GLENDALE, Ariz. – Yards after the catch was the story of the day. In some games they go unnoticed, but on Monday night, perimeter playmaking could be seen early and often in the latest San Francisco 49ers win.
The visiting 49ers routed the Arizona Cardinals 24-3 on a primetime stage, running through, around and mostly right past their NFC West competition.
With the win on “Monday Night Football,” San Francisco (6-2) now has a two-game lead atop the NFC West over two 4-4 teams, Arizona and Seattle.
All three touchdowns, a 43-yard
“Feel very good about the win,” said Jim Harbaugh after beating the only NFC West team to defeat him in his time with the 49ers. “Very proud of our team. I thought they played exceptionally well… really good by all phases.”
Harbaugh loved the way his entire team played, but especially raved about the performance of
The 49ers quarterback enjoyed a near-perfect game, completing 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdown passes, tying a career-high. Smith posted a 157.1 rating, too.
Smith, himself, wasn’t caught up in the statistics.
"I honestly had no idea, which is a good thing,” Smith said about needing one pass attempt to set the franchise’s single-game completion percentage record with at least 20 pass attempts. “I'm really not worried about my stats, my incompletions or anything like that. I was just in a good rhythm, the whole offense was.
"I'm really concerned about winning. I think the guys in the locker room know what I'm about. That's all that really matters."
Harbaugh has seen dominant performances by his quarterback, running attack and defensive and special teams units, but this game was trademarked by the playmakers, namely Crabtree and Moss.
Because of Crabtree’s two scores and Gore’s constant pounding of a tough Cardinals front seven, it was 17-0 at the half, all 49ers.
The Cardinals managed 78 yards before half time, meanwhile, Gore and Crabtree combined for 104.
Crabtree’s performance in particular earned rave reviews from the coach who previously said his wideout had “the best hands” he’s ever seen.
It was certainly backed up by Crabtree’s first scoring play, a 3-yard grab over cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Smith completed his sixth straight pass to start the game for a touchdown to Crabtree, who pulled down a rifled pass from Smith for his second touchdown catch of the year. With the grab, Crabtree assured himself of having at least one catch in all of his 50 career games.
He finished the day with five catches and a game-high 72 receiving yards, plus two scores.
Harbaugh later called Crabtree, “a shining star.”
Crabtree’s first touchdown catch finished off a 10-play, 77-yard, statement-making scoring drive. San Francisco’s defense kept the momentum by holding Arizona to a three-and-out and the 49ers never looked back.
The 49ers outgained Arizona 116-22 in the first quarter alone. Furthermore, San Francisco had seven first downs to Arizona’s one.
Crabtree’s next catch, a 22-yard reception against Peterson, nearly picked up a first down for the 49ers who’d been backed up from a sack and penalty. Crabtree had nice balance while getting up the field but was tackled short of the first-down marker. As a result, Akers connected on a 43-yard field goal to give the 49ers a 10-0 lead.
Following a fourth Cardinals punt in the first half, Crabtree scored his second touchdown of the game on a third-and-goal from Arizona’s 9-yard line. Once again Peterson was the victim after Crabtree caught a short pass from Smith and darted immediately up the field untouched for his second career multi-touchdown game.
The defense put an exclamation mark on the first half when
The stellar pass defense continued in the second half with the 49ers being in excellent position to cover Larry Fitzgerald throughout the game. The star wideout finished with five catches for 52 yards.
It was hard for the Cardinals to get much going on offense. The 49ers limited Arizona to just 7 rushing yards, tying a single-game San Francisco franchise mark set against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 1, 1972. Cardinals quarterback John Skelton (32 of 52 for 290) was sacked four times on the night, twice by
San Francisco, on the other hand, added to its lead early in the third quarter thanks to Moss, the ageless wideout.
Smith added to his gaudy numbers, throwing his third touchdown of the night to Moss, a 47-yard pass that saw the future Hall of Fame wideout break out some nifty open-field moves.
It wasn’t just Crabtree doing all the running after the catch, the veteran wideout showed a national audience there’s plenty of moves left in the 14-year veteran’s body.
"Both guys made a ton of plays for us,” Smith said. “Both touchdowns by Michael were great plays. Lot of yards after the catch tonight from all the guys, it was fun to see."
Moss made two defenders miss and then sprinted down the left sideline for an impressive score.
It was Moss’ 18th career touchdown on Monday Night Football, putting him third-place all-time behind Jerry Rice (34) and Terrell Owens (21).
The 49ers allowed a field goal in the second half, a 28-yard kick from Jay Feely, but that was all the Cardinals could muster against the best defense in the NFL.