance was a major part of the Cardinals' inefficiencies on offense. Warner completed just 26-of-44 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown along with the two interceptions.
WR Steve Breaston was a late scratch and the Pro Bowl tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin was unable to get on track for the majority of the game. Fitzgerald compiled six grabs for 71 yards and a score but was shut out until late in the first half. Meanwhile, Boldin was limited to only two catches for 19 yards after he was cleared to play as a game-time decision.
On defense, Arizona demonstrated the similar aggressive style from last season despite new coordinator Bill Davis taking over. The Cardinals held the 49ers to just 203 yards of total offense, including a mere 21 yards on the ground. Furthermore, one the Arizona's main points of emphasis during the offseason was improving the team's pass rush. They've accomplished that goal thus far following four sacks of San Francisco QB Shaun Hill.
Despite the four sacks and being under constant duress throughout most of the game, Hill completed 18-of-31 passes for 209 yard and a touchdown. He maintained a QB rating of 89.3 and his steady play helped manage the game down the stretch for the 49ers' offense. Hill connected with RB Frank Gore on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 7:26 remaining which put San Francisco on top for good.
In addition to Arizona's defensive performance, special teams was another area the Cardinals excelled. Kicker Neil Rackers connected on all three of his field goal attempts and his lone extra point. Punter Ben Graham punted six times in the game averaging nearly 55 yards per boot. Additionally, the team's kick coverage looked vastly improved from a year ago and both LaRod Stephens-Howling and Antrel Rolle were adequate in the return game.
While the Super Bowl hangover is certainly understandable for Arizona, the team has already experienced the ramifications of an improved NFC West division. The Cardinals will square off against non-divisional opponents for the next three contests, starting with a road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Arizona then returns home for a Sunday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts and hosts the Houston Texans following a bye in Week 4.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
or click here to access the AZRedReport.com message boards.