Patrick Peterson slowed down just enough to give San Francisco wide receiver Mario Manningham a chance to catch a first quarter pass from quarterback Alex Smith.
A millisecond too early and Peterson would be flagged for pass interference.
A millisecond too late and Manningham makes the catch.
It was all about the timing.
Peterson stutterstepped and then, at the exact second Smith’s pass made its way into Manningham’s hands, Peterson laid out Manningham with enough force knock the pass out of his hands and to warrant a replay or two on your DVR. It was the game’s sixth play and Peterson was off to the start he wanted.
“I was hoping so,” Peterson said.
It turned out to be his biggest hit in the Cardinals’ 24-3 loss to the 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday night. For the rest of the evening, Peterson was too busy trying to slow a combination of Manningham and Michael Crabtree, often struggling to do so.
He limited Manningham to four passes for 20 yards. With Crabtree, however, Peterson had his hands full. But covering a team’s main option is a position Peterson wants to be in, even if it means giving up two touchdowns and 72 yards to Crabtree.
“That’s a great opportunity for me,” Peterson said. “I won’t say pressure but it’s just something I love as a cornerback, a coach coming to me and asking me am I ready to take on the opposing team’s No. 1 guy?”
The answer was yes, but Peterson found out late in the first quarter it wasn’t going to be easy. On third-and-goal from the Cardinals 3, Smith hit Crabtree on a back-shoulder fade and Peterson didn’t have enough time to turn around before Crabtree reached over him to snag the touchdown.
“That play is so quick I didn’t have enough time to fully get back so I had to play through his hands,” Peterson said. “I was actually there. As receivers, those guys have pretty tough hands, strong hands. He’s one of those guys who can reel the ball in when it’s in his grasp.”
On Crabtree’s second touchdown, Peterson said their feet got tangled before the Niners’ receiver ran in for a nine-yard score.
Peterson was given a chance late in the first quarter to prove his worth as a receiver. He lined up at wide receiver on second-and-10 from the Cards 20 but the pass went for minus-2 yards.
“That’s pretty cool,” Peterson said. “I think we got a couple more tricks up our sleeve but we’ll see.
“Just have to continue staying with it and continue believing in the scheme that we’re running. I believe that coach (Ray) Horton is putting us in a position to make plays. As players we just have to go out there and make them.”
HITS KEEP COMING FOR DOUCET
In football, getting hit is part of the game. But it’s even a bigger part if you’re constantly coming across the middle, like
As one of the Cardinals’ slot receivers, Doucet has made a living catching passes – or at least trying – over the middle. Monday night showed the downside to that job. Doucet was knocked into yesterday by 49ers’ safety Dashon Goldson early in the fourth quarter, as vicious as a hit as there’s been this season. Doucet laid on the ground for a few minutes but walked off under his own power.
“I’m good,” Doucet said. “I just got my wind knocked out of me. It probably looked worse than it really was. But I’m good.
“That’s just the slot position. You’re going to get your fair share of hits. So you just got to be able to bounce back up and keep playing.”
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said it was “a hit Vince Lombardi would be proud of,” according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.
Added Goldson, who got into a scuffle with Doucet in a game last season, “I’m proud of it.”
ROBERTS HAS ANOTHER SOLID GAME
“I was getting up and John was finding me, simple as that,” Roberts said. “Everybody made plays but I think John was looking for me when I was in the slot. (I was) just getting open.”
Roberts finished with a team-high 65 yards on seven receptions, and was one of three Cardinals targeted 11 times and one of seven to have 20 or more receiving yards.
When the 49ers took an early lead, the Cardinals made an audible with their offensive game plan. They started playing faster and leaning more on the passing game. Skelton threw 52 times and the Cardinals finished with just nine rushes.
NINERS QB FLIRTS WITH PERFECTION
The baseball season is over, but San Francisco nearly had another perfect game.
Niners quarterback Alex Smith was 18-for-19 passing Monday night, setting an NFL record with a 94.7 percent completion rate. Smith was perfect through 20 minutes but he couldn’t connect with tight end Delanie Walker on a first-and-10 pass from the Cardinals 45 with 9:34 left in the first half.
“It’s fun to joke about after the game but I don’t think anyone really cares,” Smith said about Walker costing him the perfect night.
“Honestly, I had no idea (about the record), which is a good thing. I wasn’t worried about any incompletions or anything like that. I was just kind of in a good rhythm.”