Defense and smart offense were the factor as the 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 24-3 on Monday Night Football. QB Alex Smith was almost perfect in completing all passes going 18 for 19, 232 passing yards and three touchdowns. His completion percentage of 94.7 set the NFL record for highest in a game with a minimum of 15 attempts. The 49ers now sit on top of the NFC West division with a two-game lead on the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
“Everyone took it as a challenge and it was great rhythm from the start,” said Smith. “We put efficient plays together. We had that rhythm going.”
Crabtree became Smith’s top target on third down. Out of Crabtree’s five catches, four were in third down and Crabtree converted three of those chances. The only third down Crabtree didn’t convert was on 3rd & 22, but Crabtree gained 21 yards on the play setting up a David Akers 43-yard field goal. That gave the 49ers an early 10-0 lead.
“I felt like we came out strong, doing what we were supposed to do tonight,” said Crabtree. “It’s frustrating when you don’t get the ball, but you need to make plays. If you get a limited amount of touches, you need to make the most of them.”
Smith connected with Randy Moss for a 47-yard touchdown for the third of the game. Moss’s touchdown catch, which was his only reception of the game, showed the NFL world that the 35-year old still had a few more moves in his arsenal. Moss caught the pass on a 10-yard out route, took a pivot back in the field and made two juke moves, eluding two defenders before sprinting down the sideline untouched for the score.
“The intent of that pass was to convert the third down,” said Smith. “Suddenly Randy Moss was off. There were great adjustments all night.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers held the Cardinals to only seven rushing yards and 265 total yards. John Skelton was bettered as he was sacked four times this game. The Cardinals completely abandoned the running game in the second half. They had nine running plays the entire game and Skelton had 52 passing attempts.
Larry Fitzgerald was shut down by the 49ers’ defense throughout the night, only getting five catches and 52 receiving yards with minimal effect. Andre Roberts ended up being the lead receiver for the Cardinals with seven receptions for 65 yards.
“We have a bunch of great guys on our defensive side of the ball,” said Patrick Willis. “These guys are detailed in watching and studying the other team. It’s amazing to be a part of this team as everyone worked their tails off.”
The 49ers started the scoring for the game by running the ball with Frank Gore. He ran the ball three times for a combined 37 yards to lead to the 49ers’ first score. The second score by Crabtree came courtesy of tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
They never had to look back as the defense took care of business the entire game. LaRod Stephens-Howling had only six yards on the ground from eight carries. Patrick Peterson was shut down in the return game with only 15 yards on four punt returns. It was a dominant performance by all three phases of the 49ers team.
Harbaugh was happy with what he saw from the team. It was a solid road win and a great effort from everyone on the team.
“It’s great team victory,” said Harbaugh. “We played good games before, but this was a great performance against a tough foe on the road. It’s hard to do that in this league.”
-RB Brandon Jacobs, QB Scott Tolzien, WR A.J. Jenkins, RB LaMichael James, S Trenton Robinson, G Joe Looney and NT Ian Williams were all inactive for the game. This was Jacobs’s seventh game of being inactive after being listed as active against the Seattle Seahawks in the team’s last game.
-G Daniel Kilgore was injured with a concussion during the middle of a kickoff return. He didn’t return for the rest of the game.
-Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined for 98 yards on the ground — Majority of this was in the first half.
-The Cardinals had 290 yards through the air, but much of it was in the second half when the team was trying to catch up. Only one screen to LaRod Stephens-Howling was effective early on.
-Alex Smith was sacked four times, but the offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw the ball. They did a good job with less hurries and were strong in pass protection. Smith was sacked due to good coverage by the Cardinals’ secondary.
-The pass rushing for the 49ers was solid. John Skelton was forced to roam around to safety and he was sacked four times.
-The 49ers converted all their red zone trips into touchdowns. The passing plays were working and the team only settled for a field goal outside the 20 yard line.