Monday night’s NFC west divisional showdown saw the San Francisco 49ers go into the University of Phoenix Stadium and completely dismantle the Arizona Cardinals 24-3. The 49ers, on their part, controlled the entire aspect of the game on both offense and defense. They looked as crisp and precise as they have all year, and they dictated the action on nearly every down. The Cardinals on the other hand, appeared to be in complete disarray, reaching for straws and pinning their execution on big plays only. For the 49ers it was a healthy step in the right direction, now at 6-2 on the season they are becoming more aware of the playing style that allows them to be successful. The Cardinals, after winning their first four games, have now dropped their last four games, and are in serious jeopardy of losing grasp on their season.
The 49ers offense was the epitome of efficiency on Monday night, rushing 29 times for 113 yards and passing 19 times for 232 yards. Quarterback Alex Smith was as good as he has ever looked, completing 18 of his 19 passes and throwing for three touchdowns, with zero interceptions. The only drawback to his performance was the four sacks that he endured. And that is really attributed to the Cardinals relentless and talented defensive line.
Smith was again afforded the luxury of a great game due in large part to the rushing expertise of running back Frank Gore. Though Gore failed to score a touch down in the game, he was always the focus of the Cardinals defense, and it allowed Smith to pick and choose his receivers at will. Gore ended the night carrying the ball 16 times for 55 yards. His counterpart and back up running back Kendall Hunter also made a very important contribution to the offensive scheme; he ran the ball ten times for 43 yards.
The 49ers touchdowns were handled by the wide receivers in the week eight match up. With two going in the direction of Michael Crabtree, who caught five passes for 72 yards to go with his two scores. The other touchdown went to legendary wide receiver Randy Moss. It was his 156th touchdown of his career, and it ties him for fourth on the all time touchdown list.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals did not attempt to employ the same well-rounded game plan that the 49ers used. As predicted here on 49ers101, the Cardinals went to the air too often to legitimately force the 49ers into any state of confusion. The Cardinals only attempted nine rushing plays on the entire night, as opposed to 52 pass attempts. That will not, as any coach will tell you, win ball games. When teams do not employ a rushing attack it makes them one dimensional, and an easy target to control. Even if the running game is terrible, or if the defensive line is too strong, they still have to keep going to the well with it. Doing so keeps defenses from becoming complacent on stopping one avenue of offense.
And that is basically what the 49ers secondary did all night, they sat back and waited on balls to be thrown their way. Case in point, the 49ers secondary and linebackers deflected 13 of the passes thrown in their direction to go with their one interception. Again, it was predicted here at 49ers101, that the 49ers secondary was going to be the determining factor in this game, and that they would very busy individuals with the amount of passes thrown and the number of targets the Cardinals would seek out.
The Cardinals made pass completions to nine different receivers again, with Andre Roberts, Larry Fitzgerald, and Michael Floyd getting the bulk of the looks. Though none of them scored a touchdown or went over 100 yards. As a matter of fact, there was only one drive that gave any of the receivers a chance at a scoring touchdown. And that was late in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.
Next week the 49ers have a much needed bye week to nurse some injuries and prepare for the second half push toward the playoffs. Their next opponent will be another division rival, the St. Louis Rams, in week ten.
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