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49ers widen NFC West lead with rout of reeling Cardinals

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The San Francisco 49ers added to Arizona's growing misery Monday night with a 24-3 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium, handing the Cardinals their fourth consecutive loss after a 4-0 start.

Alex Smith was super efficient in completing 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns, including two in the first half to Michael Crabtree, as San Francisco strengthened its hold on the NFC West.

The 49ers (6-2) have a two-game lead in the division heading into their bye week before resuming with home games against St. Louis and Chicago.

"It's huge," 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman said of the win. "We're not settling or being complacent or anything. It's just a great thing to be up two right now in this division."

As for the reeling Cardinals, they are in a freefall, and the future still looks murky and dark. Their next two games are on the road against two of the hottest teams in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons.

"This was a big test for us tonight and everyone saw how it went for us," Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We didn't get the job done. It was disappointing, to say the least. We have a lot of things we need to work on and fix. We've got the guys to do it."

The 49ers scored on their second possession of the game, taking a 7-0 lead after mounting a 10-play, 77-yard drive capped by a three-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Crabtree.

The drive consumed six minutes, and San Francisco held the ball for all but three minutes, 33 seconds in the opening quarter.

After padding their lead thanks to a 43-yard field goal by David Akers, the 49ers went on another long drive right before halftime. Once again, Smith found Crabtree for the score, this time on a 15-yard pass play for a 17-0 lead. The drive covered 68 yards in eight plays.

The Cardinals were outgained 212-69 in the first half.

San Francisco didn't waste any time sticking it to the Cardinals again once the second half began. Smith hit Crabtree for a 30-yard gain on third-and-long, and three plays later, Smith found Randy Moss for a short completion that Moss turned into a 47-yard touchdown and a commanding 24-0 lead.

Moss made a juke move on Jamell Fleming, who missed the tackle, and linebacker Paris Lenon couldn't wrap him up either as Moss made his way down the sideline for his second score of the year.

It was his 156th career touchdown, tying Moss with Terrell Owens for fourth all-time in total touchdowns.

"Great protection from the O-line," Moss said of his touchdown play. "It was a five wide receiver set so we didn't really have the ends protected, but the line protected it. The quarterback delivered, I caught it, ran, had some blocks downfield, and it was as simple as that."

Smith passed to 10 different targets on the night, and his only incompletion was a drop by Delanie Walker in the first half. Crabtree led the way with five catches for 72 yards.

Asked if this game helped restore Smith's confidence following a couple of shaky starts, Harbaugh dismissed any notions that Smith was battling any confidence issues.

"I don't think there was ever a question there," he said. "I think it's just a lot of gobble, gobble, turkey. Just gibble, gobble, turkey. That paints a pretty good picture. He's a very confident guy."

Cardinals quarterback John Skelton, making his second start since Kevin Kolb went down with rib injuries, was 32 of 52 for 290 yards with one interception.

Meanwhile, Arizona managed just seven rushing yards overall on nine attempts, but the Cardinals virtually abandoned the running game after falling behind 17-0 at halftime.

"I'll tell you this, we're not going to do very well if we keep running the ball like we did tonight," Whisenhunt said. "We missed guys in the run game and you can't do that. We have to get it corrected. When a guy lines up over your nose and you completely miss him and he comes back and hits you in the backfield, that's not good enough. That's what I told these guys after the game. They better come back Wednesday ready to go."

Skelton said, "They're a good defense, don't get me wrong. They are a very talented defense. But to only put up three points, that's embarrassing as an offense and as a team. It's in front of a national audience and we only put up three points and lost by 21. It's frustrating and it's humiliating to be honest."

The 24 points allowed by the Cardinals were the most Arizona has given up this season.

"I don't think anyone is packing it in," Skelton said. "No one's flipped the switch or anything. We've just got to keep executing, keep grinding and hopefully we can get it turned around."

NOTES: The 49ers have 42 wins on Monday Night Football, second behind only the Cowboys (44). ... With his 13-yard reception in the second quarter, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald extended his club record for consecutive games with at least one catch to 125, the second-longest active streak in the league behind Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (186). ... San Francisco offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore suffered a concussion in the first quarter and did not return. ... Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington had two sacks, giving him eight for the season -- two shy of tying Ken Harvey (1990) for the most in a single season by a linebacker. ... The Cardinals were without starting right guard Adam Snyder because of a quadriceps injury. He spent seven seasons with the 49ers. Rich Ohrnberger replaced him in the starting lineup.
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