SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Everybody agreed Anquan Boldin had no
logical business getting to the end zone, about 50 yards after he
should have been tackled.
But players such as Boldin often are the difference between
merely disappointing teams like the Arizona Cardinals and truly
dismal teams such as the 49ers. Boldin's stumbling, staggering run
through the 49ers' inept tackling was a fitting way to decide a
17-10 win over San Francisco.
Kurt Warner was 29-of-45 for 354 yards, and Boldin somehow
turned one of his 11 catches for 156 yards into the go-ahead
touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, who had eight receptions for 129
yards, ran wild in San Francisco's inexperienced secondary. But the
Cardinals couldn't take control until Boldin turned a short catch
on third-and-20 into a 54-yard, broken-field TD rumble, avoiding
five tackles and eventually diving into the end zone with 10:45 to
Boldin reacted to his electric score with the proper humility
for a star on a losing team. Arizona (4-8) won for the second time
in three games, sweeping its season series with the lowly 49ers
"I realized that it was third-and-20, and I tried to cut back
across the field to give us a chance to get the first down,"
Boldin said. "I made (about) two guys miss, and it just opened up
from there. ... Really the only time they did stop us was when we
started stopping ourselves with the penalties and turnovers, but
that is something that we have to work on."
Warner threw two interceptions, and the Cardinals managed just
65 yards rushing while failing to score in all three of their trips
inside San Francisco's 20. Against any other opponent, it might
have cost them.
"We made it hard on ourselves today, doing about everything we
could to give it away," Warner said. "But we battled and did
everything we needed to do to win, and Q (Boldin) made a tremendous
play to spark us. We kept our own backs against the wall all day."
Keith Lewis blocked a punt and intercepted Warner's pass in the
fourth quarter for the 49ers, who lost for the 10th time in 11
games since the season opener. The missed tackles and poor
execution on Boldin's score were emblematic of an entire afternoon
of growing pains for a club starting rookies and inexperienced free
agents across its lineup.
"Everything we do right now, all of it is about the future,"
said coach Mike Nolan, who was touting his club's chances to win
the NFC West just three weeks ago.
No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith was outstanding before halftime and
dismal afterward in his third NFL start for the 49ers, remaining
winless -- and without a touchdown pass -- in his pro career. He was
11-of-12 for 138 yards in the first half, but 5-of-12 with three
interceptions after halftime, including Eric Green's pick with 1:42
"Age is not an excuse once you're out there, but we've got so
many young guys at so many new positions," the 21-year-old
quarterback said. "I was definitely comfortable out there, but
there are still plenty of things about this pro game that I've got
to get used to."
Maurice Hicks scored the only touchdown for the Niners, who play
their next three games on the road -- where they've won one game in
two years -- before a season-ending matchup with 1-11 Houston on New
The game didn't begin as ugly as it ended. Despite near-constant
blitzing by both defenses to capitalize on Smith's inexperience and
Warner's immobility, Smith completed his first eight passes, while
Warner was 16-of-23 in the first half.
Smith's proficiency finally paid off in the closing minutes of
the first half, when he hit Johnnie Morton for a pair of 24-yard
gains before finding running back Frank Gore on a broken play for
31 yards, setting up Hicks' TD dive.
Lewis blocked a punt to set up Joe Nedney's 48-yard field goal,
putting San Francisco up 10-9 entering the fourth quarter. Lewis
then intercepted Warner's terrible pass with 11:36 left -- but Gore
fumbled on the 49ers' next play, and Nolan blew two timeouts in a
foolhardy attempt to challenge it.
After two incomplete passes and a holding penalty, Warner hit
Boldin with a short pass over the middle -- and after he scored,
Arizona made its 2-point conversion.
Filling in for injured kicker Neil Rackers, Nick Novak
kicked three field goals. ... Fitzgerald had his seventh 100-yard
receiving game of the season, also surpassing 1,000 total yards.
... Smith's passer rating dropped from 114.6 at halftime to 50.2 --
still much better than his 17.5 entering the day.
The NFL says it is close but still has yet to interview the four players named along with Peyton Manning in a report five months ago that linked them to PEDs.
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