Kurt Warner continued to state his case for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, but it was last-ditch defence that saw the Arizona Cardinals extend their lead at the top of the NFC West. Warner threw his third touchdown pass with over four minutes remaining and the Cardinals defence made a key stop as time expired to preserve a 29-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Arizona are now two games ahead of San Francisco, the Seattle Seahawks and the St Louis Rams as they seek a first divisional title since 1975. San Francisco had a chance to snatch the spoils on the game's final possession as quarterback Shaun Hill drove the team 41 yards down the field to the Arizona two-yard line with 20 seconds left. On first down Frank Gore rushed to the left side, falling down as he made the corner after being tagged before stumbling into the end zone. However, officials ruled that he was down by contact at the two-yard line, keeping the clock running.
Following a replay review, which showed Cardinals linebacker Chike Okeafor did indeed touch Gore before he fell, there were four seconds remaining. As the clock started on the whistle, the 49ers tried a run up the middle with Michael Robinson, who was stopped well short of the end zone to give Arizona the win. The Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt was a relieved man. He told ESPN: "We found a way to win a tough game, which is something you have to do."
The exciting finish rivalled an explosive opening to the game as Allen Rossum raced 104 yards untouched on the opening kick-off return to give San Francisco a 7-0 lead 12 seconds into the contest. The Cardinals could only manage a first-quarter field goal and the 49ers took a 14-3 lead with 14:19 left in the second when Hill found Josh Morgan with a 31-yard touchdown pass. Arizona cut the deficit to one before tight end Vernon Davis, who was benched in San Francisco's last game, hauled in an 18-yard score to give the 49ers a 21-13 lead just before the interval.
The Cardinals were 24-23 down when Hill was intercepted by linebacker Karlos Dansby, who returned the ball 34 yards to the 49ers five-yard line with 5:06 left. Two plays later, Warner hit Anquan Boldin with a quick pass to the right and the receiver lunged into the end zone for the touchdown to give the Cardinals a 29-24 lead with 4:16 left to play. Warner completed 32 of 42 passes for 328 yards and threw two of his scores to Boldin, who leads the league with 10 touchdown receptions this season.