Smith almost perfect, 49ers flatten Arizona 24-3

On an almost perfect Monday night for Alex Smith, the San

Francisco 49ers flexed their NFC West dominance with a 24-3

flattening of the Arizona Cardinals.

Smith completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three

touchdowns – two to Michael Crabtree and one to Randy Moss – to

help San Francisco (6-2) open a two-game lead in the division and

send Arizona (4-4) to its fourth straight lost.

Smith’s only incompletion was dropped by a wide-open

receiver.

Smith was 14 of 15 for 146 yards and two touchdowns, both to

Crabtree, as the 49ers built a 17-0 halftime lead.

Moss caught a 47-yard TD pass, dodging tacklers down the

sideline on a play that seemed to turn back the clock to the

receiver’s prime. With the catch, he tied Terrell Owens for fourth

on the NFL career touchdown list with 156.

Smith, who tied a career high with the three touchdown passes,

spread out his completions to 10 receivers. Crabtree led the way

with five catches for 72 yards.

Arizona’s defense, supposed to be the team’s strength, missed

tackle after tackle in an embarrassing nationally televised

performance at home. The 24 points were the most allowed by the

Cardinals this season.

Led by Smith’s near-perfect precision passing, the 49ers

methodically dominated from the start. The San Francisco

quarterback had the best completion percentage of his career, and

he would have been perfect had Delanie Walker not dropped the ball

when he was wide open on a crossing route in the first half.

A 10-play, 77-yard drive that consumed just over 6 minutes of

the first quarter put San Francisco up 7-0. On third-and-goal from

the 3, Smith threw a sidelines pass to Crabtree, who outfought

Patrick Peterson for the ball and the touchdown.

A flurry missed tackles, most notably an open-field whiff by Sam

Acho, helped Ted Ginn Jr. return a punt 35 yards to the Arizona 45

in the second quarter. Daryl Washington sacked Smith to help set up

a third-and-23 from the Cardinals 46. But Smith found Crabtree over

the middle for 22 yards, just a yard shy of the first down. David

Akers’ 43 yard field goal made it 10-0 with 5:58 left in the

half.

Crabtree beat Peterson again for San Francisco’s second

touchdown. Smith threw over the middle to the receiver, who caught

the ball, then fooled Peterson with an inside move into the end

zone to make it 17-0 with 1:41 left in the half. The 49ers drove 68

yards in eight plays, again overcoming a sack, this one by Calais

Campbell, that made it second-and-goal from the 16. Smith threw 7

yards to Mario Manningham to set up the TD toss to Crabtree.

The Cardinals were booed off the field by the home crowd at the

half.

Things didn’t get any better for the home team in the third

quarter. On third-and-9, Smith threw 30 yards to Crabtree, who

evaded a host of tacklers. Then on third-and-8, Smith tossed a

short pass to Moss, who sidestepped a series of would-be defenders

all the way to the end zone, putting San Francisco ahead 24-0 with

7:27 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinals averted a shutout with Jay Feely’s 28-yard field

goal

John Skelton, making his second start since Kevin Kolb went down

with rib injuries, completed 32 of 52 passes for 290 yards, often

overthrowing receivers. The Cardinals rushed for just 7 yards in

nine attempts against the 49ers, who entered the game as the No.

1-ranked defense in the NFL, No. 2 against the run.

Arizona’s final possession ended when Larry Fitzgerald was

stopped at the 1.

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and

http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx