GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals appeared headed toward another bad home loss and a second straight 1-3 start.
Until the offense suddenly came to life and Larry Fitzgerald became Larry Fitzgerald again.
Carson Palmer threw a 19-yard pass to Fitzgerald with 32 seconds left in overtime to give the Cardinals an 18-15 victory over the winless San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Fitzgerald had just three catches for 13 yards before the winning grab.
“We didn’t want to walk out of here with a tie,” he said. “That would have been demoralizing because we had our shots.”
Palmer completed six of seven passes on the winning drive, starting out with short passes underneath to wide-open Andre Ellington before trying to go farther downfield.
With the game tied at 12 after regulation, San Francisco won the toss to get the ball to start the overtime, which has been shortened from 15 to 10 minutes this season.
The 49ers used 7:36 of that 10 minutes in a 15-play, 73-yard drive that stalled at the Arizona 5-yard line, where Robbie Gould’s fifth field goal of the game put San Francisco up 15-12.
“We’re trying to play to win the game,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We got into a manageable third-and-goal and we didn’t get it on third down. … They played well and they stopped us.”
The Cardinals lost outside linebacker Markus Golden to what could be a significant knee injury. Coach Bruce Arians said he didn’t know how serious it was.
Here are some things to consider about Arizona’s overtime victory over the 49ers.
BRUISED PALMER: Palmer took a lot of hits behind an offensive line riddled by injuries. He was sacked six times, four in the fourth quarter, by a San Francisco team that had three sacks combined in its first three games.
Still, he finished 33 of 51 for 357 yards. His lone interception was on a tipped ball in the end zone at the end of a long drive on the game’s opening series.
“Oh man, Carson stood in there,” Fitzgerald said. “He took some shots. … He’s as tough as they come. He never flinches, never wavers.”
The 37-year-old quarterback acknowledged his weariness, especially on a short week after the Cardinals lost to Dallas on Monday night.
“I’m tired,” he said, “but hopefully we have a walk-through Wednesday and we don’t have to practice.”
OH-SO CLOSE: The 49ers have lost to their three NFC West foes by a combined eight points: Seattle 12-9, Los Angeles 41-39 and Arizona 18-15.
“We’ve yet to reach our full potential,” linebacker NoVorro Bowman said, “and I’ve stressed to them that I’m excited to get back to work because we’re letting teams off the hook. We definitely can play a 60-minute game and could have won a few of these games that we let slip by.”
BANGED-UP HOYER: 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer took some severe shots, too, particularly one from Chandler Jones that knocked him out of the game for a play.
“At first I was nervous because my knee ended up in a compromising positon and everything is bent back over your knee,” he said. “Then, almost immediately, my back locked up, I think from being stretched that far back. I was trying to get up but the referee already had made up the decision that I had to go out for a play.”
But Hoyer wouldn’t blame his back problem for his trouble connecting with receivers after that.
“I am not going to say that is an excuse at all,” he said. “You play through injuries. That is what it is. That is what the NFL is about.”
NO ATONEMENT: Phil Dawson had uncharacteristically missed a field goal in each of the first three games.
He was 4 for 4 for the Cardinals on Sunday, including one from 50 yards, but wasn’t about to call it atonement for his misses.
“No, there’s no getting those back,” Dawson said. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks. It’s nice to contribute to a team win and I’ll take that any day of the week.”
IMPORTANT BROWNS: Receivers Jaron and John Brown both played important roles in the Arizona victory.
Jaron Brown caught eight passes for a career-high 105 yards. John Brown, back after missing two games with a lingering quadriceps problem, caught three for 47 and drew a couple of crucial pass interference penalties.
John Brown narrowly missed a TD on the last drive when the defender tipped the ball and the receiver grabbed it as he dragged his feet on the sidelines in the end zone. A review upheld the incomplete call.
“They robbed me of a touchdown,” he said.