Cardinals linebacker Travis LaBoy crawls over 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan to collect a fumble after a sack during Sunday's 23-13 Arizona win.
SAN FRANCISCO – Travis LaBoy went to high school about a half-hour from Candlestick Park, making Sunday's game against the 49ers more important to LaBoy than just his first game as a Cardinal.
"It was cool," said LaBoy, who figured he hadn't been at Candlestick since he was 9 years old. "It was like a homecoming for me."
The Cards' free-agent linebacker played like the 49ers were his homecoming opponent, collecting two sacks. On his second, LaBoy also forced and recovered a fumble by Niners quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, putting an exclamation point on a stellar day for the Cardinals' defense as a whole.
The Cards forced five turnovers – although one came on special teams when the 49ers fumbled a pooch kick – and totaled four sacks in their 23-13 victory. Safety Adrian Wilson had an interception in addition to four fumble recoveries.
"We want to be disruptive," linebacker Bertrand Berry said. "We want to be unpredictable, we want to make sure we give the offense opportunities with turnovers and good field position and not allowing a lot of points. I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
Berry was one of the catalysts, knocking the ball loose from O'Sullivan on a sack for one of the fumbles. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett also forced a fumble, crushing fullback Zak Keasey after a catch to jar the ball loose.
"A lot of the (big plays) came on pursuit," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
San Francisco running back Frank Gore did have a big game (96 yards rushing on 14 carries, 55 more yards on four receptions), but in the end, the 49ers never could make a consistent offensive push. Gore's 41-yard scamper was the 49ers' lone touchdown.
"We got good pressure out there," Berry said. "Anytime you can get turnovers and the offense doesn't have turnovers, your chances of winning are pretty high."
Q GETS LOOSE
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin admitted he was frustrated "a little" after a first half Sunday in which he did not have a catch. The Cardinals' coaches noticed too.
Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Todd Haley huddled at the half, deciding at once to not only throw more passes with quarterback Kurt Warner, but also involve Boldin more often.
"We made a conscious effort to get me involved," Boldin said. "They said they were going to get the ball in my hands."
Boldin caught three passes on the first drive of the half (which resulted in a field goal) and had two other passes thrown his way. Boldin also caught all three third down passes during the Cards' game-clinching 18-play drive in the fourth quarter.
Boldin finished with eight receptions for 82 yards, both high for the team.
"Anquan, that's what you expect from him," Whisenhunt said. "When he gets the ball in his hands, he is dangerous."
WARNER GETTING COMFORTABLE
Warner threw just 11 first-half passes – completing six – and the Cards clearly had offensive hiccups while ending up tied at halftime. Nineteen second-half passes helped Warner gain some rhythm, although playing it safe also affected him.
Warner admitted he doesn't want to turn the ball over, but sometimes, that hinders his game.
"I was probably a little more reserved in the first half than I'd like to and that'll probably be a delicate balance for me," Warner said. "I don't want to turn the ball over or take chances, but I also feel that sometimes I'm at my best when I am running around making plays.
"We have to find that balance where I'm smart, but I can still be me."
The Cardinals could have gone for it early in the game on a big fourth-down play. Leading 3-0, a seven-yard pass to Tim Hightower gave the Cards a fourth-and-1 on the San Francisco 2-yard line. But at the end of Hightower's play, tackle Mike Gandy came in to shove 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis on to the pile, an obvious personal foul.
That gave the Cards a fourth down out at the 17. Kicker Neil Rackers missed the field goal wide right. Still, Whisenhunt was surprisingly OK with the turn of events afterward.
"I understand what happened with Mike," Whisenhunt said. "He was trying to finish the play. … It's a lot easier to take when you win the game."
The Cardinals reported no injuries. …
Hightower scored his first career touchdown with a two-yard run in the third quarter. …
Whisenhunt continued his success challenging officials' calls. His challenge of a spot prior to Hightower's TD run showed the ball was spotted incorrectly. …
The Cardinals sprung a trick play with No. 1 draft pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, sending the cornerback on a fly pattern on offense. The pass was broken up by 49ers safety Dashon Goldson.
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 9/7/08.