SAN FRANCISCO - The Arizona Cardinals threw away a chance to clinch a second straight NFC West crown.
Alex Smith threw touchdown passes after two of Arizona's seven turnovers, Frank Gore ran for 167 yards and another score and the San Francisco 49ers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a dominant 24-9 victory last night.
The 49ers play the Eagles Sunday at the Linc.
With a relentless defensive attack, San Francisco forced the sloppy Cardinals into five first-half turnovers and kept Kurt Warner from finding a groove. Warner threw two interceptions in the opening half after going 130 passes without a pick. Now, Arizona (8-5) can still clinch the division by winning two of its final three games.
Gore had his most productive game since Week 2, running over a defense that held Adrian Peterson to 19 yards in a win against Minnesota last week.
Smith, coming off a loss at Seattle last week in which he threw for a career-high 310 yards, connected on TD passes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree and finished 19 of 35 for 144 yards. The 49ers (6-7) answered coach Mike Singletary's challenge to make a statement on the national stage against the reigning NFC champions.
Arizona finally got on the board on Neil Rackers' 48-yard field goal with 5:52 left in the third quarter, then Beanie Wells scored on an impressive second effort on fourth-and-goal from the 1 early in the final quarter.