In an NFC West matchup with playoff implications for both teams, the San Francisco 49ers went on the road and beat a resilient Arizona Cardinals team 23-20. The 49ers, who were playing for the division title should the Seattle Seahawks falter, needed a 40-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Cardinals after watching a 17-point lead evaporate in the second half.
The 49ers struck first in this one, taking their opening drive down the field for a 27-yard field goal from kicker Pat Dawson. After a Carson Palmer interception by linebacker NaVorro Bowman on the Cardinals’ next possession, Colin Kaepernick moved the 49ers down to the Arizona four yard line before throwing a touchdown pass to Anquan Bolden.
Down 10-0, Arizona looked to answer and went on a 12-play drive but came up empty when Jay Feely missed a 37-yard field goal. Kaepernick wasted little time getting back into the end zone, taking the 49ers on a 72-yard drive that ended in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.
Facing a 17-0 deficit to start the second quarter, Arizona traded three-and-outs with the 49ers before Carson Palmer found Jake Ballard for a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with a little less than five minutes to go in the first half.
The 49ers had a chance to pad their lead before the half, but kicker Pat Dawson watched his 24-yard field goal attempt veer wide left with 20 seconds left on the clock.
In the scoreless third quarter, both offenses tried and failed to swing the momentum in their favor. The 49ers were stopped on fourth-and-one at the Arizona 16, while the Cardinals failed to convert a fourth-and-six at the San Francisco 36.
After a 49-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter trimmed the San Francisco lead down to 17-10, the 49ers failed to move the ball past midfield on their next two possessions. With the momentum starting to shift toward the Cardinals, Palmer tied the game at 17 with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 3:27 left in the fourth.
The 49ers then went on a 41-yard drive and took the lead back on a 56-yard field goal from Dawson. But the Cardinals weren’t done yet.
With under two minutes on the clock, Palmer threw completions of 24 and 23 yards to move the Cardinals into position to tie the game with a 43-yard field goal of their own with 34 seconds left.
Overtime right? Not today.
With just 25 seconds left on the clock after the kickoff, Kaepernick led the 49ers down to the Arizona 23 yard line where Dawson kicked the game-winner as time expired.
It was a heart-breaker for the Cardinals, but should provide plenty of momentum for the 49ers as they head into the playoffs.