Cardinals denied of clinching another NFC West crown

49ers 24 Cardinals 9 SAN FRANCISCO — The Arizona Cardinals lost their discipline and a chance to clinch a second straight NFC West crown. They threw the ball away, and they fumbled it even more.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith (94) recovers a fumble by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner (13) during the second quarter of their NFL football game in San Francisco

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith (94) recovers a fumble by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner (13) during the second quarter of their NFL football game in San Francisco

49ers 24 Cardinals 9

SAN FRANCISCO — The Arizona Cardinals lost their discipline and a chance to clinch a second straight NFC West crown. They threw the ball away, and they fumbled it even more.

Alex Smith threw touchdown passes after two of Arizona’s seven turnovers, Frank Gore ran for 167 yards and another score and the San Francisco 49ers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a dominanting 24-9 victory Monday night.

“I don’t think it’s anything they did,” Arizona tackle Darnell Dockett said. “We lost this game ourselves.”

With a relentless defensive attack, San Francisco forced the sloppy Cardinals into five first-half turnovers and kept Kurt Warner from finding a groove. Warner threw two interceptions in the opening half after going 130 passes without a pick.

Arizona (8-5) can still clinch the division by winning two of its final three games.

“Getting a win against a team playing great ball that had a chance to clinch the division, we came out and dominated,” Gore said. “They let me get in the zone. Any back who gets in that zone, it’s hard to stop them.”

Gore had his most productive game since Week 2, running over a defence that held Adrian Peterson to 19 yards in a win over Minnesota last week. Gore was certainly motivated for a big night after getting only 30 yards on 22 carries in a season-opening victory at Arizona on Sept. 13.

Smith, coming off a loss at Seattle last week in which he threw for a career-high 310 yards, connected on TD passes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree and finished 19 of 35 for 144 yards. The 49ers (6-7) answered coach Mike Singletary’s challenge to make a statement on the national stage against the reigning NFC champions.

The Cardinals matched the NFL high for turnovers this season with their second game with six or more in 2009, much to the delight of the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park. They had seven last season against the Jets in a 56-35 loss.

The 49ers forced seven turnovers for the first time since getting eight against New Orleans on Sept. 14, 1997. They had a franchise-record five forced fumbles, two by safety Dashon Goldson.

“I don’t think clinching the division was ever that big of a thing,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We were wanting to play against an opponent that had beaten us earlier this year, and it was on Monday Night Football, and we had an emotional game against Minnesota the week before. We were excited and we lost our discipline, and that’s something you cannot do.”

Not long ago, San Francisco hoped this game would be for the division title, but the Niners had lost six of eight following a 3-1 start. They showed up for this one, on a night former San Francisco stars Steve Young and Jerry Rice worked the pregame show for ESPN on the sideline.

“I can’t really express to you how proud I am of our team,” Singletary said. “That was the thing we talked about all week: ’Let’s go out and see how good we can be without killing ourselves.”’

Warner followed the best four-game stretch of his career with a dud — going 16 of 29 for 178 yards and getting sacked four times. Warner joined Johnny Unitas as the only quarterbacks to post a passer rating of at least 120 in four straight games.

“It’s a crazy game sometimes,” Warner said. “It’s like anything in life. You get to a point and you think, ’OK, maybe now we’re there.’ And then you find out you’re not quite there yet. That’s what we continue to find out.”

It didn’t help matters the Cardinals lost star receiver Larry Fitzgerald early in the second half to a right knee injury after Goldson landed on him. He later returned.

Davis caught his 11th touchdown pass of the season, extending his franchise record for a tight end. Crabtree’s second career TD reception was a 35-yard catch 52 seconds before halftime. Joe Nedney added a 37-yard field goal.

Arizona finally got on the board on Neil Rackers’ 48-yard field goal with 5:52 left in the third quarter, then Beanie Wells pounded into the end zone on an impressive second effort on fourth-and-goal from the 1 early in the final quarter. Ray McDonald blocked the extra-point attempt.

“When you force turnovers like we did tonight, having six, seven, there’s no way you can lose,” cornerback Dre’ Bly said.

Arizona was out of sync from the start. The Cardinals jumped offside on three of four snaps during the 49ers’ opening drive.

San Francisco used up its second and final review of the game with 4:39 left in the first quarter, winning that one to give Bly a recovery of Tim Hightower’s fumble and a first-and-goal at the 8 for the 49ers.

Smith threw a 5-yard pass to Davis two plays later for a 7-0 lead.

“Each of our backs had a fumble. That’s certainly not acceptable,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously it was ugly for us. We’re all disappointed and embarrassed.”

Crabtree wound up with five catches for 67 yards.

NOTES: Fitzgerald will be re-evaluated Tuesday. … San Francisco opponents have 11 turnovers in the Niners’ two primetime games. … The 49ers swept the season series after Arizona did so in 2008.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read