GLENDALE, Ariz. ? The previous 10 drives were just a set-up. When the 49ers needed to put something together in their season opener Sunday, they went to the passing game.
The 49ers showed just enough life on offense, while the defense did most of the work in a 20-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals to spoil a day that began with the franchise hanging a banner as 2008 NFC champions.
?I could care less if it was an ugly game,? 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. ?It was beautiful for us.?
The Cardinals did not lose a game within the NFC West last season, as they won the division title and advanced to the Super Bowl, where the came within 35 seconds of defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers. Arizona looked downright ordinary against the 49ers.
?This was big, obviously,? 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill said. ?It?s the first game on the schedule. When the schedule came out, everybody got excited it was here, against these guys.?
The 49ers? defense pressured Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner into two interceptions and three sacks, including the game-ending play on which defensive lineman Justin Smith broke through to eliminate any possibility of a miraculous ending.
?We know with the guys we have up front, we?re able to get pretty consistent pressure on the quarterback,? Smith said. ?We just have to keep building on it.?
The 49ers held the Cardinals to one or fewer first downs on 10 of their 14 possessions in the game. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, covered mostly by cornerback Nate Clements, had six receptions for 71 yards, including a 25-yard gain in the closing seconds that actually proved costly when he could not get out of bounds before Patrick Willis? tackle.
?It all goes hand-in-hand,? 49ers linebacker Parys Haralson said. ?When the defense is covering it up like they did (Sunday), it gives us time to get to the quarterback.?
The 49ers experienced plenty of struggles to establish any semblance of a running game. Frank Gore gained just 30 yards on 22 rushing attempts. On the 49ers? three other rushing attempts, they were stopped for minus-9 yards.