Skelton's rough day costly in Cards' loss to SF

BY foxsports • November 21, 2011

Arizona quarterback John Skelton dropped back to pass, slipped on the wet turf at Candlestick Park and fell to the ground without a defender around him as the ball popped out of his hands.

At least he recovered the fumble.

Not much else went right for the Cardinals, who committed five turnovers - three from Skelton - and didn't cross midfield until late in the third quarter of a 23-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

''Obviously not a very good day for us in a lot of areas,'' Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ''It was a tough day for a lot of us. We didn't get the job done.''

Especially the quarterback.

Skelton, who led the Cardinals to wins as the starter in the team's previous two games, completed only 6 of 19 for 99 yards, 45 of which came on a 45-yard completion to Andre Roberts midway through the third quarter when Arizona finally made it past the 50-yard line.

Two plays later, Skelton was picked off by Dashon Goldson, one of three interceptions thrown by the Cardinals' second-year starter who was then replaced by third-string quarterback Richard Bartel.

So much for that budding quarterback controversy.

''It was one of those days where nothing seems to go right,'' said Skelton, who had a meager 10.5 passer rating.

''(The 49ers) got us with a few of the coverages but at the same time they gave us some stuff and I just didn't hit it. Just more frustrating than anything.''

About the only thing Arizona did well was keep 49ers kicker David Akers out of the 49ers record books. The Cardinals blocked two of Akers' six field goal attempts while a third miss sailed wide right.

But with five turnovers, including one on special teams, Arizona fell behind early and never recovered.

Patrick Willis, Donte Whitner and Goldson all intercepted passes by Skelton. The quarterback for the Cardinals (3-7) lost for the first time in three starts this season in place of the injured Kevin Kolb.

Whisenhunt was critical of his young quarterback, who was replaced by Richard Bartel at the start of the fourth quarter.

Skelton could still start for Arizona next week against the St. Louis Rams if Kolb's injured right foot isn't healed.

''Wrong reads, bad throws, bad decisions,'' Whisenhunt said. ''John played like a rookie today, and that's tough. The very first pass of the game he takes an incorrect drop. That throws the timing off and he sails it over the receiver's head. Those are things you can't do.''

His counterpart, Alex Smith, didn't have any such issues.

Smith threw for 267 yards and tossed scores to Kyle Williams and Vernon Davis on the first two drives of the third quarter to help the 49ers pull away for their eighth straight victory.

San Francisco (9-1) can clinch the NFC West with a win at Baltimore on Thursday and a loss by Seattle against Washington next weekend.

With a chilly rainstorm pelting the Bay Area since Saturday, the 49ers' defense bullied and bruised Arizona all over a slick field.

The Cardinals converted only two first downs in the first half.

Once the rain subsided and a rainbow formed on the north side of Candlestick, the 49ers finally opened up an otherwise passive passing game.

Smith connected with Williams on a route to the near pylon in the third quarter. Williams stretched over the goal line as he was tackled to complete the 8-yard TD catch.

After Skelton sailed a pass that Whitner stood under for an easy interception, Smith rallied San Francisco for another quick score.

He found Davis for an 18-yard touchdown to put San Francisco ahead 23-0. The tight end jumped over sideline cameramen and flexed his muscles to a rain-soaked crowd covered in ponchos and umbrellas in celebration.

Far too much for Arizona's anemic offense to overcome.

Skelton had won the previous two games against St. Louis and Philadelphia since replacing Kolb, who's out with a right foot and toe injury. He was benched after throwing his third interception - the last to Goldson over the middle on a pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald.

''I put myself in that situation having three interceptions and not a very good day passing,'' Skelton said. ''Coach felt a change should have been made and rightfully so. I didn't play up to par.''

Even Bartel's only highlight came on a shaky pass between two defenders that landed in Fitzgerald's hands for a 23-yard touchdown for Arizona's lone score. The Cardinals dropped their fifth straight to the 49ers.

About the only fight Arizona showed came in the fourth quarter when Early Doucet appeared to hit Goldson after the defensive back sacked Bartel. Goldson came up and threw two punches to Doucet's shoulder pads and facemask, getting a 15-yard personal foul penalty and an ejection.

''That's how it always is in a rivalry,'' Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. ''You just try not to get caught doing it. You try not to put your team in a situation that it's going to hurt them.''

San Francisco outgained Arizona 431 to 229 yards. The 49ers also held the ball for more than 44 minutes and even got away with three missed field goals and a slowed-down running game.

Frank Gore started despite a right knee injury that knocked him out of a win over the New York Giants a week earlier, finishing with 88 yards rushing. He needs 61 more to pass Joe Perry (7,344) for San Francisco's career rushing mark.

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