49ers outlast Cardinals with big, timely plays
Rookie safety Eric Reid ignited the 49ers quickly with a 53-yard interception return, his third interception of the young season. Following the pick, the 49ers offense floundered, losing 10 yards on three plays and settling for a Phil Dawson 35-yard field goal.
After the teams exchanged punts, Carson Palmer threw into triple coverage and was promptly picked off by Carlos Rogers. After turning the ball over, though, the 49ers offense stalled again, settling for a 26-yard field goal from Dawson.
Whitner whiffs, Fitzgerald strikes
With a 6-0 lead and an early dominant performance, the 49ers faltered and the Cardinals took advantage. Donte Whitner loaded up for a big hit on Larry Fitzgerald, but whiffed completely, leaving Fitzgerald to scamper for a 75-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals the lead, 7-0.
A negative becomes a positive
After a Colin Kaepernick interception deep in Arizona territory, rookie linebacker Corey Lemonier picked up his quarterback, sacking Carson Palmer in the end zone for a safety, giving the 49ers an 8-7 lead.
A heads-up gamble pays off
Following the safety, on the second play of the drive, Colin Kaepernick took a shot down-field to Vernon Davis. The ball was perfectly placed, hitting Davis in stride and leading to a 61-yard touchdown pass to put the Niners up 15-7.
The Cardinals answer quickly
The Cardinals fought back with a quick, three-play, 80-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 53-yard pass from Carson Palmer to rookie free agent Brittan Golden. The short drive was culminated with an Andre Ellington 15-yard run that appeared entirely easy and cut the lead to 15-14.
Crucial coach's challenge leads to touchdown
As the Cardinals began to drive, a short pass on third down to Andre Ellington was awarded a first down before being challenged by Jim Harbaugh. The ruling was overturned, forcing the Cardinals to punt. Vernon Davis quickly struck again, this time on a 35-yard touchdown catch. The catch brought Davis's first half totals to 171 yards and two touchdowns, and put the Niners up 22-14.
Opportunity presents itself
Kyle Williams botched the second half opening kickoff and the 49ers offense stalled, setting the Cardinals up with good field position. They then methodically moved the ball down the field, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. The score was then 22-20, with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Willis sparks draining drive
After trading a few possessions, the Cardinals moved the ball deep into 49er territory. In his return to action, Patrick Willis stripped Larry Fitzgerald on a short crossing route. The 49ers followed with a deliberate 18-play, 9:32 drive, draining the Cardinals. San Francisco then capped the 89-yard drive off with a six-yard run by Kendall Hunter. Hunter was violently slammed by Tyrann Mathieu after the play, setting off both teams and resulting in offsetting personal fouls.
Substitution proves costly
When the Cardinals got the ball again, they made the decision to give Alfonso Smith his first carry of the game, when their other two running backs were having solid outings. Smith fumbled, forced by Corey Lemonier. The 49ers capitalized with a field goal to push the lead to 12, all but sealing the contest with 4:15 remaining.
49ers on a roll
With the victory the 49ers improve 4-2 and sit in second place in the NFC West behind Seattle (5-1).