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Big Red Recap: Cardinals survive to beat 49ers on Catanzaro’s field goal

Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones celebrate during the Arizona Cardinals' 23-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Nov. 12,2016. (Associated Press)

It was not supposed to be this difficult, but nothing has come easy for the Arizona Cardinals here in 2016.

Coming off the bye week and facing the NFC’s worst team, the Cardinals needed a 34-yard field goal on the game’s final play to sneak past the San Francisco 49ers, 23-20.

Chandler Catanzaro split the uprights after previously missing game-winning kicks this season against New England and Seattle.

Carson Palmer completed passes of eight, 12, 14 and 26 yards to march the Cardinals (4-4-1) down the field in the final two minutes to setup Catanzaro.

For the game, Palmer went 30-of-49 for 376 yards and a touchdown. He was also intercepted twice, the second of which led to the 49ers game-tying score—a Colin Kaepernick four-yard touchdown run—with 1:55 to play.

David Johnson scored twice, one running and one receiving, but he was held to 55 rushing yards. The Cardinals never did get the ground game going, finishing with 80 yards.

Larry Fitzgerald (133) and Michael Floyd (101) each topped 100 receiving yards.

The Cardinals never trailed, leading 7-0 after the first quarter, 20-10 at halftime and 20-13 entering the fourth quarter.

For the second time in as many years, the Cardinals have swept the season-series from San Francisco (1-8), which has now lost eight straight games.

THE GOOD

For only the second time this season, the Cardinals scored a first-quarter touchdown. It was Johnson catching a three-yard pass from Palmer, who went 6-of-7 for 85 yards on the 11-play, 91-yard scoring drive that put Arizona in the lead, 7-0, at the 3:55 mark. Also on the possession, Fitzgerald caught three balls for 31 yards, extending his run of consecutive games with a reception to 188, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.

Two possessions later, Johnson found his way back into the end zone, this time on an 18-yard run, which extended the Arizona lead to 14-0 at the 14:42 mark of the second quarter. The scoring drive was aided by a 38-yard pass interference penalty plus was initially set up by a San Francisco turnover as Jeremy Kerley lost the football returning the punt. Gabe Martin recovered the fumble, his first and the team’s sixth of the season.

Though their second possession of the second quarter ended with a Catanzaro field goal, the Cardinals twice made history on the drive. First, Fitzgerald caught two passes, the first of which moved him past Terrell Owens (1,078) into sixth place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list. Also, Palmer showed his mobility. His 16-yard scramble set a new career-long run, besting his previous best of 15 yards, done twice as a Bengal.

Targeted a game-high 18 times, Fitzgerald caught 12 balls for 133 yards, including a long of 33, a play in which pushed him over 14,000 career receiving yards. He became the third-youngest (33 years, 74 days) to reach the mark, trailing only Randy Moss (32 years, 275 yards) and Jerry Rice (33 years, 16 days). This marked the 42nd time in his career, extending his own club record, that Fitzgerald went over 100 receiving yards.

THE BAD

After limiting the 49ers to four total yards on nine offensive plays in the first quarter, the Cardinals’ defense lapsed in the second quarter. On the Niners first possession, they marched 75 yards on six plays, gaining four first downs, with Kaepernick throwing a 17-yard touchdown to Kerley to cut the Arizona lead in half, 14-7, at the 12:12 mark. The score snapped the Cardinals’ run of 16 consecutive quarters without allowing a passing touchdown.

Twice the Cardinals fumbled the football. First, J.J. Nelson coughed it up ending the team’s second possession of the game. Later, Palmer lost it as a result of a strip-sack by Eli Harold, stalling a promising third-quarter drive. Two plays earlier, Fitzgerald caught a 32-yard bomb off a flea-flicker setting up the Cardinals 1st-and-goal at the San Francisco 7. However, Palmer was then sacked on back-to-back snaps, the 49ers first two of the game.

Against the NFL’s worst run defense, the Cardinals had managed just 51 rushing yards on 13 attempts through three quarters. Johnson, who was stopped on 3rd-and-1 to begin the fourth quarter, carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards and a touchdown. Remember, he gained a season-best 157 yards on the ground in the first meeting on Oct. 6. Entering Week 10, San Francisco ranked 32nd out of 32 teams, allowing 193 rushing yards per game.

Four times in the fourth quarter, or one more than they had in the first three quarters combined, the 49ers converted on third down; and twice they did so on the game-tying scoring drive. First, Kaepernick scrambled 19 yards to move the chains on 3rd-and-8. Later, on 3rd-and-2, Kaepernick gained the first down and the touchdown on a designed rush. He ran left, picking up a block, four yards into the end zone to tie the game at 20 with 1:55 to play.

STAT OF THE GAME

376: Thanks to the right arm of Palmer, the Cardinals passed for a season-best 376 yards, the 20th time in his 46 games with Arizona he’s reached the 300-yard mark.

HE SAID IT

“It was never a doubt in my mind he would make it,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to Catanzaro. “It’s exactly what we talked about coming out of the break, we wanted to be 1-0.”

NOTED

– Johnson became the fourth player in franchise history to score 10+ total touchdowns in consecutive years.

– Fitzgerald played in his 195th regular season game with the Cardinals, the fourth-most in franchise history.

– Fitzgerald had his 12th game with 10+ receptions, equaling Anquan Boldin for the most in franchise history.

– Fitzgerald moved past James Lofton (14,004) into 11th place on the league’s all-time receiving yardage list.

– Chandler Jones had two sacks, recording his first multi-sack game as a Cardinal and the 11th of his career.

– Calais Campbell had one sack for 51.5 in his career, which gives him the third-most in franchise history.

– The Cardinals improved to 5-3 against the Niners under Arians and have five wins in the last six matchups.

– The Cardinals improved to 11-2 in November under Arians and have won five straight in the month overall.

– Among the Cardinals’ inactives were injured players Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) and Tharold Simon (ankle).

UP NEXT

And now begins the difficult stretch.

The Cardinals will play five of their final seven games on the road, beginning with a visit to U.S. Bank Stadium to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Nov. 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Cardinals, who won last year’s meeting at University of Phoenix Stadium, 23-20, have not earned a victory in Minnesota since 1977, losing each of their last eight trips to the state known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Overall, the Vikings lead 15-11 in the all-time series, which dates back to 1963.

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