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Friday before the Niners, the Cards’ playoff primer

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2014 – 4:08 pm

It seems like a lifetime ago when the Cardinals first met the 49ers this season. The Cardinals got behind 14-6 at halftime and then shut the Niners down, winning 23-14 behind the defense and two Drew Stanton-to-Smokey Brown touchdown passes. That was when the worst thing that had happened to Carson Palmer was a nerve issue in his arm, but at least he was coming back at some point. Jonathan Dwyer had just left the team but Andre Ellington was playing well. Stanton was doing great and the offense was at least generating points.

Yes, a lifetime ago.

The wins piled up this season but the injuries have certainly tried to keep up. If you would have asked anyone with the team back after that win over the Niners if they’d be OK with an 11-4 record the next time they’d see their division rivals, they would’ve taken it – even with the caveat of injury after injury. But when you take out the quarterback, the equation does not compute well. Not in this league.

For now, though, I’m quarterbacked out. It seems like it’s been the only topic around this team for two weeks, and obviously, it’ll be one next week too as the Cardinals (likely) go into a wildcard game. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are taking on a San Francisco team that’s been shredded by injuries too and have bent under the weight of the inevitable coaching change from Jim Harbaugh (did I mention it’s been a lifetime since the Cards saw the Niners?)

This team has never won 12 games as a franchise. If they can find a way to get one Sunday, regardless of all the other noise, it’d be a great accomplishment. Certainly one I never would have thought possible if you would have told me Carson Palmer would only play in six games.

— It’s hard to know if linebacker Larry Foote is hurting that much or if they want to make sure he is ready for the playoffs, but his knee likely will keep him out of Sunday’s game – after he has missed just one defensive snap all season thus far. It’s possible the knee impacted his play last week against Seattle, when he had trouble in coverage, but it’s irrefutable that his play was huge for a defense that needed it because of injuries and suspensions.

— As bad as the defensive performance was last week, the Cardinals remain fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.6 points a game). You know they’d like to stay in the top five.

— After getting away from the run in the Seattle game, I don’t think there’s any question Arians will make sure to run more in San Francisco. And yes, that means more (and maybe a lot more) Kerwynn Williams.

Long snapper Mike Leach will play in his 200th consecutive game Sunday.

— Arians hasn’t lost his sense of humor, even with all the quarterback drama. He waited for the media to arrive post-practice, and the last to arrive was veteran Associated Press writer Bob Baum, huffing and puffing as he jogged toward the group hoping not to miss anything.

“Easy, brother,” Arians said. “You ain’t getting no mouth-to-mouth around here!”

— A heartfelt congratulations to media relations assistant Allison LeClair and her significant other, Cameron, for getting engaged this holiday season. Always good to remember there are things in life beyond football.

— Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was fined $11,050 for grabbing his crotch at the end of his 79-yard run against the Cardinals last week.

— On a personal level, I don’t love having a game in San Jose/Santa Clara and being so far away from San Francisco, but there is no question I look forward to checking out the new stadium (and not going back to a not-very-pleasant Candlestick Park.)

— Harbaugh has never been very good on the conference calls over the years, but he had a couple of funny answers in what looks like his swan song with us this week, at least as the 49ers coach. If you missed it, he was asked what the season has been like with so many rumors floating around about his future.

“The interesting thing is if you don’t look at the Internet and you don’t watch TV, you really do not know that it’s going on,” Harbaugh said. “That has been exactly what I have done. … On the way home, you don’t turn on the talk radio and you don’t look at the Internet, you can be completely unaware that anything is swirling. I walk by people and I see their faces (and) I know something is going on.”

Someone then told Harbaugh he may be the only American who doesn’t watch TV or go on the internet.

“There has to be another American beside myself. Don’t you think? Yeah, I bet there is,” he said. “I would think there would be plenty of Americans who probably focus on another task at hand and dedicated to the mission they have and excelling and not having distraction.”

But there are always distractions, even if you pretend they aren’t there. We’ll see which team deals with them the best Sunday.

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