Big Red Recap: Behind Peterson, Cardinals grind out win over 49ers
If the Arizona Cardinals had any hopes of turning around their season, they had to win Sunday. In any fashion. At whatever cost.
And they did.
No, it wasn’t pretty and, yes, it was against the winless San Francisco 49ers, but given the circumstances, a win is a win is a win. The final: 20-10 at Levi’s Stadium.
And for the fourth time this season, the Cardinals are a .500 team.
Quarterback Drew Stanton passed for two touchdowns and Phil Dawson kicked two field goals to account for the scoring, but make no mistake about it, the game was won on the legs of Adrian Peterson.
Feed the beast.
Peterson carried the ball a career-high 37 times for 159 yards.
The Cardinals (4-4) never trailed, though the win was not secured until Karlos Dansby picked off 49ers rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard with less than three minutes to play. It was Dansby’s 20th career interception, putting him in some exclusive company, joining Seth Joyner, Ray Lewis, Wilber Marshall and Brian Urlacher with 40+ sacks and 20+ interceptions.
In his first start replacing the injured Carson Palmer, Stanton went 15-of-30 for 201 yards and an interception.
The Cardinals have now beaten the 49ers (0-9) six straight times, sweeping the season series for a third consecutive year.
Force a turnover, score a touchdown. Funny how that works. On the Cardinals’ first defensive snap, Tyrann Mathieu ripped the ball out of the hands of Kyle Juszczyk. The ball was scooped up by Patrick Peterson for the team’s first fumble recovery of the season and returned 43 yards to the San Francisco 6-yard line. Three plays later, Stanton threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown to put the Cardinals ahead, 7-0, at the 10:15 mark of the first quarter.
Staying with the run game. In the first five drives, Peterson carried the ball seven times for 14 yards. On the sixth drive, he had runs of 18, 3, 16 and 0 yards for a total of 37. On the 18-yard gain, he surpassed 12,000 rushing yards for his career, doing so in his 130th career game, the fourth-fastest in NFL history. It all helped set up Stanton’s second touchdown pass of the game, an 11-yard throw to Jermaine Gresham for a 14-3 lead at the 11:04 mark of the second quarter.
Three sacks. Ten quarterback hits. In the first half. Yeah, the Cardinals’ defense teed off on Beathard. Olsen Pierre and Haason Reddick split the first sack, and then Cory Peters and Rodney Gunter recorded their first sacks of the season. Gunter also was credited with a pair of quarterback hits as the defensive line got good pressure up the middle. That unit had six of the 10 hits. Josh Mauro and Frostee Rucker also hit Beathard, who passed for 149 yards in the first half.
One milestone after another reached. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s 23-yard third-quarter catch on third down moved him past Tim Brown (14,934) for sixth place on the NFL’s all-time list for career receiving yards. Fitzgerald finished with five catches for 70 yards.
Peterson’s three-yard, third-quarter run moved him past Thurman Thomas (12,074) for 15th place on the NFL’s all-time list for career rushing yards. In addition, Peterson recorded his 51st career 100-yard rushing game, the most among active players and ninth-most all-time.
It’s past a concern. It may now need to be addressed. Dawson missed another field goal. A very makeable one, too. He hit the right upright on a 38-yard try on the Cardinals’ opening possession. The snap was low, but Andy Lee did a good job of placing the football. It was Dawson’s sixth miss, fourth from inside 40 yards, which is as many as he had combined in the past two seasons.
Maybe the only bad throw of the first half, and according to head coach Bruce Arians, it was his fault. “We got greedy” he told Paul Calvisi at halftime on the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network. It was in reference to Stanton’s red-zone interception. He was looking for Gresham, but the pass was to the outside shoulder and Eric Reid picked the ball off in the end zone, ending the drive.
Entering the game, the Cardinals had the 31st-ranked defense on third down. And early on, they defended well on third down. The 49ers failed on their first six opportunities. Of course, they then made good on five of their next six chances, three of which came on their third-quarter scoring drive to begin the second half, including 3rd-and-goal when Beathard scored on a one-yard run.
STAT OF THE GAME, part 1
159: Peterson had 159 of the Cardinals’ 167 rushing yards.
STAT OF THE GAME, part 2
3: Of Stanton’s seven career wins with the Cardinals, three have now come against the 49ers.
HE SAID IT
“I just want these guys to know they can trust me. I’m ready to (carry) the load,” Peterson said.
– Fitzgerald extended the NFL’s third-longest streak with at least one reception to 203 consecutive games.
– Stanton threw multiple touchdown passes in a game for the fourth time (third versus 49ers) in his career.
– Reddick and Rucker were both ejected for fighting, along with 49ers RB Carlos Hyde in the fourth quarter.
– Budda Baker, the rookie out of Washington, recorded three special team tackles in just the first quarter.
– With the victory, the Cardinals improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight games against NFC West opponents.
– With the victory, Arians earned his 45th win with the Cardinals, including a franchise-best 20 road wins.
– The Cardinals lost the coin toss for the second consecutive game, yet began the game with the football.
– Among the Cardinals listed as inactive were injured players Daniel Munyer (toe) and Chad Williams (back).
It’s a quick turnaround for the Cardinals as they play again in just four days.
That’s right, Week 10 begins Thursday with a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:25 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
It’s the Cardinals’ first home game in nearly a month.
The homefield advantage may not mean much, however. It hasn’t recently versus the Seahawks, who are unbeaten in their last four trips to Arizona. They are 3-0-1 with at least 34 points scored in the three victories. The tie, of course, happened last season.
Overall, the Cardinals lead 18-17-1 in a series that dates back to 1976.