Running back Tim Hightower caught 12 passes for 121 yards in the season opener.
Anquan Boldin was hurting and Larry Fitzgerald was double covered, so the Cardinals turned to Tim Hightower in their passing game Sunday – often.
Hightower, who was held to 15 yards on eight carries rushing the ball, caught 12 passes for 121 yards – the first time a Cardinals' running back had cracked 100 yards receiving since Larry Centers did it in Indianapolis Sept. 1, 1996.
"We took what they gave us," Hightower said. "That's what I have been working on. Obviously the more balance you can be, the more versatile you can be, the harder it is for the defense."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards had seen some things on tape to know there may be some opportunities for Hightower to make plays in the passing game. But targeting Hightower wasn't as much part of the game plan as a necessary adjustment, quarterback Kurt Warner said. Between the 49ers concentrating on the Cards' receivers and an oftentimes heavy pass rush, Hightower was someone Warner had to utilize.
"It was a combination of things," Warner said. "Sometimes it was the only thing open."
Wide receiver Steve Breaston didn't play after his injured right knee apparently got worse Sunday morning, and he was held out after trying it in pregame warm-ups. With Breaston out, it made it more important for Boldin – even with a sore hamstring – to play.
So Boldin gave it a shot. He caught just two passes for 19 yards and played about half the offensive snaps, clearly looking less than 100 percent.
Boldin was unavailable for comment, but Whisenhunt said Boldin was "a warrior."
"It was a tough situation," Whisenhunt said. "When I knew Steve was going to be down, which was a surprise, I was faced with a tough decision at receiver. Anquan felt like he could go and contribute. I don't fault Anquan at all."
Safety Adrian Wilson was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty in the first quarter for a hit on 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. The hit separated Davis from the ball, but the free yards helped set up San Francisco's second field goal.
"(Those calls) are a point of emphasis," Wilson said. "But I'm not going to let the guy catch the ball. It is what it is. The way I play, I'm not going to change that. I feel it's clean. We'll see what happens on Tuesday (when discipline is handed out)."
Safety Matt Ware left the game after reinjuring the left shoulder he originally hurt in Denver and will be reevaluated Monday. Defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema sprained his ankle.
Running back Beanie Wells had a tough debut, going the wrong way on a handoff and forcing Warner to eat the ball and a five-yard loss. But Wells was the Cards' top runner, gaining 29 yards on seven carries in his first NFL regular-season game. …
Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn't make a catch until less than a minute remained in the first half. "We aren't going to force the ball into bad situations," Fitzgerald said.
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