After taking two small steps forward the past two weeks, the Arizona Cardinals offense took one big step back Sunday afternoon in a lopsided 23-7 loss to San Francisco.
Second-year quarterback John Skelton, again filling in for the injured Kevin Kolb, completed just six of 19 passes for a paltry 99 yards. He was intercepted three times by a 49ers (9-1) defense who frequently put Arizona (3-7) behind the eight ball.
Skelton was pulled after three quarters and third-stringer Rich Bartel later threw a inconsequential touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald for the Red Birds only score.
“We didn’t play well enough offensively, especially at the quarterback position,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “If we can get our offense to play at the level of our defense, we’ll be fine.”
Leading 9-0 at the half, Alex Smith essentially put the game away engineering a 13-play, 86-yard drive to open to open the third quarter. Smith capped the drive, hitting former Scottsdale Chaparral High and ASU star Kyle Williams for an eight-yard score.
The former number one overall pick later in the quarter found tight end Vernon Davis for an 18-yard touchdown pushing the lead to 23-0.
Smith spear-headed a balanced offensive attack (267 yards passing), while Frank Gore rushed for 88 of San Francisco’s 164 yards on the ground.
On the opposite sideline, it was as ugly as it looked for offensive coordinator Mike Miller. The Cards managed only 229 total yards and converted just one of nine third downs. Most importantly, they turned the ball over five times.
“We won that game on the strength of a lot of things,” 49ers head coach explained. “But number one was getting turnovers.”
San Francisco can eliminate the Cardinals from the NFC West with their next win or Cards loss next weekend.
Whisenhunt’s team stays on the road with another division game against the Rams on Sunday.
The Niners travel to Baltimore to take on the AFC North-leading Ravens.