Entering Week 11 against the division rival Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers had won 7 in a row, with their only loss in Week 2 OT to a visiting Dallas team. The 49ers had the second-best record in NFL behind undefeated Green Bay Packers at this point.
It was a rainy day in Candlestick when the 49ers and Cardinals faced off for the first time in 2011.
As always, San Francisco won the opening coin toss and elected to defer, giving John Skelton and the Cardinals offense the ball to start the game. Skelton's first throw was incomplete to receiver Andre Roberts, with Carlos Rogers on the coverage. On third down, the Cards attempted a slant to Larry Fitzgerald but it was broken up by Rogers and Arizona went three-and-out.
To begin the game, Alex Smith threw an incompletion to Braylon Edwards on first down. Frank Gore got the carry on 2nd down but was stopped, forcing a third down and long. The competition between the teams was fiery already, with shoving going on early after plays.
3rd and 10, Smith went down the left sideline, delivering a beautifully thrown ball to Crabtree who had one-on-one coverage. It was a huge conversion that went for 38 yards into Arizona territory. Gore took the carry off the right side for a short gain on first down.
On a crossing route, a wide open Edwards dropped a pass on 2nd and 7. 3rd and 7, Smith had good protection and he was able to make a good throw, hitting Crabtree who was sitting on his route. It was the 2nd third down conversion on the drive between the duo.
Gore got another carry for another medium gain on first down; managing drives by eliminating small chunks on first down. The 49ers came out of a wildcat package with Kendall Hunter taking the snap, but they received a penalty and the play was never ran - they do have it in the playbook though.
A 2nd and 11 pass was batted down by defensive lineman Calais Campbell. And then the 49ers failed to convert on third down when a pass from Smith is too high for Crabtree.
And unfortunately the David Akers 46-yard attempt was blocked by Arizona's Calais Campbell; the fifth blocked FG in his career.
Wells took the first down carry for 8 yards to get Arizona started. On the next play Skelton threw short into traffic where the ball hit Tarell Brown in the arm and a closing Patrick Willis scooped it in midair for the interception.
Kendall Hunter's first carry of the game went off the left side for a short gain on the outside. With Vernon Davis out wide, Smith tried to hit his tight end on a slant route inside but it was broken up on third down. David Akers missed his FG attempt and the Cardinals started with good field position again.
Skelton threw to Fitzgerald but Patrick Willis came through with an athletic play to leap and deflect the ball off track. Skelton was pressured and hit by Justin Smith and Ray McDonald on 3rd and 6 to force the incompletion.
On first down, Smith threw incomplete to his backup tight end, Walker, on first down. Smith then delivered one short to Davis on a flat-route; the tight end avoided tackles, stayed in bounds and did enough for a first down. On the following play, Smith went deep down the middle to Davis again, getting inside the Cardinals 30. Smith took advantage of Davis being one-on-one with safety Adrian Wilson, and Davis just beat him, showing his athleticism to attack the football for a 27-yard gain.
With patience and vision, Gore exploded for a 1st down, taking advantage of great blocks by Adam Snyder and Bruce Miller, finding a hole to get to the Cardinals 11-yard line. Alex Smith went short to Miller in the flat, who took it up the right sideline, just short of the end zone. On 3rd and 3 in striking distance, Smith threw to the high outside shoulder of Edwards and a well-placed ball went right through the receiver's hands.
Beanie Wells took the handoff on first down up the middle, but Bowman and Willis on the tackle forced a fumble that was recovered by Donte Whitner. On first down, a perfect throw from Smith to Davis down the right sideline was caught by Davis but the tight end didn't get both feet in.
The 49ers wound up going three-and-out and couldn't capitalize on the turnover. A 43-yard FG by Akers went just inside right upright to give the 49ers a 6-0 lead over the Cardinals.
A wide receiver screen to Fitzgerald was sniffed out by Bowman for no gain; wrapping up Fitzgerald before he can come back down with the ball. On third down, Skelton dropped the ball, recovered it and was sacked behind the line by Ahmad Brooks.
The 49ers had good coverage, double covering Fitzgerald with one man high and one low (safety and corner).
Entering the 2nd quarter, Skelton didn't have a single passing yard yet.
Smith hit the crossing route to Davis for a gain of 5-yards on first down. On 2nd and 5, Gore had a quick burst for a 5-yard gain on the right side. Out of the shotgun, Smith then targeted Kyle Williams on the crossing route for a first down. Gore then broke tackles on first down to put the 49ers in second and short
On 3rd and 1, Crabtree went in motion - with Smith on the play-fake, Crabtree snuck out left and Smith hit his receiver in space for a first down, and their 3rd third-down conversion as a QB-WR tandem already. But then Smith missed a wide open Crabtree on a go-route, who beat his defender but the ball was too far ahead of him.
On 3rd and 5 in scoring position, the 49ers couldn't convert and were forced to settle for yet another field goal attempt. The field goal attempt was blocked by Patrick Peterson coming off the edge, for Akers' second blocked kick of the day.
Skelton went down the middle of the field to Fitzgerald but it went behind his receiver. A delay to Wells is met head-on by NaVorro Bowman who seemed to be everywhere today. On 3rd and 9, Skelton threw downfield incomplete to force another Arizona punt (Skelton: 2 of 10 for 12 yards and an interception on the day).
Gore broke into the secondary for 12 yards on first down, shedding tackles and changing gears. Gore found another seam and took it for a medium gain on first down. On 2nd and 6, Kyle Williams made the catch, juked Sam Acho and took it up for a first down.
To change it up, Hunter took a handoff that went for a medium gain off the left side with the 49ers nearing midfield. Smith went through his progressions, improvised and checked to his left to Hunter who put a move on a defender and got the fresh set of downs.
Smith looking for Davis on first down went incomplete. But Gore took a handoff right, broke two tackles, bounced it outside and fell just short of the first down. On 3rd and 1, Hunter was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the 49ers decided to go for it on fourth down.
On 4th and 2, Smith sprints out right, fires to Williams who made the catch on the out-route and tapped his toes in for the first down.
On 3rd and 11, Smith hit Davis who took it just short of the first down. Akers was sent out and kicked the field goal to make it 9-0 SF.
Skelton went to Early Doucet on 1st and 10 for a first down before the receiver ran out of bounds. Doucet made the catch but got popped by cornerback Chris Culliver. Skelton's following pass went incomplete on third down and the Cardinals had to punt back to San Francisco right before halftime.
Arizona only had 52 yards of total offense in the first half.
On 2nd and 10, Crabtree made a catch for a medium gain then cut up field, breaking tackles to midfield for a big gain - his fifth catch of the day for an accumulated 97 yards.
Crabtree then took a reception from the line of scrimmage up field for 14-yards and a first down; breaking 100 yards on the day and simply wearing out Patrick Peterson. The 49ers handed it to Gore on fourth and inches and San Francisco did just enough to pick it up.
Anthony Davis went to the sideline with an injured ankle and Alex Boone stepped in at right tackle. On 3rd and 6 from the Arizona 21-yard line, Smith's receivers were covered so he tucked it and ran, taking the ball to the ARI 10.
Anthony Davis checked back in.
On 2nd and goal, Smith threw an out-route to Kyle Williams who made the grab and crossed the plain for the first 49ers touchdown of the day - beating his defender with a pivot move and sprinting to the pylon. The 8-yard touchdown capped of a 13 play, 84-yard drive that killed 7:48 to start the second half.
Smith was 4 for 4, with 48-yards passing, 13 rushing yards and a TD through the air. San Francisco took a 16-0 lead over the visiting Cardinals.
Skelton hit Fitzgerald down the middle of the field for an 18-yard gain on first down. On the following play, a rushing Brooks got hands on Skelton, who released one deep - vastly overthrown - and intercepted by Whitner.
Williams made another grab on a comeback route to bailout Smith who was out of the pocket for a 49er first down. Gore then gained 8 on first down. On 3rd and 2, Smith lobbed a beauty over the shoulder of his tight end Vernon Davis on a deep fade route; Davis beat one-on-one with the safety for the touchdown to make it 23-0.
Beanie Wells gained close to 10-yards on first down before he was taken out at the legs by Dashon Goldson. Skelton then missed his receiver, with Culliver on the coverage to force a third and short. Andre Roberts caught a pass on a short pattern and broke loose up the right sideline for a sizable gain before Culliver shoved him out of bounds.
On 2nd and 10, a diving interception was made by Dashon Goldson for another 49er takeaway. It was a bad throw by Skelton but an athletic and aware play by Goldson.
Crabtree caught a slant from Alex Smith on second down, continuing to get good position on the defensive backs. A good throw to Davis was broken up to force a 4th down situation for San Francisco.
Andy Lee punted to Patrick Peterson; Peterson was clobbered by the special teams and Bowman came up with the football for the 49ers 5th takeaway of the game.
On a go-route to Crabtree, Peterson was then called for pass interference, having an arm-bar on the receiver. The penalty hurt the Cardinals as it put San Francisco is striking distance at the ARI 12. On offense, running back Anthony Dixon checked in taking the brunt of the work.
On third and goal from the 7-yard line, Smith escaped Darnell Dockett, rolled out and threw across his body and it was intercepted by linebacker Daryl Washington.
Richard Bartell stepped in for John Skelton to close out the game for Arizona. On second down, Tarell Brown hit Wells hard in the flat who couldn't hang on to the Bartell throw. On 3rd and 6, with pressure in his face, Bartell's pass went incomplete.
The 49ers were sputtering on offense before Smith was sacked on a 3rd and 9. However on the play, a holding penalty on the Arizona Cardinals gave San Francisco a fresh set of downs. On 3rd and 8, Stewart Bradley tipped a pass intended for Vernon Davis and the 49ers had to punt.
On 1st and 10, Bartell held on to the ball too long, and Aldon Smith recovered after being knocked down, snuck inside and sacked the Arizona quarterback.
On the same play, Dashon Goldson and Early Doucet traded punches after the whistle. Goldson threw three haymakers at Doucet and was ejected from the game. However, Doucet had initiated it, hitting Goldson in the head while the safety was still on the ground after the play. But Goldson should have never retaliated with those punches.
On a 2nd and 4, Chester Taylor came in and ripped the 49ers defense for a big, big gain into San Francisco territory. On the following play, Bartell went to the end zone, going right through Rogers' hands and caught by Fitzgerald for a touchdown. The score made it 23-7, with San Francisco still on top.
On the special teams kick following, the hatred for one another continued with more pushing and shoving between the division rivals.
Hunter on first down went up the right side near the first down marker. San Francisco played conservative with little time left and punted back to Arizona. The Cardinals offense was chipping away with short passes and short runs to try and pick up yardage when deep routes broke down.
On 3rd and 4, Bartell was hit by Justin Smith, who then overthrew the wide receiver but Tremaine Brock was called for pass interference and the Cardinals got a fresh set of downs.
Bartell missed Roberts on 1st and 10. Bartell went to Roberts again, and with Willis in zone, the linebacker picked up the receiver and broke up any shot at the completion. On 3rd and 10, Bartell missed all of his receivers, throwing an inaccurate ball downfield.
On 4th and 10, Bartell scrambled up the right side, and Willis dropped a shoulder into a sliding quarterback; the linebacker was called for unnecessary roughness and the Cardinals' drive stayed alive. On 3rd and 10 from the 49ers 16-yard line, Bartell's pass to Doucet in the end zone was broken up by safety Reggie Smith.
On 4th and 10, Bartell tried to convert but took a hit from Justin Smith while a short catch from Doucet was not enough for the first down.
After the Cardinals couldn't score, this gave San Francisco the ball and basically sealed the deal with less than 3 minutes left in the game. The 49ers improved to 9-1 and continued what was now an 8-game win streak.
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