The draught is over.
Eli Harold recorded his first NFL sack on Sunday in a 23-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
The second-year linebacker has been oh-so close several times in his young NFL career. Harold made it happen against Carson Palmer.
Arizona was driving with 11:07 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals quarterback scrambled to his left on 2nd-and-goal from San Francisco's 16-yard line. Palmer surveyed his options in the end zone. He then proceeded to go through his throwing motion when Harold suddenly crashed down on his right arm and brought the quarterback down as the ball rolled freely on the turf.
DeForest Buckner hopped on top of the pigskin to give San Francisco's second of four takeaways on the day.
"I was surprised that he tried to extend the play," Harold said, "but when I was closing in on him I knew it was going to be an opportunity for me to get the ball because he didn't know I was there. So I just went for it with two hands, tried to secure the tackle and go for the strip and thank God it worked."
The 49ers sideline erupted. Everyone was eager to congratulate Harold following the crucial red-zone play.
Harold was mobbed by teammates and coaches for the momentum-changing play. San Francisco proceeded to drive five plays for 45 yards to set up Phil Dawson's season-long, 53-yard field goal to make it a 7-point game in favor of Arizona.
Harold made it a point to celebrate with outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver and 49ers defensive assistant Andre Carter. He credited both men for their hard work in helping him develop his craft.
"They coach real hard, they coach our whole group real hard and they really know what they're talking about, so I just appreciate everything they've done for me," the linebacker said. "I felt like I had to go celebrate with them before I celebrated with even myself. It was a great moment."
San Francisco's defense held Arizona running back David Johnson to 55 rushing yards on 19 rushes (2.9 per carry).
Harold was most pleased with the strides the unit made in stopping the run after allowing seven consecutive 100-yard rushers coming into Week 10.
"I just feel like for the games going forward, we have something to roll with," Harold said. "I feel like the train has finally turned around. Everyone has bought in, and everyone is ready to go – on to the next game."
Niner Notes-- Jimmie Ward had quite the battle with Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. The legendary Cardinals receiver was targeted 18 times and caught 12 passes for 133 yards. Ward broke up four passes on the day and finished with seven tackles.
"I look forward to playing him," Ward said. "He ended up giving me his jersey, and he wrote something on it for me. I like playing against competition. There are not too many words to say but legend."
-- Antoine Bethea recovered a J.J. Nelson fumble in the first quarter. It was the first of the four takeaways from San Francisco's defense. Bethea, a locker-room leader, spoke about the team's mentality after a difficult end result. "We're still playing together," Bethea said. "The only people that's going to get us out of this hole is the people in this locker room. … We're still invested into this season. We're going to keep fighting, we'll come back to work on Tuesday prepared and just keep improving. Just try to get a win."
-- Eric Reid was quick to downplay any talk of Sunday's result being a positive result for the 49ers. "I don't believe in the moral victory stuff," said Reid, who recorded his first interception of the season. "But we competed today, and we just have to keep doing that. Keep getting turnovers, don't give the other team the ball, and we should be more successful."
-- Gerald Hodges' interception of Palmer allowed Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers to drive 57 yards for the game-tying touchdown. The 49ers linebacker recorded six tackles on the day and is the only player on the team with multiple interceptions (2).
He described his interception as being a team effort.
"It just came with complementary football," Hodges said. "You get a great rush from the front, tight coverage by Jimmie Ward, and me and Nick Bellore both getting depth on the pass. We made it a cloudy read for Carson Palmer, and we got a turnover on that drive."