NFL Football

Johnson powers Cards to much-needed win over 49ers

(TSX / STATS) -- SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After going 13-3 and winning the NFC West last season, the Arizona Cardinals never expected to lose three of their first four games this year.

And they certainly never thought they would face a crucial test in Week 5 without No. 1 quarterback Carson Palmer, going up against the San Francisco 49ers.

That was Arizona's reality Thursday night at Levi's Stadium, but they put their rough start in the rearview mirror with a 33-21 victory against the 49ers.

David Johnson rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and backup quarterback Drew Stanton threw two scoring passes to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald for the Cardinals.

Arizona (2-3) forced three turnovers and turned them into two touchdowns and a field goal. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell intercepted a pass in the second quarter, setting up a touchdown, and he sacked 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the end zone with 1:17 left for a safety. Gabbert was sacked seven times.

"It was huge," Campbell said of the win. "Any time you lose a game, you lose two back to back, it's hard to get that first one again. Just get one and take it from there. We came here on the road, on a Thursday night with a lot of things stacked against us -- backup quarterback. Whatever it took to get the win. Find a way to get it done and figure out from there how to get it going."

The Cardinals pulled to within 1 1/2 games of the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, who are tied atop the West at 3-1.

"I think we were a hungry team, a team that knows that we dug a hole for ourselves and we had to win this game," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.

Palmer, who sustained a concussion Sunday against the Rams, missed the game, and Stanton, a 10-year pro out of Michigan State, made his first start since Dec. 11, 2014, at St. Louis. Stanton completed 11 of 28 passes for 124 yards with no interceptions.

"It feels great," Stanton said. "This is a huge team win. This is what we needed. That was my mindset the whole week, and I felt good about it. I really liked the game plan. It's tough going through a walkthrough because you're trying to visualize everything that's going on, but at the same time, I really liked it, I was on the same page with (Arians). And once I got a chance to settle down and felt good about everything, I was very comfortable."

Much of Arizona's game plan involved handing the ball off to Johnson. He had 27 carries and increased his rushing total to 457 yards for the season.

"I felt good," Johnson said. "I felt really good today. It helps out when those guys are blocking. They're always blocking. It's usually me. I miss a hole or ... I slip and stuff like that. It felt good to come out and run the ball like we did."

Fitzgerald caught six passes for 81 yards. He has 16 career touchdown catches against the 49ers, the most ever by any player against San Francisco.

The 49ers' defense gave up at least 100 yards to an opposing running back for the fourth consecutive game.

Gabbert completed 18 of 31 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions for the 49ers (1-4), who lost their fourth straight game. He ran 10 times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde carried 22 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley caught eight passes for 102 yards and a score.

"When you're minus-3 in the turnover column, you're not going to win the football game," 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. "And obviously (the giveaways came) at critical times. I think all three of our turnovers were in the red zone, which is even worse. It took them 41 yards to get 17 points out of it.

"I don't think anybody played well on offense. Nobody. I don't think we protected well enough, I don't think we threw it well enough, and we had too many drops and two interceptions. And two critical penalties also hurt us."

The 49ers were without All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who tore his left Achilles tendon Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Nick Bellore, a sixth-year pro from Central Michigan, started in his place and made a team-high 11 tackles.

The 49ers and Cardinals played to a 7-7 halftime tie while combining for 12 punts. But on the second-half opening kick, Cardinals tight end Ifeanyi Momah stripped the ball from San Francisco's Chris Davis and recovered at the San Francisco 14.

The 49ers appeared to hold Arizona to a 26-yard field goal, but cornerback Rashard Robinson was penalized for running into the kicker, extending the drive. One play later, Johnson scored on a 4-yard run, giving Arizona a 14-7 lead.

"That set the whole tempo," Arians said of Momah's play. "We talked about it at halftime. The defense doesn't start the second half. It's the kickoff team. We were going to kick it deep to make them return it. I gave the whole kickoff cover team the game ball. That turned the game."

Arizona then forced a punt and drove 71 yards in six plays for a touchdown, with Stanton hitting Fitzgerald in the back right corner of the end zone for 29 yards with 7:35 left in the third quarter. Fitzgerald got behind cornerback Tramaine Brock and made a leaping catch

San Francisco answered with an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive, cutting Arizona's lead to 21-14 on Hyde's 1-yard run with 1:54 left in the third.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cardinals cornerback Marcus Cooper cut in front of Kerley to intercept Gabbert's pass along the left sideline and returned 12 yards to the San Francisco 24. That set up Chandler Catanzaro's 36-yard field goal, extending Arizona's lead to 24-14 with 13:39 to play.

"It's extremely frustrating," Gabbert said. "I let this team and this organization down tonight. I did not play good whatsoever. And that's on me."

Johnson increased Arizona's lead to 31-14 with a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:44 left. The 49ers climbed within 31-21 on Gabbert's 1-yard run with 1:52 remaining.

NOTES: 49ers KR Chris Davis sustained a knee injury with 7:29 left in the third quarter and did not return to the game. ... Cardinals starting RG Evan Mathis and LG Mike Iupati left the game in the third quarter with ankle injuries and did not return. ... San Francisco OLB Aaron Lynch was activated and started against Arizona after serving his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. ... 49ers RCB Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) missed his second consecutive game, and rookie Rashard Robinson started again in his place. ... Cardinals starting TE Darren Fells (shoulder) was inactive. ... Arizona backup QB Zac Dysert, WR Brittan Golden and TE Hakeem Valles, who were promoted from the practice squad earlier this week, were active for the game. ... San Francisco starting TE Vance McDonald (hip) missed his second start in a row. Garrett Celek replaced him in the lineup. ... 49ers DE Glenn Dorsey (knee) was inactive.

Updated October 7, 2016

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