SANTA CLARA -- The bright side for the 49ers: It doesn't look as if they will be blown out by 40 points as was the case the last time they played the Cardinals.
They trail 6-3 after a sleepy, disjointed, stop-and-go first half in which they committed two turnovers, both of which led to Cardinals field goals. The first was a muffed punt by Bruce Ellington, which gave Arizona the ball at San Francisco's 39-yard line.
Late in the first quarter, Blaine Gabbert thought he had Quinton Patton in man-to-man coverage against Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals safety who victimized Colin Kaepernick twice in the teams' earlier meting. Mathieu, however, caught up to the receiver, then turned around to snatch Gabbert's under-thrown pass.
Gabbert is 8-12 for 92 yards so far with his best drive coming just before the half. He hit tight end Vance McDonald and receiver Anquan Boldin on back-to-back 15-yard receptions. The 12-play drive ended with a 53-yard Phil Dawson field goal, his third of the season from beyond 50 yards.
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The 49ers' defense, meanwhile, has played well. It seems to have the same energy it had during a 17-16 win over the Falcons earlier this month. The Cardinals lead the league in scoring this season. Their lowest output was 13 points in a Week 3 loss to the Steelers.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock, however, dropped an easy interception in his own end zone on third down in the second quarter. On the next play, the Cardinals kicked a 41-yard field goal.
Garrett Celek, who had been the 49ers' best tight end through 10 games thuis season, was carted off the field with a left ankle injury in the first quarter.
Celek was blocking for Shaun Draughn on an outside run when Draughn was tackles on the back of Celek's ankle. That left the 49ers with just two tight ends, Vance McDonald and rookie Blake Bell, on the active roster. Another tight end, Brian Leonhardt, is on the practice squad and could be elevated to the 53-man roster if Celek is out long term.
Celek has more receiving yards than any other 49ers tight end and his three touchdown catches lead the team.