Singletary's 49ers Begin 2009 Season With Victory Over NFC Champs

Jimi PayneContributor ISeptember 14, 2009

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 04:  Quarterback Shaun Hill #13 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass against the San Diego Chargers on September 4, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Chargers won 26-7. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers started their season with a 20-13 road win over the reigning NFC West champions Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers possessed the lead for the majority of the game and at one point had a 13-3 advantage over the Cardinals.  The Cardinals gained a 16-13 lead in the fourth quarter, which slipped right out of their hands when the 49ers scored the game winning touchdown on the ensuing possession.

The 49er defense contained the Cardinals' high scoring offense, and displayed the physical and aggressive style of play  head coach Mike Singletary demands.  The defense registered three sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions.  Cardinal's quarterback Kurt Warner was pressured constantly,especially by outside linebacker Parys Haralson who was a permanent resident in the Cardinals' backfield on passing downs.

"I'm never satisfied," Haralson stated after game in reference to his performance.

The 49er offense didn't put up eye-catching numbers, but made big plays repeatedly in crucial situations.

Star running back Frank Gore scored two touchdowns despite being held under 50 yards rushing. Gore's stats were not impressive to say the least; 22 carries for 30 yards with one touchdown and three catches for 18 yards with one touchdown.  However his scores contributed to the numbers on the scoreboard; which are most important stats of the any game.  Gore achieved a career first by recording a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game.

Quarterback Shaun Hill again displayed his ability to play in the clutch even though he struggled to get his offense into rhythm the majority of the game. 

With 49ers trailing by a field goal and momentum leaning towards the Super Bowl runner-ups. Hill orchestrated a 15 play 80 yard drive,the longest drive of the game between the NFC West rivals, in which they converted three times on third down.  Hill capped the drive by finding an uncovered Gore for a three yard touchdown that gave the Niners a 20-16 lead.  Hill finished the game 18 of 31 for 209 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

"I was proud of the fact that Shaun Hill was able to lead a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter when you had to had it. I thought he did a great job," said Singletary.

The 49ers' defense stalled two comeback attempts by the Cardinals in the final two minutes of the game. The first came when the Cardinals went for it on fourth-down and defensive end Justin Smith pressured Warner up the middle which caused a bad throw that landed incomplete. Smith again, ended the Cardinals second comeback attempt by sacking Warner who fumbled the ball. Smith celebrated as the ball rolled out of bounds as time expired.

The Cardinals didn't play like experienced play-off caliber team.  They were horrendous on third-downs converting only four of their fourteen tries and were penalized routinely during the game. They finished the game with 12 penalties for 82 yards. Singletary's 49ers on the other hand played disciplined football and where penalized only four times for 31 yards.

Singletary showed great poise and feel for the game in his first game as a full-time head coach.  He managed the game and his players well.

He correctly challenged a 12-men on the field penalty that was wrongfully called by the officials. With the game tied at 13-13, the Cardinals marched down the field and got into scoring position. Sensing a shift in momentum, Singletary called a time-out to regather and refocus his defense.  Whatever words of motivation he said worked and the defense forced the Cardinals into kicking a field goal that gave them their short lived 16-13 lead. 

The 49ers offense responded by scoring the game winning touchdown on very next drive.

The 1-0 49ers face another NFC West opponent next week with the Seatle Seahawks coming to Candlestick Park. The Seahawks will have a lot of confidence entering the game because of their dominant 28-0 win over the St. Louis Rams. The 49ers and the Seahawks split their two games last season. Former 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. will return as a foe rather than a friend since he is the Seahawks' new head coach.

Game notes:

  • All-Pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis recorded his second career interception and led all defenders with 13 tackles
  • Shaun Hill improves his record to 8-3 as the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback and completed the longest pass of his career with a 50 yarder to Isaac Bruce.
  • Kicker Joe Nedney now holds a 49ers franchise record with seven field goals of 50 yards are more