Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby is congratulated by teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Josh Mauro after Dansby's 20th career interception sealed a 20-10 win Sunday.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Karlos Dansby had talked this offseason about becoming a legend whenever he got his 20th career interception.
The pick came Sunday, and while the pundits can debate the linebacker's legacy, the turnover certainly was legendary in the context of sealing a much-needed victory for the Cardinals.
"I didn't know it was going to come like that," said Dansby, of the ball that ricocheted off a 49ers helmet and ended up in his hands during his team's 20-10 win over the 49ers at Levi's Stadium. "It flipped to me and I thought, 'Man, it can't be this easy to get 20.'
"It was perfect. Perfect timing, perfect scenario."
It was perfectly timed, just as the Cardinals (4-4) looked like they might let the game get away late. But on a day when they checked all the boxes with new quarterback Drew Stanton, it was enough.
The Cardinals fed running back Adrian Peterson, as promised, giving the 32-year-old a career-high 37 carries for 159
yards. Stanton played smart all game, turning the ball over just once and throwing a pair of touchdown passes. And the defense, while surrendering yards to a dilapidated San Francisco offense and rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, forced two turnovers, had five sacks and kept the 49ers (0-9) winless.
"We made that closer than we needed to," coach Bruce Arians said
"I saw a lot of fight," Arians added. "We saw adversity that had been killing us, and it didn't stop us."
On a short week – the Cardinals host the Seahawks (5-3), losers to Washington, on Thursday -- piling up the carries for Peterson may not have been ideal, but it was needed. Arians said he tried to sub backup Kerwynn Williams in at times, but Peterson declined.
"I really wasn't thinking about it," Peterson said. "I felt good. I felt fresh, my legs felt good. The guys were doing a great job up front of pushing the line of scrimmage. I was like, 'Whatever it takes to get this W.' "
The script played out exactly how last year's win in San Francisco did, with Stanton quarterbacking. Last year, David Johnson had 157 yards. Peterson topped him.
Meanwhile, Stanton did as expected. He suffered a few key drops, but completed 15-of-30 passes for
201 yards. He opened the game with a beautiful 52-yard bomb to John Brown – the drive ended on Phil Dawson's sixth missed field goal of the season, although Dawson hit his other two attempts – and found Jaron Brown and Jermaine Gresham in the end zone.
"I don't know what my stats are and I don't care," Stanton said. "I know I had two touchdowns and one interception, and I'd like to have the interception back."
The pick came in the end zone with the Cards leading, 14-3, and Stanton trying to find Gresham for a second time for a score. It halted a chance to pull away.
But the 49ers, despite 329 total yards, never really threatened, Beathard was hit 16 times, sacked five times. The Cardinals held the 49ers to 6-of-17 on third downs.
The door should've been slammed shut sooner, but Peterson lost a fumble with less than four minutes left. Beathard was hit by safety Antoine Bethea on a scramble slide right after, not only drawing a penalty but igniting some heated feelings. When it was over, defensive lineman Frostee Rucker and linebacker Haason Reddick, along with 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, were ejected.
But the defense held up, and the Cardinals finished it off.
"It got a little heated, but we needed that," said Dansby, who became only the fifth player in NFL history with 20 interceptions and 40 sacks in a career. "We're not trying to hurt anybody. But a little anger, that's needed."
A win was also needed by the Cards, who head into their battle with the Seahawks still in a place where they can keep their hopes alive. Doing it this way – running the ball, Stanton being smart, and some turnovers – is the script they know they have to follow.
"Again, you never apologize for winning," Arians said.
Images from the Cardinals' Week 9 game in San Francisco