SAN FRANCISCO -- Here is sports columnist Mark Purdy's early analysis of the good and bad for the 49ers in Sunday's 32-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Check back later for his full column after locker room interviews.
MARKUP -- Overall, a pretty good day for the Scarlet Heroes of Yore. This victory was all but mandatory because the 49ers have only one home game between now and December. Four of their next five games are on the road, including the trans-Atlantic trip to London for a matchup against Jacksonville. Arizona kept things interesting for much of the day, and Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald remains an All-Pro danger player, as he proved on one scintillating touchdown catch. But the 49ers made just enough big plays to win.
MARKDOWN -- The 49ers offense remains a stop-and-start work in progress. You never know exactly what you're going to get from series to series. And sometimes, quarterback Colin Kaepernick tries to force-feed passes he shouldn't. That was the case with his first-half interception at the goal line. It was partially a bad break because the ball was tipped by an Arizona rusher and partially fluttered into the hands of Cardinals defender Yeremiah Bell. But it was still a bad decision by Kaepernick because Bell had 49er fullback Bruce Miller covered pretty well even if the ball hadn't been tipped. In the red zone, you just don't attempt that risky a pass unless it's the last drive of the game. Kaepernick makes so few mistakes, the ones he does make tend to stand out.
MARKUP -- Vernon Davis is still probably not 100 percent recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Indianapolis game three weeks ago. But there are no hamstring muscles in a man's hands. And whenever the Cardinals were misguided enough use single man-to-man coverage against Davis, he was able to find enough separation to put those remarkable hands to use. At halftime, his seven catches for 171 yards more than doubled the yardage of any other receiver on the field, including Fitzgerald.
MARKDOWN -- The 49ers have not yet figured out how to consistently make wide receivers a dangerous part of the offense. Jonathan Baldwin is seeing more and more action but has yet to enthrall anyone. Anquan Boldin is working hard but is often being double-teamed and smothered. Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree cannot return soon enough. (Although count me among those skeptical that Crabtree will be very effective even if he does return -- it usually takes Achilles surgery recipients 12 to 18 months for a complete recovery.)
MARKUP -- Donte Whitner, the 49ers safety who has filed to change his last name to "Hitner," may finally be learning that the days of slamming into potential receivers at shoulder level or above are gone. Flags will fly if it happens. On the game's first series, Whitner had a chance to totally blow up Arizona running back Andre Ellington on a pass to the flat but instead made a solid wrap-him-up tackle.
MARKDOWN -- On the other hand ... Whitner must not have been able to restrain himself the entire game. When Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer threw a ball over the middle to Fitzgerald later in the first quarter, Whitner lowered his shoulder and tried to time up a whack to Fitzgerald -- but instead whiffed and saw Fitzgerald take the reception to the house for a 75-yard touchdown. It appeared that Whitner could have either knocked down the ball or tried to wrap up Fitzgerald but did neither.
MARKUP -- Props to Whitner's running partner at safety, rookie Eric Reid, who clearly knows how to play by the new rules. His first-quarter interception and 53-yard return set up the 49ers' first score. In the third quarter, Reid and linebacker Patrick Willis forced a fumble by Fitzgerald that was recovered by Reid after he kicked the ball when it popped out and sent the thing skittering 10 yards away. Reid's dead sprint to the ball and ability to cover it was one of the game's bigger plays because it happened at the 49ers' own 11-yard line.
MARKUP -- Very nice work by rookie linebacker Corey Lemonier to sack Arizona QB Palmer in the end zone for a safety. It was a huge momentum-changer, because the 49ers followed the safety with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Davis.
MARKDOWN -- I'm criticizing myself for making the following bad joke but I can't resist: Everybody knows that when you walk into a restaurant and order an Arnold Palmer, it's a mix of lemonade and iced tea. So what do you call a drink that mixes a Lemonier and a frozen-footed quarterback? That's right: a Carson Palmer.
MARKUP -- Salute to John McVay, the former 49ers general manager who was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame this weekend and was recognized in a halftime ceremony Sunday.
MARKDOWN -- This is aimed at both teams and for that matter, the entire league. It must be a new NFL rule that after every incomplete pass, the receiver and/or defensive back looks at the nearest official and asks why there was no pass interference called. Professional football is not quite approaching the disgusting theater of professional soccer in that department. But the gap is narrowing. Someone do something about this, please.
MARKUP -- Only four more regular-season 49ers games at Candlestick Park. The security lines for fans to get inside the stadium Sunday seemed longer and slower than ever. The spectator security engineering at Levis Stadium has to be much better.
MARKDOWN -- Only four more regular-season 49er games at Candlestick Park. On a sunny October afternoon Sunday, especially with the long shadows being cast in the fourth quarter, it was almost classically beautiful. Almost.