In a game that held major playoff implications before the game, but ultimately ended with both teams in the same position as they were before kick-off, the San Francisco 49ers held off a battling Arizona Cardinals team who fought all the way to the end, even if the New Orleans Saints winning meant their season was destined to end in Week 17 regardless.
Falling behind 17-0 by the time the first quarter was over, the Cardinals came roaring back and tied the game late in the fourth quarter. What followed was three frantic possessions that ended in field goals, with the final one from 49ers kicker Phil Dawson with just two seconds remaining sealing the game.
While the Cardinals season has now ended, the 49ers move on to the playoffs, where they’ll head to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Back Packers next weekend. Before we get to that however, let’s dig a little deeper into the key performances from Sunday’s game.
Three Performances of Note – San Francisco
On the day when the team he won a Super Bowl with in February saw their season come to an end, it seemed fitting that Anquan Boldin (+2.7) showed us all just how good he still is, with the 49ers getting one of the bargains of the offseason in acquiring him for just a sixth round draft pick. The focal point of the 49ers offense in the first quarter, he gave Cardinals’ cornerback Jerraud Powers a day he’d rather forget, beating the former Indianapolis Colt for 103 yards and a touchdown on six catches, adding another three receptions for 46 yards against the other members of the Arizona secondary. When all was said and done, quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a Quarterback Rating of 149.1 on the 11 passes thrown to Boldin, just the kind of performance they wanted to see as they head into the playoffs.
After an up and down start to the year, San Francisco right tackle Anthony Davis (+4.6) has produced some solid performances in the second half of the season, with Sunday’s win marking his second highest graded game of the year so far. In pass protection he allowed just a single quarterback hurry, giving him a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 98.0 and he has now allowed just four total pressures from his last 145 pass blocking attempts. Where he really shone against the Cardinals however, was as a run blocker, where he routinely sealed defensive lineman Darnell Dockett inside freeing up space for the 49ers running backs.
Bowman’s Big Plays
A week after returning an interception for a touchdown on Monday Night Football, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (+3.7) was in the mood for making plays again, with the bulk of his grade coming from three big plays. He started early, with an interception off of an ill advised throw by Carson Palmer on 2nd-and-6 with 9:55 to go in the opening quarter. He followed that up with a forced fumble and recovery after ripping the ball away from running back Rashard Mendenhall on 1st-and-10 with 11:46 left in the third quarter. Finally, he took advantage of the slow reactions of center Lyle Sendlein on 2nd-and-5 with 4:00 left in the game, firing past him to sack Palmer. It wasn’t the best performance we’ve ever seen from Bowman, with a missed tackle and a touchdown allowed in coverage, but those splash plays were key in the 49ers’ victory.
Three Performances of Note – Arizona
As has been the theme throughout the year for the Cardinals, left tackle Bradley Sowell (-3.4) struggled once again and, despite not allowing a sack for the fourth consecutive game, he still allowed a hit and six hurries giving him a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 89.5. All of the pressure, with the exception of a hurry on 1st-and-10 with 7:18 to go in the first quarter, came at the hands of The Smiths (Aldon and Justin), with five of the seven total pressures coming in a disappointing fourth quarter. Up until that point he had held his own relatively well, but a barrage of pressure in the final quarter served as a reminder that the team really needs to be looking to bring in help at the position in 2014.
Consistency from Fitzgerald
Though last season’s first round draft pick, Michael Floyd (-1.5), continues to see more of the ball, topping 1,000 yards in his second season in the league, it is the ever consistent Larry Fitzgerald (+1.5) who remains the teams most dangerous receiver. Matched up often against cornerback Carlos Rogers, Fitzgerald got the better of him to the tune of five catches for 107 yards. His final reception of the game, and ultimately the last of his 2013 season, proved to be his best. Catching the ball on a crossing route on 2nd-and-10 with 1:01 left in the game, he was able to avoid the attempted tackle by Rogers. Then, spinning up field, he left safety Donte Whitner grasping at air before finally being wrestled down by Eric Reid, putting the Cardinals in position for what was then the game tying field goal.
A player who has long since deserved more recognition for his play than he receives, defensive end Calais Campbell (+3.0) ensured he finished the year with his highest single season PFF grade with another stellar performance against the 49ers. Playing just 21 snaps against the run Campbell recorded four tackles, three of which resulted in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 14.3%. With a sack and three hurries from 38 pass rushing opportunities, he also finished the game with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 8.6. That’s the same rating as his final total on the year, with the former Miami Hurricane recording 11 sacks, 17 hits and 39 hurries in 2013.
– When the Cardinals didn’t blitz him, Kaepernick completed 100% of his passes, dropping to 45.8% when they sent extra rushers.
– 51 of the 49ers 83 rushing yards came on just three of their 23 attempts.
– Palmer was under pressure on 15 of 50 drop backs, with a QB Rating of 25.3 on plays under pressure.
PFF Game Ball
With an incredible first quarter, Anquan Boldin set the 49ers on their way to victory, adding a 14 yard reception on the final, game winning, drive for good measure.
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