The playoffs are a long-ago dream, but the Cardinals still can have a hand in it. This week, the Bears — reeling as they are — come to town losers of 5 of their last six after a 7-1 start. Once the playoffs seemed a foregone conclusion. But if Minnesota pulls off an upset in Houston in an early game Sunday, then the Cardinals would eliminate the Bears from the postseason if they can beat Jay Cutler’s crew.
“In order for us to be relevant, we have to win,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “This time of year everybody knows what has to happen for their football team. We are aware of the path we have to take.”
The Cards actually could be in position to do some damage in both the final two games. In the finale at San Francisco, the 49ers could have something on the line. If the Niners lose in Seattle this weekend, they could actually lose the division title the following week if the Cards won. Even if the Niners clinch this weekend by toppling the Seahawks, San Francisco will likely have a chance to clinch a first-round bye on the line in the final week.
What’s amazing is the difference a week makes. The Lions, playing poorly, came into University of Phoenix Stadium as the favorite last week because the Cardinals were on their nine-game losing streak. Now, it seems, many believe the Cardinals have a good shot to knock off the Bears and cripple their playoff chances. At this point, it’s what the Cards have to play for.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Lovie Smith, playoffs, Seahawks
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Once upon a time, Donovan McNabb took a lot of heat — deservedly so — because he didn’t know an NFL regular-season game ended in a tie if a scoreless overtime quarter was played. McNabb was not alone, however.
Sunday, the 49ers and Rams played to a 24-24 tie (which was brutal for the Rams, who had three good chances to win at the end of regulation and overtime and botched all three on their own.) Afterward, players on both sides expressed surprise there could be a tie, a facepalm moment if there ever was one. Rams receiver Danny Amendola was expecting a second overtime and 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was more incredulous.
“I’ve never heard of a tie in football,” Goldson told reporters. “Where’s everybody going? Did somebody quit? Forfeit?”
I get that players don’t want to end up in a tie. But to not understand one is coming? Crazy. Makes you wonder about the urgency players were feeling — or not feeling — near the end of overtime. In college, of course, there can’t be ties anymore, so maybe that’s the thought process. Now, I’m sure many players do know there can be a tie, but it happens so rarely — McNabb’s faux pas came after the last NFL tie, back in 2008 — that guys forget. The last time the Cardinals had a tie game was a 10-10 final at Philadelphia in 1986, long before the franchise even moved to Arizona. The Cardinals have played 32 regular-season overtime games since then without a tie. For all the overtime games, someone usually is able to score at least once.
Tags: 49ers, overtime, Rams
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The 49ers were trying hard to get quarterback Alex Smith the NFL record for completion percentage in a game after his performance against the Cardinals — and coincidentally, the record holder is none other than former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. To officially own the record in the NFL’s eyes, a QB has to have 20 attempts in a game. Smith went 18-for-19, so the 49ers were trying to find a way to get one more completion. The hope was that a throw at the line of scrimmage to receiver Michael Crabtree — immediately ruled a lateral/run on the field — would be reversed, but it was not and replays showed such. There was another close play to Mario Manningham that was called a pass interference on the field, so the play didn’t matter.
Regardless, Smith remains 18-for-19. A great day, but not great enough to usurp Warner.
Warner’s great day was odd in itself. Warner went 24-for-26 (92.3 percent) in a game the Cards needed to have early in the season and a week after Warner and the offense struggled against the 49ers at home in a loss. More strange was that, during the performance with which Warner eventually set NFL history, Larry Fitzgerald’s brother Marcus infamously went on Twitter criticizing Warner and complaining Larry wasn’t getting the ball enough. Steve Breaston had eight catches that day, almost as many as Fitz and Anquan Boldin had combined (9). It’s one of those record that will be tough to top — even if Smith got close.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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Ken Whisenhunt called it a test, Monday night’s game. The grade was not good. The defeat was very methodical, but that’s the 49ers, isn’t it? The Niners’ run game gashed the Cards early, then when the Cards stiffened San Francisco went to the air, and it’s just too hard to score against that defense. Not when the Cards’ offense is looking for answers.
“We have to get tougher and more physical and get after them that way because at this point we aren’t doing a whole bunch of things successfully,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “We just have to start punching people in the mouth.”
There was absolutely no room to run. LaRod Stephens-Howling was swamped almost every time he carried the ball, and the run game was hurting more than it was helping. With a game in Lambeau this coming weekend against an offense that can score a lot more than the 49ers do, the Cards need to find a way to generate more points. Yes, that’s obvious. But that’s also the fact.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked if he was comfortable with the starting offense. Like Larry Fitzgerald said later, noting that the guys in the locker room were the ones who were going to be in it for the long haul, Whiz knows options are limited.
“I guess we don’t have a lot of choices,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re always looking to get better, but we have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities.”
So, although the trading deadline is coming up, I’m not expecting Steven Jackson or DeAngelo Williams to come walking through that door. And certainly not Kurt Warner.
– Darnell Dockett said the first thing after the loss he thought of wasn’t the four-game losing streak. It was Whisenhunt.
“We are letting our coach down,” Dockett said. “I think Coach Whiz is very fair with us, he’s a player’s coach and I feel like as players we are not giving enough back to him. I felt that more than anything after the game. He’s really been looking out for us. He works us hard but he wants us to be more mature. I felt we let him down in the Buffalo game. He asked us to give him everything we got and I felt some of us didn’t. We didn’t last week. I can see it on his face.”
– Dockett talked about players staying professional, which is why they won’t slide off the map this season, even with things looking grim. But he said he was ready to say some things that were said first by Whisenhunt.
“Coach called out a lot of things today that I wanted to say to some guys,” Dockett said. “Guys in the training room that we need on the field. We need them. Hopefully the message rings a bell.”
– That was the first time the Cards had allowed more than 21 points in a game this season. The defense did not play well, and in a game that was supposed to be a tight, defensive affair, the early missed tackles are unacceptable. But it’s not like the Niners hung 45 on them.
– That huge hit Dashon Goldson put on Early Doucet made me think of the scuffle they got into last year. Not that it had anything to do with the hit itself, but funny how those two keep meeting. Physically.
– Niners coach Jim Harbaugh obviously didn’t like the stories about quarterback Alex Smith losing confidence or Harbaugh losing confidence in him. So, after Smith completed 18 of 19 passes and was nearly perfect, Harbaugh had his shot when asked about the showing helping Smith’s confidence.
“I don’t think there was ever a question there,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s just a lot of gobble, gobble, turkey. Just gobble, gobble, gobble, turkey. That paints a pretty good picture. He’s a very confident guy.”
– Linebacker Daryl Washington had two sacks again. He becomes the first Cardinal to have two sacks in back-to-back games since Eric Swann did it back in 1999.
– The Cardinals are only the third team ever to start a season 4-0 and then lose their next four games. The first team to do that, the 1993 Philadelphia Eagles, finished the season 8-8. OK, not ideal. But the 2002 Oakland Raiders ended up going 11-5 and making it to the Super Bowl. Obviously, I’m not predicting that, but this losing streak does not have to be a death knell.
– Now, if the Cards can’t generate more offense, well, that could be the death knell. I can’t remember points being at such a premium for this team. But they were finding ways to score some points earlier this season. It can’t be that they have just forgotten. They’ll never be the Patriots or Packers, but it shouldn’t be like this and they know it. That’s why the frustration grows.
It’s late. It’s a short week, and I have a long drive home. We can talk more tomorrow.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Dashon Goldson, Early Doucet, Jim Harbaugh, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Lyle Sendlein
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The Cardinals will have a change in the starting offensive line for the first time this season, with right guard Adam Snyder sitting out with his quad injury, sending Rich Orhnberger into the lineup against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.” Ohrnberger did a decent job in relief of Snyder in Minnesota after Snyder got hurt.
Tight end Todd Heap (knee) also remains sidelined for a sixth straight game.
The rest of the inactive list for the Cardinals is:
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– CB Greg Toler (hamstring)
– WR LaRon Byrd
– LB Jamaal Westerman
– G Senio Kelemete
And in case you missed it, the roof will be open tonight as well at University of Phoenix Stadium, the first time this season.
Tags: 49ers, Adam Snyder, Greg Toler, inactives, Jamaal Westerman, Kevin Kolb, LaRon Byrd, roof, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap
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Considering the Cardinals are on a three-game losing streak, the mood was, dare I say, pretty good in the locker room this week. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald – I mean, don’t get me wrong, no one is happy with the slide. I’m not sure if it’s the juice provided when the 49ers come to town, or “Monday Night Football,” or what. Clearly, though, the Cards seem in a good place mentally. Certainly there isn’t a vibe of being overwhelmed against the Niners. Not that there would be – this is a team they face twice a season. Familiarity usually takes worry off the table.
The Cardinals say their minds are in the right place. It feels that way.
“It’s going to be one of those backyard fights where your Mom can’t get in it, no referees,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “It’ll be blow for blow. Who will break first? If you can bend, you bend to the max. They’re a physical football team. We’re a physical football team. We’ll see where it goes.”
– The 49ers have the top-ranked pass defense in the league. That doesn’t seem to bode well for getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, but then again, the Niners had a great pass defense last year and Fitz blew up against them out at University of Phoenix Stadium (7 catches, 149 yards). Quarterback John Skelton also ended up with a pretty good day, with three TD passes after coming in in relief of a concussed Kevin Kolb. The key, of course, will be keeping Skelton upright under the San Francisco pass rush. That will be a key every week with this team, obviously.
– Speaking of Skelton, he said the ankle he hurt in the opener is “not hindering me in any way.”
– And speaking of Fitz, he knows the questions are coming every time he has a game without many stats – we went through it early last year too – about getting him the ball. Fitzgerald had a pretty good stretch of four straight games of producing before Minnesota, whose defense was all about shutting him down, it seemed. Right now, Fitz is on pace for 91 catches, 1,049 yards and 7 touchdowns.
But this is a different Fitz that 2006 too.
“My pursuit is the same,” Fitzgerald said. “I work hard. I try to improve on my skills daily and be the best I can. But I want to win. Some days it might be one (catch) for four (yards) like it was in New England. I wouldn’t trade 10-for-230 and a touchdown in a loss as opposed to one-for-five in a win. I have changed that way. But I still want to be productive and help my team.”
– Remember former Cardinals guard-turned-tackle-turned-Pro Bowl guard in Dallas, Leonard Davis? Good old “Bigg,” who left as a free agent just as Whisenhunt was coming in, plays for San Francisco these days. He gets work in certain packages and is used as a sixth offensive lineman.
“He’s been fantastic, really one of my personal favorite guys to be around,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s been good on Sundays too.”
– Patrick Peterson will likely get a lot of Michael Crabtree Monday, since Crabtree is the 49ers best receiver. But the Cards’ cornerback is most looking forward to meeting Randy Moss, who plays – although not much – for the Niners.
“I can’t wait,” Peterson said. “I remember being so young, being in high school, watching him make those one-hand catches. I used to run around the neighborhood (saying) I want to ‘Moss’ somebody.”
– Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling will try to follow up his first 100-yard game with another productive outing, something the Cards need. Stephens-Howling, who is playing under a one-year tender offer after restricted free agency, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. General manager Rod Graves said in training camp the Cardinals would like to sign Stephens-Howling to an extension, but thus far talks have been slow.
Stephens-Howling said he’s doing the best he can to forget about it but “you’re human.”
“We just wish something could get done,” the Hyphen said. “I want to stay a Cardinal. But I have to play on Monday, so that’s my focus.”
– Stephens-Howling has enjoyed getting to do a little more at running back with the injuries to Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, and acknowledged his role was “something else we’d have to talk about.”
But “I love playing my role, and whatever they ask me to do I’m going to do,” he said. “But I’m taking it one game at a time, one week at a time. I look at the game plan, see what (packages) I am in for, and go from there. And that’s what I’m going to put my heart into.”
– So far, Peterson’s follow-up to his electrifying rookie season returning punts has been anything but. His long return is 26 yards and he has averaged only 8.8 yards a return as teams have clearly made preventing him from breaking one a priority. Against the Vikings, Chris Kluwe kept kicking high punts short and Peterson had to scramble just to catch them.
“Now teams are scheming, they kind of want to hand pick when they’ll give me the opportunity to return the ball,” Peterson said. “I have to continue being patient.”
– This is a big one. Obviously. If the Cardinals have shown anything over the past couple years, it’s that they are very tough at home. They need to make that matter Monday.
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, contract, Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Peterson, Randy Moss
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Cornerback Patrick Peterson has a team-leading three interception thus far this season, already surpassing his total from his rookie year. At this point, though, it’s far short of what he was hoping for.
“I want 10,” Peterson said.
Some players stay away from the tangible goals. Others like having a good target to shoot for. Clearly, Peterson likes the tangible finish line.
“No question,” Peterson said. “My first goal was to get an interception each and every game, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Hopefully I can get an interception in all of the games that are left, but I’ll just keep studying up on all these teams and see how these guys want to attack me.”
Getting an interception Monday against the 49ers would be huge, not only because the Cards could use turnovers but because 49ers quarterback Alex Smith just doesn’t throw many picks.
The focus last year was on Peterson’s stunning punt return efforts (and this year to a point — Peterson said he’ll stay patient with his slow start in that area) but he was drafted to become a shutdown cornerback. He isn’t perfect, but he has moved in the direction of being the cover guy the Cards wanted and he usually is assigned to the best receiver the opponent runs on the field. Sometimes, the other team looks the other way instead of challenging him.
“I think I get some respect here and there from receivers and in terms of quarterbacks not throwing my way,” Peterson said. “At the same time I can’t get lackadaisical, I can’t relax. That’s what those guys are trying to get me to do and then go over my head. I don’t want that to happen. My other goal is to not give up any touchdowns and I’ve been doing a pretty good job. I don’t count that Percy Harvin touchdown.”
Peterson chuckled on the Harvin remark. He was the one covering Harvin in Minnesota when Harvin was able to come across the formation near the goal line and Peterson got caught in traffic trying to get back to coverage, one of the downsides to having him chase a particular player. Nevertheless, Peterson will be the coverage workhorse, and try and get his interceptions that way.
“I cover the best receivers, so I know I’ll have my opportunities,” Peterson said. “I just continue to work on my technique, continue to be patient and try and take advantage of those opportunities.”
Tags: 49ers, Patrick Peterson
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Sometimes, stats don’t tell a lot. Sometimes, one stat can tell everything. That’s how it feels for the upcoming Monday game against the 49ers.
Over the last 16 games, the top two teams in the NFL in terms of fewest offensive touchdowns allowed will face off at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers have given up just 21 offensive touchdowns, the Cardinals just 22. If anyone is expecting offensive fireworks, that would seem to be far-fetched. The 49ers are coming off a game in which they beat the Seahawks, 13-6. The Cards, of course, lost to Minnesota but gave up just 14 points on defense.
None of this is a revelation. But it seems certain that the Cardinals will be under even more pressure to avoid errors. They probably won’t get a ton of chances to score. Last year, they dented the 49ers in their 21-19 win because quarterback John Skelton was able to get a couple of big plays, long touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet. Plays down the field have been limited for the Cards thus far this season. A couple this week would change the dynamic of the game.
– The Cards reportedly worked out kicker Josh Brown, after Jay Feely’s recent struggles. I don’t see anything happening now, but it’s an option if Feely continues to have issues. He did just complete a streak of 19 straight field goals made earlier this season — plus he made that 61-yarder — so he has produced. But on a team with which points are at a premium, misses loom much larger.
– There will be a food drive at Monday night’s game against the 49ers. Volunteers from Sagicor, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and Cardinals Cheerleaders will be at collection points outside of all five stadium gates and the Great Lawn. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or money for donation.
Tags: 49ers, defense, Jay Feely, Josh Brown
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It’s 49ers week. In case you weren’t sure, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell grabbed everyone’s attention with his Sirius XM NFL interview today during the “Moving the Chains” show.
“I really felt I could have had four sacks last week (against the Vikings) and I had zero. I have to make up for that this week, especially against the 49ers, who I really hate with a passion,” Campbell said.
Surprising? No. But here we go.
“Alex Smith I have gotten him down a few times. I know he’s thinking about me a little bit,” Campbell said, and when one of the hosts mentioned that the 49ers didn’t like Campbell and the Cardinals either, Campbell said “That’s the way it is. That’s cool.”
“It’s a rival game. You’re not supposed to like each other. Off the field I don’t have anything against anybody. But on that field, come Monday night, it’s on and crackin’.”
Campbell chuckled when it was mentioned the 49ers don’t like Darnell Dockett even more. “He’s ready,” Campbell said. “He’s probably the person who hates the 49ers more than anybody on our team. Literally, when (the Niners) are playing anybody else, he’s talking trash about every single one of them every game they are playing. He hates them with a passion.”
Dockett has talked about this in the past, but my guess — because, for instance, my San Fran colleague Matt Barrows already noticed this interview too — is that the Niners are going to notice Campbell’s words. Not that they reveal anything surprising. That’s how it’s gone between these teams.
– The Cardinals made a practice squad move Tuesday, bringing back cornerback Crezdon Butler — who was re-signed for one game and active against the Bills — and releasing cornerback Greg McCoy.
– It’s time to vote. No, no, none of this Presidential stuff. It’s the Pro Bowl voting, which is of course much, much more important than picking the leader of the free world. Daryl Washington approved this message. Here’s the ballot.
Tags: 49ers, Calais Campbell, Crezdon Butler, Darnell Dockett, Pro Bowl voting
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Every single team in the NFC West is above .500 five games into the season.
That’s never happened before. At least, it’s never happened since the NFC West was reconfigured to include the Cardinals, so we’re going back a decade-plus, back to when Arizona “moved” west in 2002. In fact, after five games, the division has never had more than two teams above .500 at this point.
But there the standings show today with the Cards and 49ers at 4-1 and the Seahawks and Rams at 3-2. The Niners are coming off an incredibly impressive performance, crushing visiting Buffalo, 45-3, and becoming the first team in NFL history with both 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in a single game. The Bills now will spend this week here in Arizona, practicing at Arizona State University to prep for their game against the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium, perhaps reeling as they visit.
The ante has certainly been raised for the division, however. It’s clear that each team has a defense that will leave the opponent bruised and beaten up after a game. The Cardinals can attest to that after having seen both the Seahawks and Rams (and everyone knows what the Niners can do.) It’s going to make for an intense season for the division that in recent years, most have loved to pick on. Not anymore.
Tags: 49ers, NFC West, Rams, Seahawks
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