Defensive Line- The defensive line displayed that hey have the potential to consistently rush the passer. Improving the pass-rush was the defense's number on off-season priority.Coach Singletary even went the extra mile when he hired Al Harris to be a pass-rush specialist coach.
Kurt Warner never never comfortable in the pocket, there were bodies in his face for the majority of the game. The 49ers recorded there sacks and could have had more if Warner didn't throw the ball away.
Parys Haralson was the top pass rusher. He had just one sack, but he dominated Cardinals right tackle Levi Brown and was in the backfield on almost every passing down. If Haralson has a game like this one every game he could register at least 12 sacks this season.
There is pressure on Manny Lawson this season to prove that he can be a force in the passing game. He didn't record a sack, but he provided pressure off the edge and on his quarterback hurries led to a Nate Clements interception. Ray McDonald sacked Warner once and was pushing the pocket well on passing downs.
Justin Smith as usual played with a non-top motor. Smith was persistently in Warner's face. He was responsible for stopping the Cardinals last two drives. Smith was about to sack Warner on a fourth down play but Warner threw the ball away. Smith sealed the win for the 49ers by sacking Warner and forcing a fumble on the last play of the game.
The defensive line also contributed to the defense's stuffing of the Cardinals' running game that averaged 2.4 yards a carry. The Cardinals rushed for 40 yards on 17 carries, while the Niners registered four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin, Smith, McDonald and Kentwan Balmer clogged the running lanes and more importantly held the point of attack so the linebackers could run free and make plays on the ball carriers.
Linebackers- Played the way coach Singletary wants them to play; physical smash mouth football. All-Pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis was all over the field and led a defenders with 13 tackles(as he does the majority of the time.)
Willis also had a great interception that displayed his range, coverage skills and athletic ability. Willis followed Warner's reads and leaped right in front of a pass intended for Jerheme Urban. He looked like a ball hawking safety on the play.
Takeo Spikes didn't record a tackle but he held blocks so tackling machine Willis could do what he does bet; bring down the ball carrier. His play along with Willis' was a major factor in the Cardinals only rushing for 40 yards.
Outside linebackers Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson didn't allow the running backs to hit the corner for long runs. The chief responsibilities for outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense is to rush the passer and boy did they. If Haralson and Lawson improve on their impressive Sunday's performance they are going to be causing havoc constantly for opposing quarterbacks. Back-up Marques Harris also displayed the ability to pressure the quarterback of the edge.
Secondary- Played the best out off all the defensive units because they were successful at blanketing the top wide receiver duo in the NFL. Pro-Bowlers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were held to a total of eight catches for 90 yards, with one touchdown reception by Fitzgerald. The secondary also made sound tackles in the running game.
Starting corners Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer excelled at jamming Boldin and Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage, which disrupted the timing and rhythm of the Cardinals' passing game. Clements was the first member of the secondary to get an interception this season. The secondary also didn't allow many yards after the catch and gave up just one big reception; a 40 yarder to Jerheme Urban.
Free safety Dashon Goldson's sound play in coverage in the back end allowed Michael Lewis to play close to line of scrimmage and focus on stuffing the running game.
Coach Singletary rightly had high praise for his secondary
Consider this; the Cardinals had a top-5 ranked passing attack last season, which returned all three components of the aerial attack: Warner, Fitzgerald and Boldin. The 49ers secondary never allowed those players to get comfortable and condensed many passes. This resulted in both wide receivers being held under 100 yards and Warner's passer rating was 67.2.