49ers 24

(6-2, 3-1 away)

Cardinals 3

(4-4, 3-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

8:30 PM ET, October 29, 2012

U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ 

1 2 3 4 T
SF 7 10 7 024
ARI 0 0 3 03

Top Performers

Passing: J. Skelton (ARI) - 290 YDS, 1 INT

Rushing: F. Gore (SF) - 16 CAR, 55 YDS

Receiving: M. Crabtree (SF) - 5 REC, 72 YDS, 2 TD

49ers-Cardinals Preview


STATS Writer

The NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers followed up an uncharacteristic one-sided loss with a gritty division-opening win last week.

They're expecting another tough battle when they visit the desert Monday night.

Points could be hard to come by as San Francisco -- winner of 10 of 12 against division opponents -- squares off against the offensively-challenged Arizona Cardinals, who are hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.

After suffering a 26-3 defeat to the New York Giants in Week 6, the 49ers (5-2) got back on track last Thursday with a 13-6 win over Seattle. Frank Gore ran for a season-high 131 yards and added five receptions for another 51 while the defense limited the Seahawks to 251 yards of total offense.

"We expect these games in the NFC West to be 60 minutes of physical football," left tackle Joe Staley said.

Gore was forced from that victory with bruised ribs but -- thanks to 10 days off -- should be good to go for what sets up as another highly-competitive showdown Monday night.

While the 49ers are giving up an NFL-low 272.3 yards per game and rank second with 14.3 points allowed, Arizona (4-3) isn't far behind. The Cardinals are holding opponents to averages of 16.9 points and 312.1 yards to rank fourth and seventh, respectively.

"All of the teams in the NFC West have a defense that's strong, that's very physical," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told the 49ers' official website. "That's a great quality for our division to show to the rest of the league. I know that it will be a physical game on Monday night. It always is when we play the 49ers."

San Francisco had held the Cardinals to 9.0 points during a five-game win streak in this series before falling 21-19 in Arizona on Dec. 11.

"They play outstanding defense... ," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "A team that we know. They know us. Have a lot of respect for the Cardinals."

Since averaging 22.8 points in winning its first four games to post its best start in 38 years, Arizona has been limited to a combined 33 in dropping three in a row. The Cardinals outgained Minnesota 356-209 in total offense but came up short last Sunday, falling 21-14.

"It kind of feels like we're not handling our side of the ball," LaRod Stephens-Howling said after running for a career-best 104 yards and a TD. "The defense is playing great, the special teams are playing great, we just need to pick it up and score points."

While Stephens-Howling was able to provide a spark, John Skelton struggled in his second start of the season. Skelton threw for 262 yards with a touchdown but was sacked seven times and committed two turnovers.

Skelton has compiled an NFL-worst 4.9 interception percentage since Nov. 6, throwing 17 picks in 349 attempts.

"You can't squander it," he told the team's official website. "You can't give it away. The way our defense is playing, any points on the board is really a win for us, because we know we're not going to have to get into a shootout with anyone at this point."

Sitting in a second-place tie with Seattle, Arizona dropped one game behind San Francisco with last Sunday's loss.

"Those guys are definitely where we want to be," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "Those guys are the NFC West champs as of right now. As an Arizona Cardinals team, we have a lot to prove and we want to get where those guys are."

Slowing down San Francisco's ground game could prove crucial if Arizona hopes to stick around Monday. The 49ers have recorded 176.6 rushing yards per contest to rank second in the league -- nearly double what the Cardinals are averaging (89.3).

"It seems to me they run the ball on everybody," said Whisenhunt, whose team has surrendered 331 rushing yards on 5.5 per carry during its last two games.

"It doesn't matter who it is, they've done a nice job. They've got a good scheme, they're well-coached. I've watched Frank Gore for a number of years and have great respect for him as a player."

Gore has averaged 113.2 yards from scrimmage and ran for 11 touchdowns in 11 career starts against the Cardinals.

Arizona has dropped eight of its last nine Monday night games, with its lone win coming 29-24 over San Francisco on Nov. 10, 2008.

"There's just a different feel about playing a Monday night game," Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein said. "It's like a playoff game. It's always intense."


Passing Leaders

B. Gabbert63.12031107
C. Kaepernick59.0161565
C. Palmer63.746713511
D. Stanton44.010402

Rushing Leaders

C. Hyde1154704.13
S. Draughn762633.51
C. Johnson1968144.23
D. Johnson1255814.68

Receiving Leaders

A. Boldin6978911.44
T. Smith3366320.14
L. Fitzgerald109121511.19
J. Brown65100315.47

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

Total YardsSF
Yards PassingSF
Yards RushingSF
Yards AllowedSF
Pass Yds AllowedSF
Rush Yds AllowedSF

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

San Francisco leads 14-8
Dec 11, 2011SF 19, @ARI 21
Nov 20, 2011SF 23, ARI 7
Jan 2, 2011SF 38, ARI 7
Nov 29, 2010SF 27, @ARI 6
Dec 14, 2009SF 24, ARI 9
Sep 13, 2009SF 20, @ARI 16
Nov 10, 2008SF 24, @ARI 29
Sep 7, 2008SF 13, ARI 23
Nov 25, 2007SF 37, @ARI 31
Sep 10, 2007SF 20, ARI 17
Dec 24, 2006SF 20, ARI 26
Sep 10, 2006SF 27, @ARI 34
Dec 4, 2005SF 10, ARI 17
Oct 2, 2005SF 14, @ARI 31
Dec 12, 2004SF 31, @ARI 28
Oct 10, 2004SF 31, ARI 28
Dec 7, 2003SF 50, ARI 14
Oct 26, 2003SF 13, @ARI 16
Dec 21, 2002SF 17, @ARI 14
Oct 27, 2002SF 38, ARI 28

Research Notes

Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked once every 8.6 dropbacks this season, the worst rate in the NFL. The next worst team has been sacked at a rate of once every 11.3 dropbacks. Dropbacks include pass attempts, sacks and scrambles.
John Skelton has thrown 16 of his 17 interceptions over the last two seasons against four or fewer pass rushers, including all three this season. In Week 7, the Vikings used such pressure on all of Skelton's dropbacks.
The Cardinals have sent five or more rushers on 38.3 percent of opponent dropbacks this season (seventh highest) and have allowed the lowest completion percentage (40.9) on such plays. Alex Smith has completed nearly 70 percent of his throws against five-plus rushers, trailing only Robert Griffin III.
Alex Smith sprained his finger in Week 5 against the Bills, and since that game, his downfield throwing has taken a hit. Smith has gone 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) on throws more than 10 yards downfield his last two games (third worst), after leading the NFL in completion percentage on such throws (59.5) through the first five weeks of the season.

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