SAN FRANCISCO -- The Cardinals played horribly Monday night and the 49ers had a lot to do with their struggles during their 24-9 victory.
The 49ers' mostly average pass-rushers become dominant ones when they face Arizona. This probably cannot be explained rationally. It's just NFC West law.
The 49ers can beat the Cardinals -- twice this season -- but they have not yet shown they can defeat enough of the other teams to make it matter in the standings.
What should matter most to the 49ers this December, barring a miracle playoff run that might require Arizona losses to the Rams and Lions, is developing quarterback Alex Smith for next season.
Smith started quickly Monday night, but he made erratic throws and turned over the ball twice. By game's end, the 49ers appeared much better off handing the ball to Gore and watching him pound away.
This development might have been specific to this game against this opponent.
But the sloppy and exceedingly generous Cardinals provided Smith an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his compatibility with Gore. The two haven't produced at a high level in the same game this season. Gore did his part, but Smith could not capitalize consistently.
The Cardinals likely will not suffer this many turnovers (7) again anytime soon. They must feel fortunate that Larry Fitzgerald's injury was not serious, and that they will not be seeing the 49ers again anytime soon.