EditorsNote: fixes “Robbie” in 9th graf; fixes “Reid” in second note
Cardinals’ touchdown in OT beats 49ers
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The end zone felt more like the forbidden zone for both the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Cardinals finally found it, though, as Carson Palmer connected with Larry Fitzgerald on a 19-yard touchdown pass with just 32 seconds remaining in overtime to lift Arizona to an 18-15 victory.
In a game that featured nine field goals — five by the 49ers and four by the Cardinals — it figured that only a touchdown would settle things.
Fitzgerald leaped high to haul in the scoring pass and made sure he didn’t drop it. The scoring drive covered 75 yards on seven plays.
“He’s the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some really good ones,” Palmer said of Fitzgerald, who until the TD grab had only caught three passes for 13 yards in the game. “We finally got him in a one-on-one situation (against Rashard Robinson) and he does what he did.”
Fitzgerald was slow to get up after the play, but felt better after the game.
“Yeah, he scared us all a bit,” Palmer said. “He looked like he came down and injured himself somehow, someway, but it was good to see him jump back up.”
With the win, the Cardinals (2-2) improved to .500 and posted their fifth consecutive victory over the 49ers to tie a series-history record.
The 49ers (0-4) won the coin toss to start the overtime and used up 7:36 of the extra period before Robbie Gould kicked a 23-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 15-12 lead with 2:24 left to play.
But that was enough time for Palmer, who went 5 for 7 on the game-winning drive.
“We have to get better,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “If I thought we were lacking in effort in anything it would be different. I felt like our guys fought hard. They wanted that win as much as anyone. I thought we put ourselves in position to get that win.
“Working hard isn’t going to guarantee you anything.”
Gould was 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts. He also connected from 49, 39, 47 and 48 yards.
Phil Dawson, meanwhile, was 4-for-4 against his former team, hitting from 29, 43, 50 and 32 yards. After Gould made his final field goal, it looked like Dawson would have to kick at least one more.
“Yeah, that was the way it was going. It seemed like it was ping pong all day,” Dawson said. “They’d kick one and we’d kick one. They’d kick one and we’d kick one. It was like we were down by three the whole game and that continued for five quarters.”
The 49ers, who entered the game with just three quarterback sacks in their first three games, got to Palmer six times, including four times during the fourth quarter. Palmer has now been sacked 17 times this season and, playing behind a rickety offensive line, has been hit more than any other quarterback in the league (43 times).
Elvis Dumervil had two of the sacks, giving him 101 in his career.
Palmer finished the game completing 33 of 51 passes for 357 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It was his touchdown pass to Fitzgerald, though, that everyone was talking about.
“Never surprised,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said of Fitzgerald. “In critical moments, he’s like, ‘Give me the ball,’ and I say, ‘I’m trying, brother, I’m trying.’”
San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer was 24 of 49 for 234 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. In his defense, there were a lot of dropped balls, too many penalties and he got bent backward awkwardly late in the second half, which bothered his knee and temporarily locked up his back.
“I am not going to use that as an excuse at all,” Hoyer said. “You play through injuries. That is what it is. That is what the NFL is about. I did a good job of trying to keep it loose and move around. That is part of the game.”
The score was tied at 6 at halftime, although the Cardinals felt they should have scored at least two touchdowns and had the upper hand.
The Cardinals won the coin flip, chose to receive and marched the ball to the 49ers’ 4-yard line only to see Palmer force a throw into the end zone while under duress.
Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong picked it off for a touchback, ruining any chance at points for Arizona.
The Cardinals were driving with ease on their third possession as well and thought they had a touchdown when Palmer connected with Andre Ellington in the end zone on a back-shoulder pass.
Upon further review, however, the play was ruled an incomplete pass as it was determined Ellington was unable to gain full control of the ball. The Cardinals had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Dawson.
That kick was sandwiched around two field goals by Gould of 49 and 39 yards.
An Antoine Bethea interception of a Hoyer pass and subsequent 16-yard return enabled the Cardinals to get into scoring position yet again just before the end of the half. But once again, all they could get was a field goal — this time a 43-yarder from Dawson.
Each team lost a starter during the game. Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden, who led the team with 12.5 sacks last season, injured his right knee while rushing the passer in overtime and had to be helped off the field. San Francisco receiver Marquise Goodwin, meanwhile, suffered a head and eye injury during the first quarter and did not return.
NOTES: Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson played in his 100th career NFL game. He has started all 100 of them. ... The 49ers played without two starters on defense, S Eric Reid (knee) and rookie LB Reuben Foster (ankle). ... Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby appeared in his 200th NFL game. Among active defenders, only Julius Peppers (238), Terence Newman (209) and Terrell Suggs (201) have played in more games. ... San Francisco RB Carlos Hyde’s 12 receptions through the first three games were the most by a 49ers running back since Frank Gore had 22 during the first three games of the 2010 season. Hyde had five more catches Sunday.