GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michael Robinson was so buried on the final play that it almost looked as if the Cardinals knew what was coming.
As it turns out, they did.
"We knew they had to run the ball," Arizona defensive end Antonio Smith said. "We weren't respecting the pass."
That's how the Cardinals stuffed Robinson near the goal line as time expired. On third-and-goal from the 2, the 49ers running back got just 1 yard. Linebacker Clark Haggans was credited with the tackle.
Smith said that the tipoff for the running play was that the 49ers had an extra tight end on the field.
"We all just hunkered down, lowered our shoulders and drove into them."
It was an odd finale, considering Robinson has just two career rushing touchdowns. Those both came on Sept. 24, 2006.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 223 pounds, Robinson has taken over some fullback duties after Zak Keasey suffered a season-ending injury during Week 6.
"I was surprised they handed it off to Michael Robinson," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "You know, he's a former quarterback. I don't think he's got that kind of oomph to get in at the goal line."
Haggans said: "I wasn't surprised at all. We knew (Robinson) was a triple threat. "... He's been in our game plan as much as Frank Gore and everybody else."
Rachal sees action
Chilo Rachal, the 49ers' second-round pick, made his long-awaited debut. He played right guard near the end of the first quarter and delivered the key block on Gore's 20-yard run.
Before Monday night, Rachal had been tethered to the sideline. He was on the inactive list for the first two games and did not play in the six games that followed.
Coach Mike Singletary lost his first career replay challenge. He threw the red flag after receivers ruled incomplete on a Jason Hill catch along the sideline. Singletary, who didn't have any challenges in his first game, threw his first one with 1:33 to play in the first quarter. But officials ruled that Hill lost control of the ball as he came down, thereby never completing the catch.
One of the hot trends in the NFL is the wildcat formation, with a running back lining up for a direct snap and the quarterback lining up as a receiver.
The 49ers jumped into the fray on a third-and-one midway through the first quarter. With quarterback Shaun Hill split wide left, Robinson took a direct snap and faked a handoff to Gore.
Robinson kept the ball and ran around right end for 5 yards and a first down.
The 49ers did it again later in the quarter, this time with Gore taking a direct snap and pushing for 2 yards.
Arizona tried it, too, with receiver Anquan Boldin twice taking direct snaps for short gains in the first half.
There were no surprises on the 49ers' inactive list. Tackle Barry Sims (ankle), receiver Arnaz Battle (foot) and safety Dashon Goldson (knee) weren't healthy enough to play. Others on the list were cornerback Reggie Smith, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, center Cody Wallace, tight end Sean Ryan and quarterback Jamie Martin.
As anticipated, Adam Snyder started at right tackle in favor of Jonas Jennings (shoulder). ... Receiver Dominique Zeigler made his first appearance on the active roster.
— Daniel Brown, MediaNews staff