SAN FRANCISCO -- By time the clock ticked past six minutes in the first quarter, the headlines had already been written.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer had just thrown his second interception before most of the seats inside Candlestick Park had a body in them. It was like déjà vu. Turnovers would again be the Cardinals' demise.
But by the end of Arizona's 32-20 loss, it wasn’t just the turnovers that let a crucial NFC West game slip away. Two fumbles, one each in the third and fourth quarters, ended any chance of the Cardinals pulling off an upset which would’ve left them alone in second place.
“We’re not going to beat anybody on the road turning it over four times,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “When we had the game in hand, going in to take the lead and [we] try to make too much out of something and we fumbled the football. Then we have a chance to get back in it, we fumble on second-and-1. And you’re not going to beat anybody that way with self-inflicted wounds.”
Now that their offense seems to have found its way during the 49ers game, if the Cardinals can figure out a way limit turnovers -- now up to 15 for the season -- they can become the team Arians has been talking up since minicamp.
Arizona was marching, down 22-20 late in the third, on the 49ers 31 and poised to take a lead when Larry Fitzgerald lost the ball just moments before he hit the ground.
"I am not going to sleep at all," said Fitzgerald, who said he was trying to score on that play. "I let my team down in that situation. I wish I could take it back."
Alfonso Smith coughed up the second fumble on his only carry of the game in the fourth when the Cardinals were trailing 29-20.
“[We’re the] best offense to shoot ourselves in the offense,” left guard Daryn Colledge said. “We have the chance to be a really great offense, and if we keep shooting ourselves in the foot like this we’re going to be just a mediocre offense.
“The potential’s there but we have to find a way to capture it.”