The San Francisco 49ers took a page out of the 2011 team’s book when they beat the Houston Texans. They relied on running the ball, causing turnovers and winning the field position battle to win last week. That was a convincing win but it won’t work that way every week. The Arizona Cardinals come into Candlestick Park ready to make a statement themselves.
Many don’t realize how solid this Cardinals defense is. They have play makers. It showed last week when Daryl Washington and Patrick Peterson both had interceptions and returned them for 40 yards. Peterson took his back for a touchdown. The Cardinals are only giving up 79.0 yards per game on the ground. Quietly they have become one of the better defenses in the NFL.
The 49ers got back to running the ball by gaining 177 yards against the Texans. Frank Gore ran with authority. They will be looking to continue that against the Cardinals. That offense is at it’s best when they can run the ball. It will be interesting seeing how Gore, Kendall Hunter and Lamichael James fare against the Cardinals defense.
These games are always tough ones. It is a divisional rivalry game. Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockette are two players that live for this game. They dislike the 49ers and usually save their best play for these match ups. Joe Staley also has said that he doesn’t like the Cardinals so keep your eyes on the line especially when Staley and Campbell line up against each other. Controlling the trenches will be a key to this game so the 49ers offensive line will need to do what it can to open up running lanes for Frank Gore.
One thing that the 49ers have struggled to do is figure out how to make the passing game click. Colin Kaepernick has shown that he trusts Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis but the same can’t be said for the rest of the receiving core. Jonathan Baldwin needs to get involved in the passing game. Kyle Williams has also been a disappointment. Vance McDonald is long overdue for some targets as well. The 49ers use 22 personnel more than any other team. That allows them to get McDonald on the field more.
Bruce Arians brings a downfield passing game to the Cardinals. His system is a good match for Carson Palmer and his big arm. Palmer has always been capable of throwing the deep ball. Pairing him with Larry Fitzgerald was supposed to create a formidable quarterback/receiver tandem. Fitzgerald has 24 receptions 288 yards and three touchdowns.
Palmer has already thrown nine interceptions. That number may increase this week against a 49ers secondary that is coming off of two straight games with an interception. Michael Floyd is averaging 14.3 yards per catch but is yet to see the end zone. Floyd had a big game against the 49ers last year to close out the season and will be looking to repeat that showing on Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick vs Daryl Washington and the Cardinals secondary Kaepernick will go against another team with a superbly athletic linebacker. This week, Washington will be key in defending Kaepernick. He may be called upon to spy him. Kaepernick will need to be careful when he throws the ball in Patrick Peterson’s direction. If Peterson is able to get an interception, he is likely to take it back for a touchdown. The real key will be in whether or not the 49ers can exploit Jerraud Powers. He will be the key to where the 49ers go with the ball. Yeremah Bell is also a liability in coverage. He likes to come up and play the run but that over aggressiveness can be used against him through play action.
Calais Campbell vs 49ers offensive line Campbell is a player that will be ready to go without a doubt on Sunday. He takes this rivalry personally. Campbell is a run stuffer but can be relied on to rush the passer as well. He has had a few good games against the 49ers and is coming off of a two sack game.
Darnell Dockette vs Alex Boone and Mike Iupatti Dockette is not the same player as he was a couple of years ago but he is still a presence. Boone and Iupatti are two interior lineman that will be relied upon to keep Dockette from making disruptive plays in the back field.
Carson Palmer vs Eric Reid Palmer is the veteran quarterback while Reid is the young defender. Arians will dial up some plays that will test the rookie safety’s ability to keep everything in front of him. It will be crucial for Reid to stay at home and not allow any receivers to get deeper than him.
Larry Fitzgerad and Michael Floyd vs Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rogers Fitzgerald and Floyd are the only productive receivers for the Cardinals. Floyd had eight receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown in the last meeting with the 49ers. Fitzgerald is always the focal point of the opposing defense. Brown and Rogers will be tested because the Cardinals will look for their receivers to move the chains.
Daryl Washington will be playing in his second game since serving his four game suspension. He had nine tackles, two sacks and an interception last week against the Carolina Panthers. His assignment was to spy Cam Newton for most of the game. He will have a similar assignment this week against the 49ers. I asked him what NFC West defensive player that is not on the Cardinals would he want on his team the most and he without hesitation selected Patrick Willis.
Karlos Dansby is having a solid year with 46 tackles, two sacks and an interception. The return of Washington will only make it better. Last week Dansby had a sack because of a double team on Washington which gave him a clear path to the quarterback.
Tyrann Mathieu will make his debut at Candlestick Park. It will be a reunion of a high powered LSU secondary as Eric Reid, Patrick Peterson and Mathieu will be on the same field for the first time as professionals.
Anquan Boldin will be facing his former team but has said that it is just another game for him. His physical style of play will be a challenge for Peterson who recently proclaimed himself to be the best corner in the league.
Michael Crabtree will be out for this game and that has to be a relief to Patrick Peterson. Last year Crabtree had eight catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns against Peterson.
Lamichael James had 49 yards rushing on seven carries against the Cardinals in the last game of the 2012 season. That was a career high.
Colin Kaepernick has not passed for 200 yards or more since his 400 yard passing game against the Green Packers in the season opener. The Cardinals are 19th in the NFL against the pass giving up 264.4 yards per game. This could be a chance for Kaepernick to get back on track. Play action passing will be the key.
The 49ers have the fifth ranked defense in total yards allowed per game (302.4) and are second in the NFL in passing yards (188.8).
The Farewell to Candlestick series will remember the 49 yard touchdown run by Steve Young in 1988 that put the 49ers ahead of the Minnesota Vikings 24-21 in the fourth quarter. John Taylor said; “I bet you he ran 300 yards on that touchdown. Going from side to side, stopping and starting, his legs quit on him at the end because he couldn’t handle it anymore.”
Here is your injury report:
ILB Kenny Demens (Limited) Hamstring
WR Larry Fitzgerald (Full) Hamstring
OLB John Abraham (Full) Shoulder
ILB Jasper Brinkley (Full) Groin
OG Daryn Colledge (Full) Shin
DT Darnell Dockette (Full) Groin
FS Rashad Johnson (Full) Finger
ILB Kevin Minter (Full) Hamstring
DE Ronald Talley (Full) Wrist
ILB Daryl Washington (Full) Knee
WR Quinton Patton (DNP) Foot
CB Nnamdi Asomugha (Limited) Knee
OT Anthony Davis (Limited) Shoulder
C Jonathan Baldwin (DNP) Illness
DT Ray McDonald (Limited) Biceps
CB Carlos Rogers (Limited) Knee
DT Justin Smith (Limited) Shoulder
LB Patrick Willis (Limited) Groin
TE Vernon Davis (Full) Hamstring
RB Frank Gore (Full) Knee
OG Mike Iupati (Full) Shoulder
QB Colin Kaepernick (Full) Foot
WR Marlon Moore (Full) Quadricep
OT Joe Staley (Full) Knee
WR Kyle Williams (Full) Knee
This game will be another NFC West divisional game for the 49ers. Jim Harbaugh has not lost a game to any of his division rivals at Candlestick in his career. The Cardinals will bring a top ranked run defense with them and will look to control the 49ers running attack. Both teams will be looking to make a statement. The winner of this game will be 4-2 and at least stay within a game of the Seattle Seahawks.