San Francisco at Arizona

49ers open season with win over defending NFC champion Cards

CBSSports.com wire reports
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The NFC championship banner was freshly hanging from the stadium rafters. The offense that helped Arizona win it was rarely on display.

San Francisco's, on the other hand, showed up just enough.

The 49ers went three-and-out on five of their six second-half possessions on Sunday, but Shaun Hill directed a masterful 15-play, 80-yard drive on the other. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Frank Gore with 7:26 to play was the difference in the 49ers' 20-16 victory over the Cardinals.

"It wasn't anything necessarily that I said," Hill said. "The whole unit was saying the same thing: 'Hey, it's time to go."'

The Cardinals looked a lot like the team that went 0-4 in the preseason and not much, at least on offense, like the one that won three playoff games before a near-miss against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl just a few months ago.

"We're just not meshing," said Kurt Warner, who threw two interceptions and faced a fierce pass rush much of the afternoon. "We never seem to get into a rhythm. There always seems to be something to stop us."

 Morgan: It appears old Cardinals have returned

The 49ers, who endured a brutal training camp under coach Mike Singletary, gave the coach a victory in his first opener after taking over for the fired Mike Nolan seven games into last season. It was Arizona's first loss to an NFC foe in two seasons.

"To come in their backyard, after everything they've accomplished, we knew it was going to be a tremendous challenge," Singletary said.

For the seventh time in the last eight meetings between the teams, the final margin was seven points or less.

Arizona rallied from 10 points down to go up 16-13 on Neil Rackers' 44-yard field goal with 14:52 to play, but the 49ers regained control with a drive that used up nearly half of the final quarter.

"We're definitely too good to be having these kind of performances," the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald said.

The Cardinals held Gore to 30 yards in 22 carries and sacked Hill four times, but Arizona committed 12 penalties for 82 yards and had its pass protection break down at crucial times.

"The one thing I want to say for us is that you can't have penalties, you can't have mistakes and expect to win," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

After the 49ers had to punt from their 1 late in the game, the Cardinals had first down at the San Francisco 39.

But a false-start penalty and a holding call pushed Arizona back 15 yards and the threat ended when Warner was leveled by Justin Smith as he threw on fourth-and-5 at the San Francisco 33 with 1:51 to play.

"I'm really most upset by getting the ball back in the fourth quarter in the plus territory and going back 15 yards," Whisenhunt said. "That's horrible. That's unacceptable, and it's what causes you to lose football games. I said to the team afterward, guys that make penalties are not going to play."

Arizona had it once more, this time at the 46 at the finish, but another fierce rush by Smith forced Warner's fumble as the game ended.

Hill completed 18 of 31 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown and wasn't intercepted. Warner was 26 of 44 for 288 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.

Arizona's Tim Hightower caught 12 passes for 121 yards, the second-most receptions by a running back in Cardinals history. Fitzgerald, who didn't make a catch until the final seconds of the first half, had six for 71 yards. Anquan Boldin, playing despite a sore hamstring, caught one for five yards.

Arizona was without its No. 3 receiver Steve Breaston because of a sprained kneecap.

The 49ers went three-and-out on five of their six possessions in the second half.

But one drive was a doozy.

"We just moved the chains," Hill said. "I don't believe we got any big plays on it, just executing and moving the change."

After the Cardinals had scored 13 points in a row to take the lead, Hill drove the team downfield, converting four third-down opportunities in the process, two on passes to the venerable Isaac Bruce, who had a 50-yard catch in the first half.

On third-and-goal at the 3, the 49ers sent Gore out on the flat and no one followed him. He caught the short pass and scored with no one near him.

"We made a play here, a play there, and we won," Gore said.

Notes

  • The record for catches by a Cardinals running back is 13 by Larry Centers against St. Louis in 1996.
  • The two teams opened the season against each other for the fourth straight time.
  • San Francisco's Joe Nedney kicked a 50-yard field goal, making him 14 of 30 from 50 or longer in his career.
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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The Niners' defense applies heavy pressure as it swarms Kurt Warner early and often throughout the game.
 
The Niners' defense applies heavy pressure as it swarms Kurt Warner early and often throughout the game. (AP)
 

 

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Sun. Sept. 13Final
670720
Arizona
(0-1)
067316
49ersCardinals
Pass: S. Hill (18-31, 209) K. Warner (26-44, 288)
Rush: F. Gore (22-30) B. Wells (7-29)
Rec: I. Bruce (4-74) T. Hightower (12-121)
Scoring Summary
1ST QUARTER
FGJoe Nedney 37 Yd, 5:34. Drive: 5 plays, 17 yards in 2:30.
FGJoe Nedney 50 Yd, 1:22. Drive: 5 plays, 24 yards in 2:22.
2ND QUARTER
FGNeil Rackers 44 Yd, 14:03. Drive: 6 plays, 52 yards in 2:19.
TDFrank Gore, 6 Yd run (Joe Nedney kick is good), 2:23. Drive: 7 plays, 68 yards in 3:03.
FGNeil Rackers 29 Yd, 0:00. Drive: 8 plays, 49 yards in 1:15.
3RD QUARTER
TDLarry Fitzgerald, 5 Yd pass from Kurt Warner (Neil Rackers kick is good), 4:11. Drive: 7 plays, 69 yards in 4:10.
4TH QUARTER
FGNeil Rackers 43 Yd, 14:52. Drive: 8 plays, 36 yards in 3:20.
TDFrank Gore, 3 Yd pass from Shaun Hill (Joe Nedney kick is good), 7:26. Drive: 15 plays, 80 yards in 7:26.
Players of the Game

K. Warner
Att 44
Comp 26
Yds 288
TD 1
Minnesota

S. Hill
Att 31
Comp 18
Yds 209
TD 1
 
San Francisco
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
S. Hill18/3120910
RushingATTYDSTDLG
F. Gore223016
M. Norris1202
G. Coffee1-30-3
I. Bruce1-80-8
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
I. Bruce474050
V. Davis540019
J. Morgan338014
A. Battle222012
F. Gore31818
D. Walker117017
Arizona
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
K. Warner26/4428812
RushingATTYDSTDLG
B. Wells729015
T. Hightower81506
K. Warner2-401
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
T. Hightower12121023
J. Urban574040
L. Fitzgerald671125
A. Boldin219014
D. Kreider1303
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
SD 24 Final
OAK 20
BUF 24 Final
NE 25
CHI 15 Final
GB 21
STL 0 Final
SEA 28
WAS 17 Final
NYG 23
DAL 34 Final
TB 21
DET 27 Final
NO 45
JAC 12 Final
IND 14
NYJ 24 Final
HOU 7
MIN 34 Final
CLE 20
DEN 12 Final
CIN 7
PHI 38 Final
CAR 10
KC 24 Final
BAL 38
MIA 7 Final
ATL 19
TEN 10 Final
PIT 13