SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — With two running backs down, Arizona’s ground game kept getting stuffed. So Carson Palmer took charge.
This time, he won it with his lumbering legs rather than his strong right arm.
Palmer ran 8 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:28 remaining and the NFC West-leading Cardinals squeaked by the San Francisco 49ers 19-13 on Sunday for their fifth straight win and first road victory in the series since September 2008.
Palmer spiked the ball with such force that he tumbled forward, and he’ll be razzed for the celebration all the way back to the desert. A few even feared he might be hurt.
“First of all, that was un-athletic. And then to spike the ball, and fall,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “But I told him as well: ‘Man, we need you for the rest of the season. We know it’s your first time winning against San Francisco as well, but make sure you spike the ball with more dignity. Don’t pull out your back.’ Because I thought he threw out his back.”
Palmer fully expected the ridicule to last a while. He’s fine with it as long as Arizona keeps on this roll.
“I’m taking a lot of heat for that and I (couldn’t) care less. The teasing’s not going to stop,” Palmer said.
The Cardinals (9-2) have nine wins through their first 11 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history and fifth time overall.
With Arizona down two running backs, David Johnson ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the third before Palmer’s winning scamper.
Chandler Catanzaro missed the extra-point try, giving Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers (3-8) one more chance with 2:21 left. Anquan Boldin caught an 18-yard pass on fourth-and-20 to clinch the win for Arizona.
Here are some things to take away from the Cardinals’ first victory on San Francisco’s home field since Week 1 of 2008:
FITZGERALD FACTOR: Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald moved past Hall of Famer Steve Largent into 16th for NFL career total yardage on a 10-yard catch late in the first, one of three straight receptions for 25 yards spanning the quarters. He also moved into 12th place on the career receptions list, surpassing Randy Moss.
Fitzgerald finished with 10 catches for 66 yards. He is one of only three current Cardinals who had previously won at San Francisco, along with Calais Campbell and Lyle Sendlein.
“We knew we were going to be in for a fight and we weren’t expecting anything less,” he said. “We found a way to squeak one out.”
PENALTY PROBLEMS: Arizona’s first series of the second half told the story. San Francisco committed five penalties, including four pass interferences and an illegal hands to the face, as the Cardinals finally reached the end zone.
The 49ers were flagged 13 times in all for 81 yards, including a costly roughing the passer flag on Quinton Dial during the winning drive.
“There’s no debate here,” Palmer said. “He hit me right in the face with the crown of his helmet.”
Dial thought he was making a legal play as it unfolded.
“When I watched the replay, I saw he kind of ducked into it,” Dial said. “There was nothing I could do at that point, just go into him.
IUPATI’S RETURN: Offensive lineman Mike Iupati returned to the Bay Area to play his former 49ers, who drafted him 17th overall in 2010 out of Idaho.
He played well, blocking for Palmer to give him ample time.
The Cardinals left guard didn’t play in the Week 3 meeting while slowed by a lingering knee injury. He sustained a stinger in a win against the Bengals a week earlier after a neck injury at Seattle required him to leave on a stretcher and be hospitalized.
GABBERT’S DAY: Gabbert outplayed Palmer even if he didn’t have a result to show for it.
Gabbert was 25 of 36 for 318 yards and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald in the third and might be making his case to be the starting quarterback going into 2016. Gabbert hit Torrey Smith for a 41-yard completion and had far more success than predecessor Colin Kaepernick did during a four-interception day back in a 47-7 September loss at Arizona.
“Blaine’s playing awesome. Some of the plays he makes, I think he’s able to showcase some of his skills and prove that he belongs in this league,” Smith said. “I’m just glad that he’s able to go out and prove it.”
EMPTY SEATS: Nearly an hour into the game at $1.3 billion, second-year Levi’s Stadium, the venue looked about 75 percent full even if listed as a 70,799 sellout. The Niners might have to earn back some of their support system.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP—NFL