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(Sunday, September 13th)
Final Score: San Francisco 20, Arizona 16
Glendale, AZ (Sports Network) - Frank Gore scored a total of two touchdowns, including the eventual game-winning TD catch halfway through the fourth quarter, as the San Francisco 49ers hung on to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 20-16, in the season opener for both clubs at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Gore rushed for 30 yards and a score on 22 carries for the 49ers (1-0), who finished the 2008 season with a 7-9 record. Gore also caught three passes for 18 yards and a score. Shaun Hill completed 18-of-31 passes for 209 yards and a TD. Isaac Bruce led the receiving corps with 74 yards on four catches.
Kurt Warner connected on 26-of-44 passes for 288 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown for the Cardinals (0-1), who ended last season with a gut- wrenching loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII. Tim Hightower caught 12 passes for 121 yards to go along with 15 rushing yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught a TD pass, and Beanie Wells rushed for 29 yards on seven carries in defeat.
After Neil Rackers drilled a 43-yard field goal with 14:52 left in the fourth quarter to put the Cardinals ahead, 16-13, the 49ers responded in a big way.
Hill and the San Francisco offense started its ensuing possession on its own 20. The 49ers were faced with a 3rd-and-7 at Arizona's 42, but Hill was able to find Bruce on a 13-yard completion to get a fresh set of downs. A few plays later, the 49ers were faced with a 3rd-and-goal at the three. Hill stayed poised in the pocket and was able to find an open Gore in the end zone for a 20-16 lead with 7:26 remaining.
"As far as everyone doing their assignments, it was probably the best drive of the game," Hill said. "As far as all that, not making the big mistake, and just converting on third downs. We had some third-and-managables, and we were able to move the chains."
San Francisco buckled down on defense, forcing Arizona to punt after they gained just one first down on its next possession. A perfect punt from Ben Graham backed the 49ers up to their own two-yard line.
The 49ers went three-and-out and were forced to punt the ball away. Antrel Rolle's 27-yard return set the Cardinals up at San Francisco's 38.
Two consecutive penalties -- a false start and offensive holding -- forced Arizona into a 1st-and-25. The Cardinals faced a 4th-and-5 at the 49ers' 33 after the two minute warning, but San Francisco's rush got to Warner, who went falling to the ground as he threw an incomplete pass.
After taking over, the 49ers again went three-and-out, and Arizona used its final two timeouts to regain possession with 43 seconds to play. After the punt, the Cardinals were faced with the daunting task of advancing the ball 88 yards for a touchdown. They managed one first down before Warner was sacked on the final play of the game to give San Francisco the victory.
"I still feel like we're just a little bit off," Warner said. "We're not just rolling, it's not just smooth -- it's a lot more work than it should be. I don't know what it is; I can't put my finger on it."
A pair of Joe Nedney field goals gave the 49ers a 6-0 edge after one quarter of play. Patrick Willis intercepted a Warner pass and returned it four yards to the Arizona 36 with about eight minutes left in the period. The 49ers, though, had to settle for a 37-yard Nedney field goal.
After forcing the Cardinals to punt, San Francisco started its next drive on its own 44. Hill drove the offense down the field to the 32, and Nedney capped the set with a 50-yard make with 1 1/2 minutes left.
Arizona cut its deficit in half on a six-play drive that lasted from the end of the first quarter and into the second, as Rackers drilled a 44-yard field goal with over 14 minutes to play until halftime.
With 2:23 left in the second quarter, Gore capped a seven-play, 68-yard drive with a six-yard TD run to put San Francisco ahead, 13-3. The 49ers got the ball back after an interception, but Hill then fumbled to give Arizona a chance to score before the half.
Hill dropped back to pass on a 3rd-and-20 and was hit right before he was about to release the ball. The ball went flying to the ground and the Cardinals picked it up, thinking it was a fumble. The ruling on the field was an incomplete pass, but it was ruled a fumble after a review.
Arizona took over, and Rackers nailed a 29-yard field goal before the half to cut the margin to 13-6.
The Cardinals tied the game when Warner and Fitzgerald connected on a five-yard TD pass with 4:11 left in the third. Warner's 23-yard pass to Hightower gave Arizona a 1st-and-goal at the 49ers' four-yard line. On second down, Warner scrambled to his right and fired a bullet into Fitzgerald's arms to cap off a seven-play, 69-yard drive.
San Francisco's offense sputtered in the third quarter, going three-and-out on all three of its drives in the frame.
San Francisco holds a 20-16 lead in its all-time series with the Cardinals but was swept in last year's two games...Arizona went 9-7 during the regular season last year...Larry Centers was the last Arizona running back to have more than 100 yards receiving in a game. Centers accomplished the feat on September 1, 1996 at the Colts...Arizona had a seven-game winning streak against NFC West opponents snapped.
09/14 01:14:26 ET
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