While Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Eastern seaboard, the San Francisco 49ers pounded the Arizona Cardinals in dry and arid Phoenix, Arizona. Whether it was with their short passing game, Frank Gore rushing inside, outside or with their defensive front seven, San Fran swept through University of Phoenix Stadium with the force of a once in a lifetime hurricane..or sand storm.
Randy Moss used the opportunity to remind the NFL of his Mr. Monday Night moniker by scoring his 18th touchdown in 19 Monday Night Football appearances. (Keep that 18 of 19 number in mind.)
Jay Feeley ended the 49ers shutout bid in the fourth quarter but his field goal at the conclusion of a 14-play, 6:30 drive was the only highlight of the night for Arizona. Prior to Monday night, the Cardinals were the only team to hold each of their opponents under 21 points this season. San Francisco put that streak to bed in the first half. The Cardinals' 4-0 start seems like a lifetime ago after their fourth straight loss.
Here's how the 49ers beat the Cardinals:
Alex Smith’s Near Perfect Game
On June 13, Matt Cain threw the first perfect game in San Francisco Giants history. On his best day, Cain could toss 18 of his first 19 pitches across the plate into Buster Posey’s glove. Alex Smith had one of those days.
Courtesy of the short passing game, and a little bit of luck, Smith’s 18-of-19 passing performance set the NFL single-game record for most completed passes with only one incompleti
Tonight, reality for Patrick Peterson, who sought to establish himself as one of the league’s best corners during the offseason, was sobering. In the matchup of Peterson vs. Michael Crabtree, Crabtree emerged victorious.
Crabtree was the recipient of a pair of Alex Smith touchdowns but Moss’ lone catch, a 47-yard touchdown where he shook a pair of cornerbacks out of their cleats en route to the endzone was arguably their highlight of the night.
Smith did have issues with holding the football too long and taking unnecessary sacks but overall it was akin to pitch and catch for Smith and his receivers.
GroundHog Day: Cardinals Paper Mache O-Line
The Cardinals never threatened San Fran’s league-best rushing defense. In fact, their offense finished with single digit rushing yards. The seven rushing yards gained by Arizona was the lowest single-game total in over 60 years.
As a result, pass-happy Ken Whisenhunt had John Skelton dropback 52 times. Unfortunately, he did so behind a straw offensive line. The wind caused by Niners pass rushers whizzing into the backfield nearly knocked his linemen over.
The 49ers were able to pressure Skelton with just four pass rushers and allowed Skelton to familiarize himself with Phoenix Stadium’s roof lighting.
The Cards offensive line has allowed the most sacks in the league this season and midway through the 2012 campaign their quarterbacks have been sacked 39 times.
To put that in perspective, the expansion Texans sacrificial lamb David Carr was the most sacked quarterback during a single season in NFL history. Carr was sacked 72 times. The Cards are on pace to surrender 78.
The Cardinals sideline looked like a triage unit by the time San Fran was done with them. John Skelton was roughed up as expected but Larry Fitzgerald went through concussion testing after landing on the crown of his helmet after dropping a first quarter pass.
Early in the fourth quarter, Early Doucet was taken on a magic carpet ride by Niners safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson has a little history with Doucet, whom he fought with during a regular season meeting last November.
The Niners mob tackling was never more emblematic than on their final defensive play when Fitzgerald was stopped one yard short of the endzone after getting battered by multiple would-be tacklers.