This is how crazy Monday night's game was. Over the last quarter, I wrote three different lead paragraphs to my game story. When the 49ers were winning 13-10, this was how the game-day story read:
"The 49ers had been knocked silly in previous encounters with Arizona's fast and physical wideouts, but this time their defensive backs struck back."
After the Cardinals went up by four points following a VERY questionable flagrant face-mask call against Bryant Young, I changed the opening paragraph to this.
"It seemed like the 49ers' defense had forced yet another Arizona punt Monday night when Bryant Young's right hand gave the Cardinals new life."
Then, of course, the 49ers' offense - legally dead until this point - engineered its white-knuckle final drive and I switched gears again, this time to the version that appears in today's (yes, it's officially Tuesday) paper.
On second and one from the Arizona 45 yard line, Smith hurled a perfectly-thrown pass to Darrell Jackson in the back of the end zone. You're supposed to act very professionally in the press box, but for a split second I was sure Jackson had come down with the ball and I yelled, "HE CAUGHT IT!" He, of course, did not.
On fourth down, Smith seemed penned in by safety Adrian Wilson. He dodged left. He went right. Then he went left again, and kept going for a 25-yard gain. Three plays later, he found Arnaz Battle in single-coverage over the middle and it appeared Battle would win the game as he tumbled into the end zone. One problem: He tumbled in without the ball, which a Cardinals defensive back should have pounced on to give his team the win. Instead, it squirted free and Jackson gathered it up.
The ball went back to the spot of the fumble (The Holy Roller rule) and that's when offensive coordinator Jim Hostler made his best call of the night. Battle said they practice that end around all the time and it worked like a charm. The game ball went to Battle.
Afterward Smith said that the 49ers have been concentrating on their two-minute offense all summer. It shows - their two-minute offense was far, far better than the rest of their offense.
Young, along with the rest of Monster Park, wasn't too happy with that face-mask penalty. "I didn't even know I had a face mask," he said. "I barely grazed it." For a while, it looked like that penalty was going to be the play of the game. The Cardinals offense had gone nowhere in the second half, and that play seemed to give them the boost they needed. "I didn't want to be the goat of the game," Young said.
Here's some advice for when the 49ers next play the Cardinals: Block Karlos Dansby. The linebacker was in Smith's face all night, and he finished with a team-high 11 tackles and a half sack. Dansby seemed to be particularly effective coming on a delayed blitz up the middle. Patrick Willis led the 49ers with 11 tackles, including one in which he jarred the ball loose from Edgerrin James. The rookie also had a big hit on Matt Leinart in the third quarter.
Here's some more good 49ers' news regarding the win: no injuries. There might be some guys who come in today a little hobbled, but there was no one - nada, zilch - on the injury list Monday night. That's odd for any NFL game and is especially uncharacteristic in a week in which injuries dominated the NFL headlines.
-- Matt Barrows