GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sidelined most of his rookie season by a fractured right foot, Quinton Patton emerged as Sunday's unlikely hero, making an acrobatic catch that set up the 49ers' last-second, game-winning field goal.
"When I picked my head up after 10 yards, I saw the ball coming and said, 'Oh man, go get it,' " Patton recalled of the 29-yard reception at the Cardinals' 22-yard line.
Patton used his right arm to corral Colin Kaepernick's pass while leaping against cornerback Antoine Cason along the 49ers' sideline. The 49ers promptly called timeout with two seconds remaining and summoned Phil Dawson to kick a 40-yard field goal for the 23-20 win.
"My instincts were to just go catch the ball," Patton said.
Patton had caught only one pass all season before Sunday, and not only did that reception went for zero yards, he broke his foot in the process Sept. 26 at St. Louis.
The fourth-round pick of out Louisiana Tech missed the ensuing 10 games, but he's emerged as a complementary weapon in place of Mario Manningham, who went on season-ending injured reserve Friday with a knee issue.
Kaepernick knew before the snap that his 32nd and final pass Sunday was heading to Patton, even though Patton failed to snag a third-down pass on the previous series that led to a 56-yard field goal.
Kaepernick and wideout Anquan Boldin approached Patton on the sideline after that penultimate drive, telling him to settle down and that he would get targeted next series.
So why did Kaepernick trust Patton again?
"It was press coverage over there, we had a double move on, I liked the matchup and there was no safety on that side of the field," Kaepernick said.
"I thought I'd give him a chance. He's shown that he can go up and make those plays in practice, so he came up with it and it was huge for us."
Patton's only other catch Sunday was a 5-yard gain, on third-and-6 from the Cardinals 21. Anthony Dixon was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 run on the ensuing snap.
"I should have made that play," Patton said.
Patton's play-making ability shone through in the first quarter, when he raced 26 yards on an end-around run to the Cardinals' 8.
His final play is what he'll be remembered for most out of this breakout game, however.
"He's definitely one of us. I couldn't be more excited for him," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.