49ers vs. Cardinals results: 10 observations in 23-20 loss

Norm Hall

What stood out while watching the game?

The Arizona Cardinals lost their season finale 23-20 to the San Francisco 49ers on a last-second field goal. They finish the season 10-6 and do not make the playoffs.

The game started terribly for the Cardinls as they fell behind 17-0, but they battled back to tie it 17-17 and then 20-20 before losing in the game's final play.

What stood out? Here are my observations:

1. The whole team looked unprepared for what San Francisco brought offensively to start the game. They were expecting the power run game and instead The Niners went with Anquan Boldin and misdirection. They looked out of sorts on defense and they just weren't firing early on offense.

2. Carson Palmer looked nervous to start things off. He was misfiring and seemed a bit over-anxious to start things off. Once the offense got a little rhythm, he had himself a solid game. But like so many other games, he started slowly and finished strong. In the end, he threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns. He made big time throws late in the game.

If only he could get it together at the start of a game.

3. Bruce Arians was in full balls-out mode on offense. He went for it on fourth down four times. In the previous 15 games, they went for it four times on fourth down. He trusted his offense and didn't trust Jay Feely so much, although he might have wanted to go for it a fifth time instead of having Feely miss his second field goal.

4. The run defense was incredible once again. After giving up 101 yards to Frank Gore in Week 6 (the only back to gain 100 yards on the Cardinals), the defense held him to 14 yards on 13 carries. Overall, the defense gave up only 83 yards on the ground.

5. Once again, this team showed heart. They had to know that the Saints had eliminated them from postseason contention, but the Cardinals didn't give up when they were down 17-0. They fought to the end, giving the fans a heck of a game. Playing at home helps, but they proved to be a different team than in 2012 once again.

6. Rob Housler had an equally crappy and great game. He dropped a touchdown. He ran an incorrect route that could have gotten the team near the goalline. He also had a couple of huge catches down the field that were absolutely necessary to keep drives alive. He finished with five catches for 78 yards.

7. What Arizona had a hard time stopping early in the game came back to bite them in the rear in the last two San Francisco drives. Anquan Boldin had 104 first quarter yards and Vernon Davis scored a touchdown. In the last two drives, Davis had a 16-yard catch and Boldin had receptions of 17 and 18 yards. San Francisco made the plays when they had to.

8. Jay Feely was a goat, then a hero, then a nobody. He missed an early field goal, made one, then missed another, but hit the game-tying kick. He has to hit those other kicks, but the team overcame the misses. As a soon-to-be free agent as a 37-year old, he likely has played his final game as a Cardinal. That final game makes it so that fans won't pine for him.

9. The offensive line played well in pass protection. They did not do so well in the running game. They really struggled at putting both together in the same game all season.

10. Antoine Cason just has to make a play on that last pass. He was in great position, but did not make any attempt to do anything with the ball. It was as if he didn't think it was going to be caught. It was a fantastic throw and a fantastic catch, but Cason did not give his all. He needed to reach for that ball, as he likely could have tipped it away. Perhaps a second look at the film will tell me otherwise, but that is my initial reaction.

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