Bird Bits: Turnovers prove costly for Cardinals in road loss to 49ers
Sunday, the Cardinals tried to reverse their recent drought by the Bay in what was to be their final regular season visit to the 53-year-old stadium.
In the end, however, it wasn't the stadium or the reigning NFC champions who tripped up Arizona. No, Bruce Arians' squad did that all on their own.
The Cardinals committed a season-high four turnovers, including a pair of first quarter interceptions by Carson Palmer and a costly fumble by Alfonso Smith in the fourth quarter, and the 49ers made them pay en route to a 32-20 victory
Arizona is now 0-7 in its last seven games against divisional foes dating back to a Week 1 win over Seattle in 2012.
Although he has thrown for at least two interceptions in four straight games, Palmer also tossed two touchdowns for the first time since Week 1.
One of those touchdown passes was a 75-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald -- the second-longest of the wide receiver's career.
On the ground, Arizona also had its fair share of success. Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall combined for 96 of the team's season-high 109 rushing yards.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby continues to turn back the clock, as well. The 31-year-old led the way with 11 total tackles, combined on a sack with Calais Campbell, forced a fumble of Colin Kaepernick and tipped a pass which led to an interception by Yeremiah Bell.
The name of the game Sunday was ball security and in that category the Cardinals failed mightily.
Arizona's four turnovers led to 16 San Francisco points -- a big differential when considering the 12-point outcome.
Palmer has thrown at least one interception in all six games this season and has nine picks in his last four games.
The team's final turnover of the afternoon was also a bit surprising.
Down nine with a second and one at their own 29, the Cardinals elected to hand the ball off to Alfonso Smith, who previously didn't have a carry on the day. Rookie linebacker Corey Lemonier promptly forced a fumble on the ensuing handoff and any chance of a late comeback ended pretty much before it started.
In addition to the team's turnovers, penalties played a big role in the loss. Arizona had six infractions for 38 yards but the biggest one of the day came on a delay of game with the offense backed up at their own eight-yard line in the second quarter. Following the penalty, Palmer was sacked by Lemonier in the end zone, giving the 49ers an 8-7 lead -- one which they'd hold on to for the duration of the afternoon.
In the loss, Arizona also gave up single-game season highs in rushing yards (Frank Gore, 101) and receiving yards (Vernon Davis, 180). Of Davis' 180 receiving yards, 171 came in the first half.
- Larry Fitzgerald's 75-yard catch in the first quarter was his 12th career touchdown against the 49ers. He's tied for the all-time record vs. San Francisco with Andre Rison.
- Since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach of San Francisco in 2011, the 49ers have not lost a home game to a divisional foe.
- Carson Palmer's 11 interceptions are the second-most in all of football through six weeks.
- San Francisco's final touchdown drive of the day lasted nine minutes and 32 seconds -- the longest in the NFL this season.
- Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell left the game on a stretcher in the fourth quarter. Campbell was said to have felt numbness and tingling in his extremities but was able to move all of them, as well. He was taken to a local San Francisco hospital for further evaluation.
- Sunday was Frank Gore's first 100-yard rushing performance against Arizona since Dec. 2009.
The scheduling gods have given the Cardinals (3-3) no favors this week. Following a 32-20 loss to the 49ers Sunday, Arizona has four days to prepare for the first-place Seattle Seahawks (5-1), who come to University of Phoenix Stadium for a Thursday night prime time showdown. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:25 MST and can be heard on 92.3 KTAR.
Dave Dulberg, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com
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