Before Monday night’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he expected a tough, physical game.
“These division games become brawls,” he said.
Only this time, this NFC West duel was a one-sided beating.
The 49ers used three touchdown passes from Alex Smith – two to Michael Crabtree and one to Randy Moss – to beat the Cardinals 24-3 and improve to 6-2 while opening up a two-game lead in the division going into their bye week.
Arizona, meanwhile, lost for the fourth straight time after beginning the season 4-0.
Smith, coming off a pair of rough performances against the Giants and Seahawks in which he threw a total of four interceptions, was back to his old, efficient self, completing 18-of-19 throws for 232 yards and no interceptions. His only incompletion was a drop.
Smith connected with Crabtree five times and Mario Manningham four times, but it was his lone completion to Moss – a 47-yard catch-and-run play in the third quarter – that broke Arizona’s back and put the 49ers up 24-0.
While the Niners were humming efficiently on offense – they also ran for 113 yards -- San Francisco’s defense was dominating.
For the fourth time in five games San Francisco didn’t allow a touchdown, giving up only a late Jay Feely field goal.
The Niners stuffed the Cardinals on the ground, allowing just 7 net yards rushing, sacked quarterback John Skelton four times – outside linebacker Aldon Smith got to him twice – and gave up just 258 total yards.
Though the Cardinals had talked much in the past week about their matchup with the reigning NFC West champs – defensive end Calais Campbell even going so far as to say he hates the 49ers – it was San Francisco that came out from the start ready to prove its point. The Niners took a 17-0 lead at the half and never let Arizona back into the game.
After defeating Seattle 13-6 last week in a hard-fought NFC West duel, the Niners shut down another division contender with an all-around performance.
After taking this Sunday off, the Niners return to action Sunday, Nov. 11 against another division foe, the Rams, at Candlestick Park.