The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a 32-20 victory Sunday against their division rival Arizona Cardinals to improve to 4-2 and stay one game behind of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West. It wasn’t a work of art, as Jim Harbaugh alluded to, calling it a “grinding some meat” type of victory.
Then again, who are we to argue over a victory? San Francisco kept pace atop the NFC West, and extended their winning streak to three games, a feat that was not accomplished during last season.
The 49ers had some very bright spots to take away from Sundays tilt, but also made some mistakes that cannot be made against the elite teams in the NFL.
Only the 18th? – Eric Reid, the #18th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, has been absolutely amazing during his first six games. He has fit in like a seasoned vet, and his first quarter interception returned 53 yards set the tone for the rest of the game. Dashon Goldson, whom Reid has done more than replace, had three interceptions all of last season. Reid through six games? Three.
Missed Opportunity - The 49ers, inside the 10 yard line after Reid’s interception, could not be punched in for 7 points, as San Francisco had to settle for a field goal.
Again? - Carlos Rogers got his first interception of the season, matching his 2012 season total after six in 2011. His return set up the 49ers in great field position once again, which leads to the…
De Ja Vu - Once again, San Francisco could not find the end zone after a brilliant starting position. Sure, they were up 6-0, but if you can’t take advantage against teams like Seattle or New Orleans, it will come back to bite them.
Comes Back to Hurt - One 75 yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald later, and the Cardinals take a 7-6 lead. In what should have been a 14-7 lead turned into a comeback victory.
Bouncing Back - Arizona had the ball pinned near the 49ers endzone, which led to a sack of Carson Palmer, leading to a safety, as the Giants took an 8-7 lead over the Diamondbacks. Uh, scratch that. Pitchers and Catchers report in February. The sack was by none 0ther than Cory Lemonier, who has done amazing filling in for Aldon Smith. It will be interesting to see where the 3rd rounder out of Auburn ends up if Smith returns.
Deadly Combo - San Francisco did not go of the lead from this point on, as the Colin Kaepernick to Vernon Davis connection clicked in the second quarter, with completions of 61 and 35 yards, both resulting in touchdowns. While the chemistry wasn’t there during 2012, they connected many times in the playoffs and have been on the same page for much of the regular season.
I feel like I am repeating myself - Red Zone struggles seem to be the theme of the “Bad”. Thus, it shall continue. Kaepernick threw a pass that was picked off on the yard line after an impressive march down the field. Scoring 13 points on four trips inside the 20 won’t result in the 49ers lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
THE TURNING POINT - It was sure a welcome sight to see Patrick Willis back on the field besides his pal, Navarro Bowman. While he had a quiet game (Arizona averaged 5.9 yards per rush), he had the play of the game, punching a ball out of the grasp of Fitzgerald, leading to an Arizona turnover and maintaining their 22-20 throat.
“Just Run, Baby” - San Francisco’s offense took advantage of this turnover, turning in a drive that went 18 plays and over nine minutes long, making it a two possession game with a little under seven minutes remaining. San Francisco was not trying to be tricky either, as they handed off the ball for the last handful plus plays. Their offensive line proved themselves as the best in the NFL, opening up holes for Gore, Hunter, and a 4th and 1 run by Miller.
Looking Ahead - San Francisco travels to Tennessee to face the 3-3 Titans, who put up a battle in a 20-13 loss to Seattle. With a flight to London following the game, the 49ers can’t afford to let this one slip away.