Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain will trade off every other week throughout the 2007 season with quarterback Alex Smith to offer you his review of Sunday's game in his 49ers.com column On the Blitz. In this first installment however, Banta-Cain breaks down the 49ers Monday night win over the Arizona Cardinals.
I think we started off on a high note with the interception by Walt Harris. That kind of set the tone the rest of the game for us. That definitely encouraged the defense and discouraged the offense. It was their first game too and I'm sure they wanted to come out and show they can be an effective offense with the weapons they have so to come out and throw a pick on the first play definitely took the wind out of their sails, and put some in ours.
We did have some adversity a couple of times. One time we responded well to it and one time we didn't, and other than that I thought we played solid football on defense.
The first was on that penalty on the punt return team with the roughing the kicker call. We had held them and were off the field, and then all of the sudden we had to go back out there with them lining up at our 47. We were able to hold them to just a field goal on that drive so I thought we handled that one better.
The second adversity was when Alex Smith got sacked and fumbled the ball and we had to defend a short field from our own 36. We let them get into the endzone when that was really an opportunity to hold them to a field goal or cause a turnover on our end and we weren't able to do that. Down the road, we'll need to really step up and face those situations better.
Another big penalty hurt us on that final scoring drive for them when they picked up a fresh set of downs at our 37 after the facemask. I haven't watched the film yet so I'm not sure if that should have been flagrant or not, but you can't dwell on those. We just have to play the situations that arise. Any setback, we've got to recognize what went wrong and do our best not to let them happen again or take away from what we have to do out there.
Matt Leinart was a left handed quarterback and for me personally I wasn't used to that because when you are rushing from that right side, it wasn't his blind side at all. He was able to see the pressure coming and was pretty elusive back there. Fortunately, our guys in the back end really took us off the hook with solid play back there. They had a huge challenge, going against probably one of the best receiving corps in the league and they really met the challenge. We'll build on that performance. Guys on the front end, we have to make their job easier by putting more pressure on the quarterback, especially in obvious passing situations and that will only help those guys come up with more turnovers back there.
We stopped the run for the most part, but Edgerrin James did show good vision and was cutting the ball back very well. We'd have him stuffed on one side, and he'd cutback and squeak through and get positive yards. I wouldn't say he was gashing us, but he was nickel and diming us for most of the game. A lot of it was the cutback runs where there wasn't enough pursuit on the backside to get him down. He definitely looked like he was in the form of Edgerrin James that he used to be with the Colts, and I think he'll be an integral part of their offense as the season goes on.
A big stop on James came there on that last drive. We got to him on first down with a 3-yard tackle for a loss. We knew they'd run the ball on first down and we were all geared up to stop them. Once they were in 2nd and long, we just kept that pressure on, knowing that we really had to stop them to get our offense back on the field. One more first down for them and they could have really drained the offense. We knew how big that situation was and we did a good job of getting off the field.
Then our offense came up huge – driving from the 14 to get a touchdown – they came through and won the game.
Everybody was in a nail biting, on their toes mode on the sidelines, and really hanging on to every play, but I do think we all kind of felt like it was in the air for us to win that game. With the throwbacks, the Bill Walsh tribute, we would have been disgusted to lose a game like that so I think we had that sense of urgency and everyone believed the offense would get the job done and they did.
There were some huge plays on that last drive. Darrell Jackson's catch on the sidelines was a huge play and then Alex's scramble was tremendous. It looked like he might have gotten sacked but he got out of there – those are plays that really put us in great position to win the game and kept everyone believing we could. To me it's always how you close a game, how you finish, and those were the kind of plays you want to finish with.
Then the catch Arnaz Battle made, even though he fumbled it, it was a huge play. It really helped out in the end because it allowed us to run another play and take more time off the clock because Arizona still had two timeouts remaining.
I thought the play call on the end around was great. It was an option situation where he could either score the TD or run out of bounds and stop the clock. That was a great call. It's tough to defend that play because once that receiver goes in motion that corner usually has to run with him and it's a race to the finish with the receiver having the upper hand because he has more of angle to get the TD when it's that short of yardage. That was just a great play call.
All in all, it was definitely a game we can get better and improve upon, but it's always good when you win and we played well enough to win. It's a short week and we'll be back first thing Wednesday. I'm sure everyone will check out film on their own today and that the coaches will touch on it some tomorrow, but we're going to have to quickly move on to St. Louis.