Cardinals maintain glimmer of hope with win over 49ers
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made a wish last week, one he shared with his players.
“I wanted to see us get in a game that was gonna go to the wire and see what we’re made of,” Arians said.
Arians got all that and more when the San Francisco 49ers marched 73 yards on 17 plays while eating up 7:36 of overtime to take a three-point lead on Robbie Gould’s 23-yard field goal with 2:24 remaining in extra time.
That’s when the Cardinals offense, which hadn’t found the end zone all day, turned it up a notch in an 18-15 win at University of Phoenix Stadium. Arizona went 50 yards on five plays to get within field goal range for kicker Phil Dawson, raising the specter of another tie against a division opponent, just like last year’s stomach-turning, 6-6 tie with Seattle.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to walk out of here with a tie,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “That would have been demoralizing because we had our shots.”
When receiver John Brown’s apparent TD catch was ruled out of bounds — the second TD Arizona had taken off the board by the officials — the Cardinal didn’t blink. Instead, they went to old reliable and Fitzgerald evened the team’s record at 2-2 with a leaping 19-yard TD catch from quarterback Carson Palmer with 32 seconds left on the clock.
“I saw single high [coverage] and once I started running vertical, I saw the nickel back and he didn’t really drop much so I knew it was zone so I knew I was a viable option on that play call,” said Fitzgerald, who had been blanketed most of the day by a 49ers defense determined not to let him beat them. “They were playing a 2-to-1 coverage on me and I just bent it in there and Carson gave me a good ball to go make a play on.”
This win wasn’t pretty. It was downright ugly. If you’re scoring at home, that’s OT games against the lowly Colts and 49ers — not the substance of inspiration.
The Cards’ patchwork offensive line allowed six sacks and 16 QB hits on Palmer, who took a handful of brutal shots.
“I’m tired,” Palmer quipped. “Hopefully, we have a walk-through Wednesday and don’t have to practice.”
Palmer threw an interception in the end zone on the Cardinals’ first drive, the officials took away an apparent touchdown for Andre Ellington and penalties hurt Arizona on offense and defense on a frustrating afternoon.
When Gould connected in overtime, it looked like the Cardinals were going to lose to a team that had lost 17 of its last 18 games. Instead, the Cardinals got what felt like a push to keep pace with Seattle and stay a game behind the surprising Los Angeles Rams.
Hope may not come in the form of recent performances, but John Brown’s return and steadily progressing health gave the Cardinals a boost in the passing game. If left tackle D.J. Humphries is back in the lineup next week at Philadelphia, and if guard Alex Boone can get back soon, the Cardinals may be able to stay in position long enough to seize an opportunity.
“This was essentially a must-win football game for us in early October,” Fitzgerald said. “After seeing what the Rams did, go down to Dallas and get a big win down there, get to 3-1, you can’t fall that far behind, especially going on the road against a really tough team in Philadelphia.
“You’ve got to be able to stay on pace. Now, we’re only one game out of the lead in the division and that’s exactly what we wanted to be.”