Big Red Recap: Cardinals find Fitz just in time to beat 49ers
GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was just one game, yet the ramifications were enormous.
Win, and the Arizona Cardinals would find themselves one game out of first place in the NFC West. Lose, and they would drop to 1-3, the same hole they dug themselves last season and never climbed out of.
So, what happened?
Well, for starters, overtime. And in overtime, Larry Fitzgerald — who else, right? — caught a 19-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left to rally the Cardinals past the San Francisco 49ers, 18-15, in front of another sold out crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was the one and only touchdown of the game as the teams combined for nine — count ’em nine — field goals. Phil Dawson had four, while Robbie Gould made five, including one in overtime to put the 49ers ahead 15-12 with 2:24 remaining.
The Cardinals (2-2) never led until Fitzgerald’s score.
Carson Palmer completed six of his seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown on the game-winning drive. He finished 33-of-51 for 357 yards.
The 49ers (0-4) had leads of 3-0, 6-3, 9-6 and 12-9, but each time Dawson matched Gould.
Dawson made kicks of 29, 43, 50 and 32 yards. The final kick tied the game in regulation.
With the victory, the Cardinals ran their winning streak against the 49ers to five straight games, the longest winning streak in series history. It was also their fourth consecutive win against the division dating back to last season.
It was fitting that Antoine Bethea would record his first interception in a Cardinals uniform against his former team. It happened late in the second quarter. Give credit to Frostee Rucker, who applied the pressure, hitting Hoyer as the quarterback threw the football. The Cardinals capitalized on the takeaway — only the third forced by the defense this season — with Dawson kicking a game-tying 43-yard field goal at the 1:24 mark of the period.
On Dawson’s second field goal, a 43-yard make to tie the game at 6 at the 1:24 mark of the second quarter, he moved past David Akers (1,721) for 12th place on the NFL’s all-time scoring list. Later, Dawson was successful on a 50-yard attempt, this one tied the game at 9 at the 6:50 mark of the third quarter. It was his 39th career field goal of 50 yards or more, tied with Jason Elam for the sixth-most in league history.
No one likes playing the 49ers more than Fitzgerald, who has now caught at least one pass in all 27 career games against that team from the Bay Area. He finished with four catches for 32 yards and now has 158 catches for 2,099 yards and 17 touchdowns; that’s more touchdowns than any active player has against a single opponent. Plus, Fitzgerald extended his streak with at least one reception to 199 consecutive games.
Struggles in the red zone continued for the Cardinals. On their two first-half trips inside the 20-yard line, they failed to score a touchdown. First, Palmer was picked off in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal at the 4. He was intercepted by Ray-Ray Anderson off a deflection. Then, an Andre Ellington 12-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal was overturned via replay. Apparently, he did not have complete control of the football when his second foot touched inbounds. This season, the Cardinals have scored three touchdowns on 13 red-zone trips.
Uh, make that three touchdowns on 14 red-zone trips. A fourth-quarter visit inside the 20-yard line resulted in a field goal rather than a touchdown. Dawson connected from 32 yards out to tie the game at 12 at the 7:41 mark of the period. On 1st-and-10 at the 17, Eli Harold beat John Wetzel and sacked Palmer for a seven-yard loss, the third time Palmer was sacked in the game. The Cardinals never recovered from that play. A drop by Ellington on second down further helped stall the drive, and thus, it led to another field goal attempt.
For the second straight week, Palmer was sacked six times: four times in the fourth quarter and twice by Elvis Dumervil. In addition, he was hit 16 times, 11 of which occurred in the first half. To be fair, the Cardinals were minus left tackle D.J. Humphries and backup left guard Alex Boone due to injury, and don’t forget Mike Iupati was placed on injured reserve on Saturday. It was a struggle for right guard Evan Boehm. He was called for three holding penalties, two that negated running plays of four and 13 yards by Chris Johnson.
STAT OF THE GAME
1: In nearly 70 minutes of play, the Cardinals and 49ers combined for one touchdown. And fortunately for the Cardinals, it was their touchdown.
HE SAID IT
“It’s Larry time!” head coach Bruce Arians said, adding about the game-winning play, “Larry can make that catch but that was a great throw.”
– Olsen Pierre recorded his first career sack, taking down Hoyer for an 11-yard loss in the second quarter.
– Markus Golden hurt his right knee in overtime; he limped off the field and to the locker room.
– Karlos Dansby appeared in his 200th career game, while Patrick Peterson played in his 100th, all starts.
– With the win, the Cardinals improved to 6-3, including 4-1 at home, against San Francisco under Arians.
– The Cardinals improved to 5-0-1 in their last six games against the NFC West under Arians.
– Arians earned his 43rd victory as Cardinals head coach, the second-most in franchise history.
– Palmer earned his 37th victory as Cardinals quarterback, the third-most in franchise history.
– Among the Cardinals listed inactives were wide receiver Chad Williams and cornerback Tramon Williams.
– Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner formally received his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony.
Another early start.
For the third time in the season’s first five weeks, the Cardinals will play a game that kicks off at 10 a.m. They’re in Philadelphia to face the Eagles on Sunday.
Pregame coverage begins four hours earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
The Cardinals have won two in a row — including a year ago in Philadelphia, 40-17 — and five of the last six matchups against the Eagles, a stretch that began with the 2008 NFC Championship Game.
The former NFC East foes are meeting for the sixth straight year.
Overall, the Cardinals lead 59-56-5 in a series that dates back to 1935.