The pre-game hype (or lack thereof) for this game was a little tough to bear---on one segment ESPN's Teddy Bruschi and Herm Edwards were unanimous in picking the 49ers to win their first game. Then on Twitter, PFF reported a couple of hours before kickoff that the AZ-SF game was the lowest ranked game since 2006.
In the FOX pregame, Laura Okmin reported that Patrick Peterson told her that the Cardinals problems were not physical, they were all mental.
Well, anyone who watched the Cardinals' super soft performances in Philly and London would have to wonder how Peterson could dismiss the notion that the Cardinals' problems are physical.
The irony is, of course, that Peterson himself, shies away from contact as much as possible, just as he did when Carlos Hyde caught a ball right in front of his zone and he merely waved at Hyde as Hyde blew right past him.
The Cardinals must lead the NFL in first possessions, as for the 8th consecutive game, the Cardinals got the ball first.
As was the case in London, thanks to a nifty first down stop-and-go pass up the right sideline from Drew Stanton to John Brown of 52 yards the Cardinals threatened to score on its first possession.
And then IT happened again. Phil Dawson missed a 38 yard field goal.
However, this time the Cardinals' defense responded, when Tyrann Mathieu stripped FB Kyle Juszczyk of the football and Patrick Peterson scooped up the ball and took it inside the 49ers' 5 yard line.
Curiously, even though Peterson had a running head start ahead of the field he was chased down on the play by WR Marquis Goodwin.
On a third a goal, Stanton was flushed to his right and managed to feather a TD pass in between 49er defenders into the arms of WR Jaron Brown to make it 7-0 Cardinals. It was a risky pass thrown back inside that typically is picked off in traffic, but it worked.
Stanton looked fairly comfortable throughout the game...aided heavily by RB Adrian Peterson's impressive 37/159/4.3 performance...and some timely passes, such as the 11 yard TD pass to TE Jermaine Gresham, which made the score 14-3 Cardinals.
Stanton had a chance to put the Cardinals up 21-3 in the second quarter, but threw a pass to the wrong side of Gresham that Eric Reed intercepted in the end zone. BA said he got greedy with the call, but, if Stanton throws that pass to the inside where Gresham had the leverage, it was a good call.
Despite Peterson's monster game and the constant pressure the defense put on Beathard, the Cardinals could only muster 6 points in the second half.
Stanton's passing mechanics are conspicuously flawed. He tends to cock the ball, cup it and then push it out. His release is rarely clean or smooth. As a result, his completion percentages tend to hover at or below the 50% mark. He has a tendency to sail the ball when hurried, which he tried to correct in this game, but wound up throwing the ball low or into the ground.
But, Stanton is a gritty competitor. He says he doesn't care about stats, he only cares about making enough plays to win. He is now 7-3 as a spot starter in Arizona, with 3 of those wins coming against the 49ers.
The Cardinals allowed the 49ers to keep this a game, when once again, the Cardinals' defense laid an egg on the first possession of the 3rd quarter.
Whatever is happening at half-time with the Cardinals' defense has not been working all year. But, BA keeps insisting that the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter is the most critical stretch in the football game.
The Cardinals won this game because the won in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The left side of the Cardinals' offensive line (Gresham/Niklas/Humphries/Boone) accounted for 137 of AP's 159 yards.
On the other side, the Cardinals' defensive line harassed rookie QB C.J. Beathard, to the tune of 5 sacks and a whopping 16 QB hits. Yet, Beathard still had a chance late in the game, thanks to Adrian Peterson's fumble, a late hit by Antoine Bethea on a QB slide and the multiple ejections that followed.
However, a feel-good ending for the Cardinals ensued when Beathard threw a pass that ricocheted off Trent Brown's helmet right in to the waiting arms of Karlos Dansby who became the 5th player in NFL history to record 40 sacks and 20 interceptions.
As for the Cardinals' special teams, aside from Dawson's missed field goal, the teams were solid. Dawson made his next 2 FGs, Andy Lee got better hang time and averaged 45 yards per punt where emerging ST's star Budda Baker was there to clean up.
Per PFF, the top rated players in the game for the Cardinals were DT Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack), T Jared Veldheer, TE Troy Niklas, WR Larry Fitzgerald (5/70) and LB Karlos Dansby (7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PD, 2 QB hits).
Meanwhile, over in Seattle, the Redskins looked like they might put away the game up 10-8 and marching late when they were flagged for an illegal hit in the back on DT Michael Bennett who deliberately turned his back to go out of bounds on the play. It was an absurd call. These are the kind of game changing breaks the Seahawks typically get.
Russell Wilson got the ball back and once again, despite struggling all game long he goes 7/7 in the 4th quarter and throws a go ahead TD to Doug Baldwin with a little over 90 seconds left.
However, Kirk Cousins flips the script by leading the Redskins on a 75 yard TD drive in a mere 35 seconds, thanks to a spectacular diving catch of a deep fade to WR Josh Doctson.