49ers dominate Cards, take two-game lead in NFC West

The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals knew how much was at stake Monday night. An opportunity to impress before a national television audience. A chance to make a statement at the mid-way point of the season in the NFC West.

Unfortunately for Cards fans, the 49ers were the only one’s invited to the party as they jumped out to 24-0 lead and cruised to an easy 24-3 win at University of Phoenix Stadium as many of the announced crowd of 62,810 headed for the exits long before the final whistle. It was the Cards fourth-straight loss after starting the season 4-0.

“We didn’t get the job done,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said after. “It was disappointing to say the least. We’ve got the guys to do it…but we’re not going to lose sight of the fact that we didn’t get things done that we needed to.”

The Niners got the scoring started midway through the first quarter when Alex Smith hit Michael Crabtree on a three-yard strike on third and goal. It capped an impressive ten play, 77-yard drive which featured a nice mix of Smith passes and runs by Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter who took turns gashing the Red Birds defense. Smith finished a near-perfect 18-19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn’t intercepted and his passer rating was a sparkling 157.1.

“I wasn’t worried about any incompletions or anything like that,” Smith explained. “I was just kind of in a good rhythm. The whole offense was.”

Jim Harbaugh’s (6-2) team dominated the first quarter out gaining the Cards (4-4) 116-22 in total yards and holding a significant edge in time of possession 11:27 to 3:33.

Following a 35-yard punt return by Ted Ginn, the 49ers settled for a 43-yard David Akers field goal after the drive stalled at the 25. The kick was setup after Crabtree snuck past Patrick Peterson for a 22-yard catch and run on third and 23 one play after Daryl Washington’s seventh sack of the season (he added another later).

The domination continued moments after another Arizona punt, Smith hit tight ends Delaney Walker for 15 yards and Vernon Davis for 25 just before the two-minute warning to set the Niners up in the red zone. Smith and Crabtree hooked up again on third and goal, this time from nine yards out, making it 17-0 going into halftime following Akers’ PAT.

Mike Miller’s offense managed just 69 first half yards and a paltry six on the ground. San Francisco rolled up 212 and doubled the Red Birds in time of possession.

The onslaught continued in the second half following a Cards punt, Smith hit Randy Moss on a 47-yard catch and run as he eluded rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming and linebacker Paris Lenon and sprinted down the 49ers sideline. Akers’ successful PAT made it 24-0 midway through the third quarter.

The Cards finally got on the board in the final minute of the quarter when Jay Feely connected on a 28-yard field goal snapping the shutout. Skelton threw 13 passes on the drive, completing 10 as the Red Birds completely abandoned the run game. He finished 32-52 for 290 yards, many of those coming with the game out of reach. Skelton was sacked four times and intercepted once.

“We had some good drives, but we weren’t able to put it in the end zone,” Skelton said. “It’s frustrating because the way their offense is and the way their defense is, we are not going to get very many opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of the one’s we did.”

The Cards finished with just seven rushing yards and converted only two of 14 third down conversions.

Arizona is back on the road this weekend when they travel to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.