The San Francisco 49ers pulled out a last second victory over the Arizona Cardinals. They are the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs and will hit the road to face the Green Bay Packers in the wild card round. The win over the Cardinals was primarily due to the passing game of the 49ers. The passing game proved to be the X factor from Sunday’s win against the Arizona Cardinals.
Colin Kaepernick completed 21 of his 34 pass attempts. He had 310 yards passing along with two touchdowns. Kaepernick was able to get the ball to seven different receivers, one of which was Joe Staley. The most effective way for the 49ers to move the ball was through the air.
The Cardinals have the NFL’s top rated rushing defense. Frank Gore and the running game were able to get going in the previous meeting but that wasn’t the case this week. Gore only averaged 1.1 yards per carry and ran for a pedestrian like total of 14 yards. The running game was a non factor.
There were some pretty big time plays from the passing game. None of them were bigger than the catch by rookie receiver Quinton Patton. The play came on a first down after a delay of game penalty. There were 29 seconds left on the clock and the score was tied up at 20-20. The Cardinals were surging, having come back from a 17-point deficit. There was no way the 49ers wanted to get to overtime. Someone needed to make a play.
Quinton Patton had made a big time block earlier to spring Anquan Boldin for a 63-yard catch and run. This time it came by way of a 29-yard reception that set up the 49ers for a go-ahead 40-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. Kaepernick showed a great amount of trust in Patton by going to him in the clutch. The trust was formed in practice according to Kaepernick. He said that Patton had been making these kinds of plays in practice.
Anquan Boldin made his presence felt in the first half. He caught a four yard pass to score the first touchdown of the game. Boldin has become a top target for Kaepernick, even with the return of Michael Crabtree. There were some times when Crabtree beat Patrick Peterson and was open but Kaepernick forced the ball to Boldin. Vernon Davis scored the other touchdown for the 49ers. It was his 13th touchdown reception which is a career high.
The 49ers started out able to run the ball during the first drive. That stalled and the focus was then turned to the passing game. Many people, including myself would normally be very frustrated when Gore only get to carry the ball 13 times. Fortunately, the return of Crabtree and the emergence of Boldin has made the passing game able to be the primary source of offense. This will be something to keep an eye on as the 49ers make their move in the playoffs. The X factor in the win over the Cardinals will have to resurface as teams in the playoffs focus on stopping the running game which is what many feel is the focal point of the 49ers offense.