The Arizona Cardinals, before their Sunday tilt against the visiting San Francisco 49ers, unfurled their NFC championship banner; unfortunately for them, it was the only thing they could show with pride as 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill guided his team on an 80-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter, enough for San Francisco to squeak past Arizona 20-16 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The running attacks of both teams, for the most part, were non-existent as both teams combined for a paltry 61 yards – a typical first-half for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Which meant that both teams would have to rely on the air to get anywhere. A curious fact in this game was that reserve running back Tim Hightower – not exactly known for his volume of pass receptions – somehow managed to catch more passes from Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (12) for more yardage (121) than the usually-dangerous duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald (8 and 90 yards) combined.
But defense – especially run defense – was the rule of the day, although I will submit the argument that strictly on a statistical basis, neither QB distinguished themselves. The first quarter was rather nondescript as the only scoring was by way of the foot as 49ers kicker Joe Nedney booted a pair of field goals, giving San Francisco a 6-0 lead.
Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers would add a 44-yard FG, narrowing the 49ers’ lead to 6-3; however, 49ers running back Frank Gore would score on a 6-yard scamper, helping San Francisco regain the lead at 13-3 at the 2:23 mark of the second quarter. Rackers would add a 29-yard FG at exactly 0:00 of the first half, allowing to go to their locker room with only a seven-point deficit at 13-6.
The Cardinals would get into the touchdown column as Warner and Fitzgerald hooked up on a 5-yard TD pass, tying this affair up at 13; the fourth quarter began with a 43-yard Rackers FG, and for around 7 minutes and 26 seconds, it was a battle of field position and attrition as neither team could mount much offense.
But the tide turned for the 49ers as Hill directed an 80-yard drive which culminated in a Hill-to-Gore TD pass, giving San Francisco a 4-point lead – one that they would hang onto for dear life, giving them a rare win in Glendale, AZ.
Neither QB, statistically, did anything special as Hill went 18-for-31 for 209 yards and a TD while Warner went 26-of-44 for 288 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions. Rushing just didn’t happen as Gore led San Francisco with 22 carries for only 30 yards and a score while rookie Beanie Wells led all Arizona rushers with 29 yards on 7 carries.
Veteran Isaac Bruce led the 49ers receivers with 74 yards on 4 receptions while tight end Vernon Davis caught five for 40 yards; the aforementioned Hightower led all Cardinals receivers with 12 catches for 121 yards while WR Jerheme Urban added 74 receiving yards on 5 catches. Fitagerald caught 6 passes for 71 yards and a score.
With the win, San Francisco (1-0) will take momentum back home as they have their season-opener, hosting the 1-0 Seattle Seahawks while Arizona (0-1) will try to recover as they travel to Jacksonville to take on the 0-1 Jaguars.