Monday, November 2, 1992

CARDS STRIKE GOLD VS. 49ERS

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Wire Services

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Cardinals don't win often, but when they do they beat the best.

The Cardinals, who beat the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins for their only other 1992 victory, got three touchdown passes from Chris Chandler on Sunday to defeat San Francisco 24-14, only the second loss of the season for the 49ers.

Phoenix (2-6) was also revitalized by the running of Johnny Johnson and a defense that turned stingy against the National Football League's top offense.

And even when the Cardinals looked primed for a collapse, the defense would not permit it.

The 49ers cut a 17-0 Phoenix lead to 10 points when Mike Sherrard returned a fumble 39 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, after taking the ball away from Phoenix linebacker Eric Hill, who had just recovered a bobble by tight end Brent Jones.

But the Cardinals, who had lost three games in succession, scored again before the quarter ended and held on for the victory.

''Even after they got the cheap one, we came back and held them to give our offense another chance,'' strong safety Tim McDonald said.

McDonald added that ''the first series set the tone for the whole day.''

On San Francisco's first possession, the 49ers drove 79 yards to the Phoenix 1-yard line in just eight plays.

But outside linebacker Ken Harvey stripped the ball from quarterback Steve Young, and McDonald recovered on the 20.

''Most quarterbacks hold the ball in one hand. I just knocked it away,'' Harvey said.

Young, the league's top-rated passer, did not stay around long after that. He left the game with the flu in the second quarter and was replaced by Steve Bono.

''Phoenix made a great play on our first drive. The linebackers did a heck of a job,'' said 49ers coach George Seifert, whose team came in at an NFC-leading plus 5 in turnovers but lost the ball twice more than the Cardinals. In the fourth quarter, Harvey sacked Bono for 6 yards as Phoenix ended the 49ers' last chance to extend a five-game winning streak.

''This team is as bad as it wants to be and as good as it wants to be,'' San Francisco offensive tackle Steve Wallace said. ''It depends on how much we concentrate. We don't have the amount of superstars we had in the past. A week ago we had a solid practice. This week it dropped off. I could sense it. I didn't want to say anything. Maybe guys play better loose, but if they're loose they better be sure they come to play.''

Phoenix put forth a supreme defensive effort, holding San Francisco to 298 total yards and one TD.

''We didn't play aggressive football, and their defense played good,'' said 49ers receiver Jerry Rice, who had five of his six receptions in the fourth quarter. ''Everyone learned today.''

Randal Hill caught two scoring passes and Johnson returned from injury to give Phoenix its first 100-yard rushing performance since 1990.

Hill had TD catches of 4 and 23 yards, and Greg Davis had a 33-yard field goal to make it 17-0 late in the third quarter.

Chandler wasn't impressed with the 49ers' defensive squad.

''You don't go into a game going, 'wow!' '' he said. ''To play in the NFC East all the time and then come in against the 'Niners, it's just another day at the office. No one has a pass rush like the Eagles. We faced a hurricane last week [against Philadelphia]. The 49ers are just a storm.''

After San Francisco cut the lead to 10 points, Chandler hit Ricky Proehl with a 22-yard TD pass that made it 24-7.

''Watching films, we felt the way their cornerbacks played, our guys could run by them'' on pass patterns, Chandler said.

''The way the 49ers play defense, it leaves their corners out on Gilligan's Island, which is how we described somebody left by himself. After that, it just depends on whether I make the play or not. And today I made enough plays to win.''

Bono tried to get something going in the fourth quarter, and Ricky Watters capped an 88-yard drive with a 4-yard sweep for a touchdown.

The Cardinals moved to their 48 on the next possession, but San Francisco held.

The 49ers took over on their 4 after a 48-yard punt by Rich Camarillo, and Bono quickly hit Sherrard with passes of 13 and 14 yards. Another 25-yard pass to Sherrard set the 49ers up on the Phoenix 34, and, after a penalty, a 19-yard toss to Rice moved it to the 25 with 2:12 remaining.

Then Phoenix rose up, stopping Rice for no gain on a reverse. Harvey sacked Bono for a 6-yard loss on the next snap, and on fourth down, Bono missed on a short swing pass to Tom Rathman.

Johnson ended with 102 yards on 26 carries, the first time in 29 games a Phoenix back has gained 100 yards.