GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 11: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers stands with quarterback Alex Smith #11 on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 21-19. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
As improbable as it may seem, the Cardinals pulled out a 21-19 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The win was their fourth straight and their fifth in the last six games. John Skelton made some big plays and was helped out a couple of times by Larry Fitzgerald. The defense played great and shut down the 49ers offense.
The truth is that finding positive things about the win is pretty easy. Continue reading for the five that stood out most. If you can think of another, feel free to add something to them. That is exactly why we have commments!
1. The pass rush
I know the defense overall was great, but for the second week in a row, the defense had five sacks. Also, once again, it was five different players with a sack. On the season, the team now has 34 sacks, one more than they had the entire 2010 season. Also, were it not for the facemask penalty that Adrian Wilson got when applying pressure to Alex Smith, there would have been yet another sack.
2. Adrian Wilson looked like the Adrian Wilson of yesteryear
Wilson was all over the field on Sunday. His play was reminiscent of his play before last season, which was admittedly a down year. The stat sheet will only show three tackles and a pass deflected, but his impact was huge. He had a shot at two, perhaps three interceptions. He was applying pressure.
There were two plays in particular that stand out. On a third down play with three yards to go in the first quarter, Wilson backpedaled before the snap into deep coverage. The play was a toss to the left to Kendall Hunter. Wilson recovered and was in on the tackle with Richard Marshall two yards behind the line of scrimmage. He was not credited for a tackle or assist, but he finished off Hunter when Marshall first got a hold of him. The other play was a screen play he blew up when he read the play at the line of scrimmage, shed his blocker and pursued the back. He chased him into Darnell Dockett, who made the tackle, but it was Wilson that broke up the play.
The struggles he seems to have had earlier in the season seem to have been related to the scheme because he has looked very good in all phases recently, including in coverage.
3. The defense played at an elite level
Except for the Frank Gore touchdown play, the defense did not give up a single big play. It continued its dominance. Again, the defense allowed 20 TDs in the first seven games of the season. In the most recent six, they have given up only six touchdowns. The Niners only logged one second half first down -- and that was on Rashad Johnson's personal foul penalty. The defense was truly stifling. Alex Smith threw for less than 200 yards, Frank Gore ran for less than 100 yards and no receiver logged 100 yards.
4. Larry Fitzgerald looked like Larry Fitzgerald and reached 1000 yards receiving on the year
Fitz showed it all. He had the numbers -- seven catches for 149 yards and a score. He made a huge block on the Early Doucet touchdown. His own touchdown play saved John Skelton from an interception. He leapt up and took the ball away from Dashon Goldson, landed, made his move and made it into the endzone. His other 50+ yard catch showed his athleticism and physicality, as he spun to elude two would-be tacklers as he came down with the ball for the catch. There should be no doubt who is the best receiver in football. His TD catch also took him past the 1000 yards milestone, the sixth time he has reached it in his career.
5. John Skelton got his revenge on the Niners
He was not perfect, as he had a handful of plays that were just bad. However, he shook them off as he has done almost all season and made big, big throws. With no running game to speak of, Skelton threw for three TDs. It was the first time that Arizona had scored more than one TD since the start of the losing streak they had against the Niners. In the end, he had a passer rating of 100.1, completing almost 63 percent of his passes for three TDs.