The San Francisco 49ers didn’t play 1-against-45 Sunday. It only seemed that way. The 49ers’ toothless offense, ranked last in the NFL, scored 37 points thanks to four Cardinal turnovers and a super effort by running back Frank Gore.
Gore ran 21 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 98 yards.
He did this despite re-injuring a bum ankle.
Coach Mike Nolan said he got on his headset and told his offensive coaches, “It doesn’t look like you’re going to get Frank back.
“About a series later, I looked out there and the son of a gun was out there.”
Gore had the 49ers trainers wrap and re-wrap the ankle during the game.
“It feels great,” Gore said in the jubilant locker room of a team that had lost eight straight.
“Finally, things went our way.”
MILESTONES FOR FITZ
Larry Fitzgerald hit the 1,000-yard mark for receiving yards for the season, the second time in four years he’s achieved that milestone.
He also enjoyed the 12th 100-yard game of his career, including three this season.
He also set the Arizona Cardinals record for touchdowns with 30, breaking the record of 28 set by Larry Centers.
Rookie tight end Ben Patrick was a significant factor Sunday.
On the plus side, he caught his first two NFL passes, including a crucial 2-yard touchdown pass from Tim Rattay with 9:53 left that gave the Cardinals a 28-24 lead.
On the downside, he drew two penalties for improper blocks on special teams.
The second, on a punt return by Steve Breaston, buried the Cards at their 3-yard line in overtime. Kurt Warner fumbled in the end zone on the first play from scrimmage and the 49ers recovered for the game-winning touchdown.
“I was just trying to keep the center from getting a free shot at our returner,” Patrick said. “I thought … it would be a clean hit.
“I got to figure out a way to get in better position so that call isn’t made at the end of the game at a crucial time. I got to figure out what to do better.”
Cornerback Eric Green left the game with a groin injury and did not return.
Antrel Rolle and Ralph Brown replaced Green, who said he fears the injury is serious.
Also, Warner had sore ribs but played through it.
TWO POSITIVE PLAYS
• The Cards grabbed the lead on a desperation, jump-ball pass to Fitzgerald on the final play of the first half.
Everyone in the stadium knew it was coming, yet the 49ers couldn’t defend it. Fitzgerald leaped in the end zone and wrestled the ball away from Nate Clements.
Fitzgerald raced into the locker room, giving the Cards a 21-17 halftime lead after they had been outplayed.
“You throw it up and one guy made a sensational play,” Warner said. “I’ve never seen it done quite like that.”
• The Cardinals appeared to save their season with the play of the season.
With the Cards facing fourth-and-1 at the 49er 2, coach Ken Whisenhunt gambled.
He could have played it safe, kicking a gimme field goal to tie the score at 24.
Instead, he went with his goal-line offense, and Tim Rattay replaced Warner.
They lined up and pulled the fullback in motion as if to set up a run by Marcel Shipp to the right side.
Instead, Rattay dropped back to buy time from the rush and threw a pass in the back of the end zone.
There, Patrick, who’d caught his first NFL pass earlier in the game, came down with a touchdown catch.
“At the end of the day, we came up with an L, so it doesn’t really mean anything,” Patrick said.