The Cardinals beat the 49ers 19-13 Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. The 49ers came up two yards short on the final dive of the game when Anquan Boldin, after catching a Blaine Gabbert pass for 18 yards, failed to make the 4th and 20 yardage needed to extend the drive.
After a 7:15 minute first possession and a 3-0 lead, the Cardinals with the ball on the 42-yard line, couldn’t solve the stingy 49ers’ defense that stoned Chris Johnson on the ground and held Palmer to three short passes to Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals had to settle for another Chris Catanzaro field goal and a 6-0 lead.
Gabbert and the 49ers had only 12 plays in the first quarter. Thanks to a Tyrann Mathieu interception intended for Quinton Patton with 1:55 left in the first quarter, the 49ers were relegated to spectators much of the first half.
The 49ers were able to break the ice before the half ended. After a 12-play, 45-yard drive, the 49ers got some momentum with a Phil Dawson 53-yard field goal as the first half expired down only 6-3. In the first meeting in Arizona, the 49ers were losing 31-7 at half.
The Cardinals opened the second half with a touchdown, highlighted by a 48-yard pass to John Brown on the second play setting up a Dave Johnson 1-yard run aided by five penalties. Four pass interference calls and an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on the 49ers were highly suspect and seemed quizzically subjective by a referee crew that had many people, on and off the field, second-guessing their judgement.
“I’ve never seen four penalties like that on one possession,” veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
Not to be deterred, the 49ers came back capping off a 77-yard drive with a Vance McDonald 8-yard touchdown strike. A Phil Dawson 33-yard field goal on their next possession would knot the score at 13.
The Cardinals went on a 14-play, 85-yard drive in their final possession to untie the game with 2:28 left in the game. The 49ers aided the drive when Jimmie Ward committed an illegal contact penalty on a 3rd and 19 and Torrey Smith was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing too vociferously. Quinton Dial would then get a roughing-the-passer penalty after sacking Carson for an 8-yard loss. Nine plays later, Carson Palmer running left, outran the 49ers defense eight yards for the score. Catanzaro’s extra point was no good giving the 49ers life with 2:21 left in the game.
“The last drive was kind of indicative of the way the day was, Carson (Palmer) stumbling and bumbling into the end zone,” Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. Adding, “But I’ve been around long enough to know any win is a good one.”
Gabbert showed starting-quarterback skills able to complete four of six passes on the final drive to get the ball to the Cardinals’ 30-yard line with a little over a minute left to play. But then, on 3rd and 10, Arizona’s Tony Jefferson, on a safety blitz, sacked Gabbert for a huge and decisive 10-yard loss. Gabbert’s fourth and 20 completed pass to Boldin came up two yards short to end the drive.
In the post-game press conference when asked, “I’m not going to comment on the officiating,” 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula said. “It’s a loss, we lost the football game.” The non-comment, comment speaks volumes as to what he actually felt but saved himself the NFL fine for criticizing the referees.
Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 66 yards for 16th place in yards receiving in NFL history. Carson Palmer was 24 of 40 for 271 yards and 49ers’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert was 25 of 36 for 318 yards with one interception.
To their credit the 49ers, having lost to this same team earlier in the year 47-7 in Arizona, played the Cardinals tough. It was the Cardinals fifth straight victory and first road win against the 49ers since 2008.