Nobody outside of the 49ers locker room really expected the 49ers to beat the reigning NFC champs in their own backyard, but Mike Singletary's bunch came to play on Sunday, and really caused havoc on Cardinals high-powered passing attack.
If you would have told me before the game that Frank Gore would rush for just 30 yards and the Niners would pull off the upset, I would have called you crazy, but they did just that. Shaun Hill didn't even have a game to write home about, going just 18 of 31 for 209 yards and a score, but he did just enough, and really limited not just his mistakes, but all mistakes on the offensive side of the ball. Issac Bruce and Vernon Davis were both prominent in the passing game, as Bruce had 4 catches for 74 yards and Davis grabbed 5 for 40 yards. In fact, the who 49ers offense very mediocre, but they didn't turn the ball over and they moved the ball when they absolutely had to. I do like how Singletary and OC Jimmy Raye called the game offensively. They stuck with the run even though the Cards were piling 8-9 guys up in the box, and even though Gore didn't run wild, it did set-up perfectly the game winning TD for the Niners, in which the Cards brought the house expecting a run on 3rd and goal from the 3, but Hill play-faked to Gore then found Gore wide open in the flat for an easy touchdown. The Cards were clearly expecting a run and were not prepared for the play action pass, and it was mix-ups like that that allowed the Niners to prevail offensively.
The Offense wasn't spectacular by any stretch Sunday, they did what they had to do to win, but it was really the defense that put the Niners in the position to win the ballgame. One of the keys to the game for the Niners defense was to put pressure on Kurt Warner and contain that passing attack, and they ended up doing just that. Niners defenders got to Warner for a hit 8 different times, and sacked him 3 three times. Parys Haralson, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald all got credited with sacks on the afternoon and I think the pressure on Warner was what enable the 49ers to keep that passing attack at bey. They also picked Warner off twice, and deflected 8 passes, which indicates how well their defensive secondary was playing throughout the day. Nate Clements and Patrick Willis, arguably the Niners two best defenders, each had interceptions and each played terrifically. Willis had 11 tackles along with his int and one pass deflection, while Clements had 4 tackes, to deflections and once again held Larry Fitzgerald contained. Fitzgerald did score on a 6 yard pass from Warner as the Cardinals only TD of the game, but the superstar wideout had just 71 yards receiving on the afternoon, about 20 yards shy of his game average over the past 2 seasons.
That is the style the 49ers are going to have to play and that's how they're going to have to beat teams if they want to accumulate a winning record in the 2009. They don't have an abundance of talent on either side of the ball, but they do have enough to win if they play the game correctly and limit their mistakes as they did on Sunday. I know the Cardinals have gone through some change and aren't quite the same squad that went to the Super Bowl last February, but they still were heavily favored in this game and got thoroughly outplayed by Niners all afternoon... We'll have more on this game and the Niners throughout the week here as we prepare for next weeks home opener vs. the Seahawks in what should be a very good game and could give us an idea on who the team to beat will be in the division this year.
Raiders Preview: Also, the Raiders kick off their season tonight in San Diego, and we'll be breaking down tonight's game in the coming days here as well. The Chargers are also heavily favored in this match-up, one that the Raiders haven't won in a long, long time (0-11 over last couple of years vs. the Chargers). If they're going to beat SD, they're going to have to control the ball and keep the Charger offense off the field. Phillip Rivers is primed for another big season with all these weapons at his disposal, so the Silver and Black have to keep the ball out of his and LT's hand if they want to win this thing. They're also going to need to get some offensive competence going. This is the year people want to start seeing why JaMarcus Russel was the #1 pick a few years back, and he has to have a good season in order to let everyone know that he indeed is the QB of the future here!