Final

Cardinals 23

(1-0, 1-0 away)

49ers 13

(0-1, 0-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

4:15 PM ET, September 7, 2008

Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
ARI 3 7 10 323
SF 7 3 0 313

Top Performers

Passing: K. Warner (ARI) - 197 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: E. James (ARI) - 26 CAR, 100 YDS

Receiving: A. Boldin (ARI) - 8 REC, 82 YDS

Warner, Cards strike in second half to take opener from 49ers

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- No loose balls skittering around the end zone. No overtime thrills. Not even any trick-play shenanigans, unless you count the Arizona Cardinals' pooch kickoff to a fumbling San Francisco linebacker.

With one methodical, clock-killing march after another in a dominant second half, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals took all the fun out of an NFC West rivalry known for some of football's wackiest endings.

Fast Facts

• The Cardinals opened the season with a road victory for the first time since defeating the Eagles in Philadelphia in 1999.

• Frank Gore led the 49ers in both rushing (96 yards) and receiving (55 yards).

• Edgerrin James had 26 rush attempts for 100 yards. Last season, James had three 100-yard rushing games.

-- ESPN Research

Warner passed for 197 yards and led three monotonously effective drives to cap the Cardinals' 23-13 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

Although the two-time MVP left Candlestick Park with a big beige bandage on the bridge of his nose after somebody's finger got underneath his facemask, that scratch was just about the only aspect of the Cardinals' opener that Warner and his offense couldn't control.

"To be able to chew up the clock and get first downs and chunk away and get points, it's critical in games like this," said Warner, who went 19-of-30 without an interception. "You may not have your best stuff, but to be able to control the clock down the stretch was huge. It's the reason we were able to come out of here with a victory."

Anquan Boldin had all of his eight catches for 82 yards in the second half of the Cardinals' third straight opener against the 49ers, who beat them twice last year to ruin their playoff hopes -- both times under bizarre circumstances.

In last season's opener, receiver Arnaz Battle rushed for the last-minute winning touchdown moments after the Cards failed to hold on to an end-zone fumble. Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain then fell on Warner's fumble in the end zone for the OT winner in the all-offense rematch in Glendale.

Arizona allowed none of those late-game hijinks this time, grinding out 12 first downs while holding onto the ball for nearly 23 minutes in the second half. Neil Rackers' third field goal, from 30 yards with 1:57 left, capped an 18-play drive that covered 62 yards in 10:08, draining the life out of Candlestick Park.

"We were in this situation numerous times [last year], and this time we came out on top," said Edgerrin James, who rushed for 100 yards. "It's a point of emphasis that if you've got a chance to end the game, let's end the game. Let's finish it off the right way. ... Us being on the field as long as we were on the field, I know it affects the opposing offense."

J.T. O'Sullivan passed for 195 yards but also fumbled twice in his first NFL start for the 49ers, whose long-woeful offense looked downright competent at times under new coordinator Mike Martz -- if it could only get its hands on the ball.

Frank Gore rushed for 96 yards and San Francisco's only touchdown on an early 41-yard scamper, but the Niners fumbled four times, including new linebacker Takeo Spikes' flub on a clever short kickoff early in the second half that eventually led to Arizona rookie Tim Hightower's first NFL score.

The game looked even worse than it was to embattled 49ers coach Mike Nolan, who kept insisting his team had made six turnovers after losing four fumbles and an interception.

"I feel, had we played more of our type of game, we had every right to win the game," Nolan said. "Obviously, Arizona came out better prepared from the turnover standpoint. Last year, we beat them twice [because] we won the turnover battle twice."

Arizona at San Francisco

NFL.com Video

Watch highlights from Arizona at San Francisco.

O'Sullivan, the eight-team journeyman who won the 49ers' starting job over Alex Smith, was 14-of-20. Bryant Johnson, who spent the last five seasons with Arizona before joining the Niners, had three early catches for 48 yards, while Isaac Bruce failed to catch a pass for just the seventh time in his NFL career in his 49ers debut.

O'Sullivan, who had the ball swatted away from him twice by alert Arizona defenders, didn't take heart in the offense's solid work, including a 13-play scoring drive in the second half.

"You can't cherry-pick your performance," he said. "If you want to win in this league, you can't turn the ball over that amount of times."

Gore got the game's opening touchdown on an open-field run in the first quarter, but the Cardinals answered with a 58-yard drive culminating in Larry Fitzgerald's 1-yard TD catch immediately after Steve Breaston's 40-yard reception.

"We're a better team on offense, defense and special teams," Gore said. "We just can't make the mistakes we did. It'll get better, a whole lot better."

Game notes


Smith could learn Monday whether his new shoulder injury will require season-ending surgery. Smith, inactive after feeling the injury Friday, likely will be finished with the 49ers if he needs shoulder surgery for the second straight year. ... James had his 56th career 100-yard game. ... Rackers became the second player in Cardinals history to score 500 points. He's still way behind Jim Bakken, who scored 1,380.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
ARI
SF
1st Downs1813
Passing 1st downs
109
Rushing 1st downs
73
1st downs from penalties
11
3rd down efficiency
5-163-8
4th down efficiency
2-30-0
Total Plays7244
Total Yards285291
Yards per play4.06.6
Total Drives1111
Passing176183
Comp-Att
19-3014-20
Yards per pass
5.37.6
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-214-12
Rushing109108
Rushing Attempts
3920
Yards per rush
2.85.4
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-70-1
Penalties4-403-20
Turnovers05
Fumbles lost
04
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession37:0522:55

Passing Leaders

ARIC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Warner19/301976.6103-21
SFC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
O'Sullivan14/201959.8014-12

Rushing Leaders

ARICARYDSAVGTDLG
James261003.8010
Hightower8131.615
SFCARYDSAVGTDLG
Gore14966.9141
Foster4112.804

Receiving Leaders

ARIRECYDSAVGTDLG
Boldin88210.3018
Breaston35418.0040
SFRECYDSAVGTDLG
Gore45513.8022
Davis35117.0037

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERARISF
ariFG11:10Neil Rackers 25 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 33 yds, 2:35
30
sfTD6:11Frank Gore, 41 yd run (Joe Nedney kick is good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 75 yds, 2:43
37
SECOND QUARTERARISF
ariTD10:31Larry Fitzgerald, 1 yd pass from Kurt Warner (Neil Rackers kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 58 yds, 2:50
107
sfFG1:56Joe Nedney 39 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 69 yds, 4:19
1010
THIRD QUARTERARISF
ariFG8:29Neil Rackers 31 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 15 plays, 65 yds, 6:35
1310
ariTD4:06Tim Hightower, 2 yd run (Neil Rackers kick is good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 33 yds, 4:22
2010
FOURTH QUARTERARISF
sfFG12:09Joe Nedney 30 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 13 plays, 60 yds, 6:58
2013
ariFG2:00Neil Rackers 30 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 18 plays, 62 yds, 10:08
2313