The Cardinals are winners of four of their last five. Of course.
But those four wins test the heart. A 99-yard punt return in overtime by P-Twice. A touchdown drive with less than two minutes left in Philly. Running out the clock with a couple of third-down conversions in St. Louis. And, of course, The Hyphen comes alive in overtime last week.
At least the Cards are coming out ahead. Two teams have had a league-high nine games this season decided by seven points or fewer: The Denver Tebows, and your Arizona Cardinals. Of course, for a while, that just stung. Head back to the six-game losing streak (I know, picking at a scab here). There was a one-point loss in Washington, a three-point loss in Seattle, a four-point loss to the Giants and a three-point loss in Baltimore.
The Cards are 5-4 in those games decided by a touchdown or less. “It’d be nice to blow somebody out,” LaRod Stephens-Howling said this week, and that’s true. But it probably won’t be how these last four games play out.
– Niners linebacker Patrick Willis did not practice again Friday and he has not practiced all week with the bad hamstring. He’s questionable, I think we all know guys who have been listed questionable after sitting out all week and it is very, very difficult to find scenarios when they have played. I expect Willis to sit. The 49ers have greater aspirations than just this game, even if they like beating the Cards.
– The Niners have other defensive talent though. Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike Miller, talking about San Francisco’s “other” linebacker, NaVorro Bowman compared to Willis: “Watch them on film, they almost look like the same player.”
– There has been a lot of talk this season about defensive coordinator Ray Horton and only having a percentage of the defensive playbook in. What about the offensive playbook, especially considering that quarterback Kevin Kolb arrived without an offseason?
“For the most part, our plan is our plan, and the system is what it is,” Miller said. “It takes time. You’d like for anyone, a quarterback or a running back or whoever, to line up and play right away, but it takes time. But we have everything operating. It’s just about whether we want to dial it up in a game or not.”
– This game will be about mistakes. Can the Cards force any? Can they avoiding making them? Ken Whisenhunt was technically right when he said the previous games don’t mean anything Sunday, but the way the Niners have controlled the scoreboard – the Cards haven’t scored double digits the last four games or reached 17 the last five – the Cards need to be smart and take care of the ball. Turnovers always hurt. They seem to inflict more damage when they come against the Niners.
– No, no new updates on the contract status of defensive end Calais Campbell. I don’t know what will happen. He is having a fantastic season though. The defensive turnaround has been Campbell’s hot streak; in those five games he has three sacks, 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, an interception, six QB hits and two blocked field goals. Not bad for a 3-4 DE. Pro Bowl possibility, anyone? “I think that’s everyone’s goal,” Campbell said. “If not, you shouldn’t be playing. It’s something a lot of people value, including myself. I would really like it, but in the end, it’s about winning games.”
– He didn’t get to do anything on punt returns last week, but Patrick Peterson played possibly his best game as a cornerback last week. And while his value as a punt returner is greater than most punt returners because of the scoring chances, the Cards still need him more as an elite cornerback, all things being equal.
– Don’t forget – the roof will be open Sunday.
– Don’t forget – there will be a toy drive at the stadium Sunday, so bring new, unwrapped toys (or donate money) to any stadium entrance.
– Don’t forget – Beanie and Fitz are chasing 1,000.
– If the Cards win, they will clinch at least a .500 home record this season – and Whisenhunt will become the first coach in franchise history with five straight seasons at home of at least a .500 record. Whiz would also tie Don Coryell for most wins by a head coach (42) in franchise history if the Cards win.
I’m interested in seeing if this defense can carry the Cards to another win. I’m sure it’d be close. Of course.
Tags: 49ers, Calais Campbell, Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Miller, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Peterson, Patrick Willis, roof
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