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(Monday, December 14th)
Final Score: San Francisco 24, Arizona 9
San Francisco, CA (Sports Network) - Frank Gore rushed for 167 yards and a score, and the 49ers forced seven turnovers to beat the Cardinals, 24-9, temporarily denying Arizona from clinching the NFC West title.
Alex Smith completed 19-of-35 passes for 144 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions for the 49ers (6-7), who bounced back from a 20-17 loss at Seattle. That trimmed Arizona's (8-5) lead to two games over San Francisco in the division.
The story of the night, though, was San Francisco's defense. The 49ers sacked Kurt Warner four times and picked him off twice. All 24 of their points came off Arizona miscues. Dashon Goldson had an interception and forced a pair of fumbles, while Ahmad Brooks recorded three of the sacks and two forced fumbles.
"It's great when you see that because our defense is capable of being a great defense," said 49ers coach Mike Singletary. "Tonight I think we had a lot of things go our way. We just have to keep working to get better."
Warner finished 16-of-29 for 178 yards through the air for the defending NFC champions, who failed to build momentum from a 30-17 home win against the Minnesota Vikings. Arizona fumbled seven times, losing five of them.
"Sometimes you come out and you don't have your 'A' game and another team takes it to you," said Warner. "Unfortunately, we've had a few of these around here. I think that's the most disappointing part. You think you're over these games where we're on a big high and we play great and kind of set the tone for ourselves. Then we come back and play a game like we did tonight."
Beanie Wells gained 79 yards on 15 carries and ran for a score in defeat.
To make matters worse, Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald suffered a sprained right knee early in the third quarter, but he returned to the game later in the contest.
San Francisco's opening possession to start the game ended in a turnover. The 49ers drove from their own 25 to the Arizona 40, but Darnell Dockett tipped a Smith pass near the line of scrimmage and came up with the ball. San Francisco challenged the call, thinking it was incomplete, as Dockett likely never had possession before recovering his own fumble. Replay officials confirmed the ruling on the field.
San Francisco had a successful challenge later in the quarter, leading to the game's first points. Tim Hightower rushed for a four-yard gain to the Arizona 10 but lost the ball when he was hit by Goldson. Dre' Bly picked up the loose ball and ran into the end zone, but the play was ruled down by contact, with Arizona maintaining possession. The challenge call changed that and gave the 49ers the ball at the eight.
Two plays later, with 3:53 remaining in the quarter, Smith connected with Vernon Davis in the end zone on a five-yard pass.
LaRod Stephens-Howling fumbled after making a reception on Arizona's next drive, and Mark Roman recovered for the 49ers at the Cardinals' 28. That led to Joe Nedney's 37-yard field goal in the closing minute of the quarter.
The 49ers thwarted an Arizona drive early in the second when, Goldson came up with an interception at the 12.
Nedney was barely wide right on a 53-yard field goal try with just over four minutes left in the half, but the Cardinals gave the ball right back with their fourth turnover of the night - this time with Tarell Brown picking off Warner.
San Francisco embarked on an ensuing seven-play, 68-yard drive, finished by Smith's 35-yard TD strike to Michael Crabtree with 52 seconds left in the half.
Arizona looked for a late first half score, but Warner was stripped of the football in the pocket by Ahmad Brooks, and Justin Smith recovered for the 49ers at the San Francisco 43 with seven seconds left in the half.
Neil Rackers kicked a 48-yard field goal with under six minutes left in the third quarter, and the Cardinals were in business again after an interception by Adrian Wilson, giving Arizona the ball at the San Francisco 43. On fourth down from the one, Wells plunged into the end zone off right guard, using a second effort to back into the end zone, 57 seconds into the final quarter.
Rackers' extra point try was blocked by Ray McDonald, leaving the Cardinals behind, 17-9.
Wells accounted for the Cardinals' sixth turnover of the night, as he was stripped of the ball by Goldson at the Arizona 16. Gore ran four straight times, including a two-yard power move up the middle behind blockers for a 24-9 difference with 9:22 left.
The final turnover by the Cardinals came when wide receiver Anquan Boldin was stripped of the football by Roman with under three minutes remaining.
The Cardinals play at Detroit Sunday, while the 49ers will be in Philadelphia...The seven turnovers ties Carolina for the most in the league this season for a single game...San Francisco has nine sacks in the last two games...Crabtree had five catches for 67 yards...Gore carried the ball 25 times...Fitzgerald went up to try and catch a long Warner pass early in the third quarter. Upon landing, Goldson came down on the wide receiver's leg. Fitzgerald walked off the field and then to the locker room for X-rays, which turned up negative.
12/15 00:29:09 ET