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A rough time for 49ers in the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2015 – 1:42 pm

In a division where keeping up with the Joneses is important just to have a chance at the playoffs — and goodness knows the Seahawks have been the Joneses for a couple of seasons now — the Cardinals feel like they have made strides to compete with Seattle. Their free agent class filled holes in the front seven of the defense and on the interior of the offensive line. More importantly, their quarterback is doing well in rehab. The Seahawks, meanwhile, added arguably the most dangerous tight end in the NFL. The Rams bolstered their defensive line with Nick Fairley and think they have upgraded at quarterback with Nick Foles (at least, he should be healthy enough to play.)

Then there are the 49ers, who have gone through one rough offseason, which started when they moved on from successful coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Niners got the shocking news young linebacker Chris Borland decided to leave the game instead of risking his long-term health to play. Borland was supposed to be the guy who filled in for Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who retired because his oft-injured feet ended his hopes for a comeback. Defensive lineman Justin Smith likely will retire. Then they allowed multiple free agents to leave, like running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati (who came to Arizona), linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. They probably won’t bring back Michael Crabtree either.

Now, the Niners have added some pieces. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Darnell Dockett. Lions running back Reggie Bush (although he may be beyond his productive years.) But the way things have gone, it’ll be tough for the 49ers to right the decline they went through in 2014. That comes with the QB caveat all teams have — if Colin Kaepernick emerges as a star, that covers most issues.

While it could be considered the “offseason from hell,” the Cardinals did have one of recent vintage that they could put up in any argument. It’s tough to forget the offseason after 2009. In case you have forgotten, a refresher: quarterback Kurt Warner retired, safety Antrel Rolle was released for cap reasons (and subsequently signed with the Giants), linebacker Karlos Dansby left as a free agent and Anquan Boldin was traded. All were still playing at high/Pro Bowl levels. Those were a gut punch of transactions that eventually took out a coaching staff and brought the Cardinals to the Bruce Arians/Steve Keim era.

John Brown, Leon McFadden

 


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A decade of Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2015 – 9:15 am

I guess March 5th is a day that will live in Cardinals’ infamy, huh? At least when it comes to two of the bigger names on the Super Bowl team. It was on March 5 that Anquan Boldin was traded to the Ravens in 2010. And it was on March 5 — today — that Darnell Dockett chose to sign with the 49ers (and coincidentally, current 49ers Boldin) and not return to the Cards.

The emotions are pouring out as I write this, my Twitter feed blowing up with fans angry at the team for letting Dockett get away (not as many) or at Dockett for signing with an NFC West rival (the vast majority). They are mad he seemed to make a decision based on money after chiding Karlos Dansby for doing the same last offseason.

(Later Thursday, Dockett said the two situations between he and Dansby were “night and day.”)

I’ll say this on the latter — Darnell said many, many things in his decade-plus with the Cards. Heck, he tweeted in 2010 (from his old Twitter account) that he’d play for less money to go to the Seahawks than play for the 49ers should the Cardinals let him go. Obviously, things have changed. From my perspective, you cannot blame Dockett. He wanted the most money with his career coming to an end and him turning 34 in May. That’s the direction he decided to go. Perhaps getting cut stung Dockett enough, but in the end, this just feels like it was about cold, hard cash, and when you are still young in life terms, it’s hard to blame a guy for that. It’s why the Dansby criticism didn’t make much sense — I remember at the time thinking it could come back to haunt Dockett this offseason, because of exactly this. Jim Trotter of ESPN, who texted with Dockett, also said it was about “disrespect” of the Cards’ contract offer. Knowing how Dockett reacts to many things, that kind of blowback isn’t surprising either.

But we can parse this forever. Bottom line, Dockett is not coming back to the Cardinals. The Cardinals knew this could happen. Multiple reports say Dockett gave the Cards a chance to match the offer, but it doesn’t surprise me the Cards didn’t. They had the number at which they valued Dockett for 2015 given his age and knee injury.

None of this, however, should impact how Dockett’s career in Arizona is viewed. By any measure Dockett was an excellent draft pick and when you point out he was a third-round pick, it makes it an even better selection. So many guys talk about making teams regret passing them in the draft when they go in later rounds. Dockett said that, and he backed it up.

He was an emotional tornado. Sure, that got him into hot water at times on the field, and when mixed with social media and Twitter, it caused a headache or two within the Cardinals’ facility. In his heyday, he could be dominant. His performance in the Super Bowl was MVP-worthy, getting after Ben Roethlisberger as few have. There was little measured about him in the heat of battle, but he was the passion bellwether for the defense. And he was always there. He missed just two games before last season and, more impressively, just 13 practices in 10 years. Dockett was always there, an anchor.

But this is what happens with older players in this league. The happy ending is the outlier, like what the Cards are trying to have with Larry Fitzgerald. In this case, Dockett gets his money, and gets his chance to play the Cardinals twice a season. That’ll be interesting, right?

DockettGoneBlogUSE


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#ThrowbackThursday – Anquan Boldin vs Lions

Posted by since1898 on November 13, 2014 – 11:54 am

tempTBTLions2003BoldinLionsDBJimmyWyrick--nfl_mezz_1280_1024

BACK TO #since1898


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Niners aftermath, after a headbutt

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2014 – 7:37 pm

Tony Jefferson had himself a game Sunday. The safety lead the Cardinals with 10 tackles, he had the huge second-down sack of Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ last true chance to score and, of course, he absorbed the headbutt that changed the game.

Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, who has been known to let his emotions get away from him on the field, got angry at Jefferson after catching a pass for a first down on the Cardinals’ 6-yard line with the Cards nursing a 20-14 lead. Boldin headbutted Jefferson, and the 15 yards eventually derailed the drive into a field goal attempt that was blocked by Cardinals’ defensive end Tommy Kelly. The 49ers never did score again.

“People give him (Boldin) so much respect out on the field, and I respect him as a player, but anybody who is going to jaw at me, I’m going to jaw back,” Jefferson said. “I’m all about the action. I’ll jaw. But I won’t retaliate like he did.”

But the play was more than that for the Cardinals. Boldin ranted after the game Jefferson had been delivering cheap blows and he was simply fed up. After the game, however, the Cardinals were talking about finally standing up to bully in the 49ers that had knocked them around in recent years.

“I think they are kind of used to us backing down once the game gets started,” Jefferson said. “But we were in their face. We were going after it. We let them know, this is a different team.”

It seems like a different team. It’s definitely an undefeated team, and one that has earned that distinction.

It was a big deal winning Sunday, not the least of which was with Drew Stanton behind center. Bruce Arians kept saying Stanton could get the job done, but he (rightfully) said Stanton had to show everyone else. He has. Stanton managed the game in New York. He won the game against the 49ers. B.A. clearly didn’t pull back the reins.

Stanton had a great press conference. He was happy, as he should be, and knows how to be funny. Someone asked him why he clicks with Arians. Stanton said he wasn’t sure. “To be honest with you, in Indianapolis, I didn’t even know if he liked me,” Stanton said.

I don’t think Drew needs to worry about that anymore.

– -That said, please don’t ask about a quarterback controversy. There isn’t one. When Palmer is ready, he’ll be back in there.

— As good as John “Smokey” Brown –and that’s what the Cards call him, Smoke or Smokey – was on his TD catches, the pass interference he drew on the game-clinching field goal drive was just as big a play. Without that, the Cardinals are punting with more than three minutes left.

“Once I got past five yards, (I knew) if he got hands on me, it was an automatic pass interference,” Brown said. “Drew made a great throw and (cornerback Chris Cook) did what I wanted him to do.”

— Brown said the gameplan all week was to feature him, thinking the 49ers would focus on Fitz and Floyd. Brown was asked, was that because the 49ers don’t really know who you are? Brown smiled. “No one knows me.”

— Stanton became the first Cardinals’ QB to not throw an interception and not be sacked since 2010. So once again, Stanton has a link back to 2010.

— You can’t go sackless, especially with as many deep throws as the Cardinals tried, without very good pass protection. Yes, the Niners are without guys like Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman, but this upgraded line is doing very well (including that parting of the Red Sea to spring Andre Ellington for that last 20-yard gain.)

— The Palmer/Stanton quarterbacked-Cards have yet to throw an interception this season.

— Amazing. On Tommy Kelly’s blocked field goal for the Cards, the Cardinals only had nine men on the field.

— It was with a lot less in-game attention as the Cardinals rallied, but Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get his first catch Sunday until the fourth quarter again. Then it looked like he’d be the key factor in the game-clinching drive – and then he fumbled the ball at the San Francisco 5. It was shades of last year’s lost fumble in San Francisco that short-circuited a possible go-ahead drive. This time, the Cardinals weathered the turnover. I’m not sure Fitz talked to anyone after – I know I didn’t get a chance to see him – but I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief the turnover turned out not to matter.

— Michael Floyd, two long (39 and 45 yards) catches among his 5-for-114 day. That’s two 100-yard games in three weeks.

— Is there a better defensive coordinator in the league at making halftime adjustments than Todd Bowles?

— I’m not sure how the defense went from being unsure how to handle Colin Kaepernick to shutting him down. This defense just keeps making it work. Losing Antonio Cromartie with a knee injury could have been a blow, but Bowles was already going to use Justin Bethel in this game. That’s foresight. I thought Patrick Peterson played pretty well too. The Cards started getting to Kaepernick with pressure, but the coverage was a big part of that.

So the Cards head into the bye. A short week of practice, needed time off and a 3-0 record. Can’t complain.

TJeffBlog


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Lasting thoughts from the first

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2014 – 10:54 am

The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.

2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.

2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.

2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.

2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?

2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.

2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ’em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.

2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.

— 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …

— 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.

— 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.

— 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.

— 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.

— 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.

BiggUSE

 


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Take offense? Or get defensive?

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2014 – 12:47 pm

When the Super Bowl is played Sunday, it will feature the best offense in the NFL — Denver scored 606 points this season, an incredible 37.9 per game — against the best defense in the NFL — Seattle not only allowed the fewest yards, but also the fewest points this season. A tangible example of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. It’s hard not to see it as the answer about that “defense wins championships” cliché that floats out there.

It also got me thinking about the Cardinals, and their better recent teams.

The 2008 Cardinals made the Super Bowl after scoring 427 regular-season points (26.7 points a game) and followed up in the playoffs with 30, 33 and 32 points before scoring 23 in the Super Bowl. Of course, that team allowed 426 points, which is why they eeked out a 9-7 record. It was a potent offense. This season, the Cardinals put together 10 wins in large part because of the defense. The Cards were tops in the league in run defense, sixth overall and seventh in scoring defense. It would be interesting to consider that 2008 offense — Kurt Warner, Fitz in his prime, Anquan Boldin, 1,000-yard Steve Breaston and the Edge/Hightower RB tag-team going against the 2013 Cardinals defense.

Which is the better path to take? It’s hard not to think that defense wins titles. It’d be good to see Peyton Manning win another Super Bowl, but I’m not totally sure why the Seahawks aren’t favored in this game, at least a little. Maybe it’s because of last year’s Super Bowl, when a couple of defensive-dominant teams ended up playing in a scorefest. That was in the climate-controlled Superdome, though, and Manning won’t have that advantage Sunday.

As far as the score-first Cardinals versus the defense-first Cards? There’s a reason why Kurt Warner has said this year’s Cardinals team was better than his 2008 version. Part of that was that this year’s team could score a little bit too — with 379 points (23.7 a game) it wasn’t like the Cardinals couldn’t find their way into the end zone. I’d argue that Andre Ellington gave the offense an explosive element that 2008 offense didn’t really have either. Nevertheless, it’s a great debate to have.

ThenNowBLOG


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Dansby, Bethel wait for Pro Bowl decision

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2013 – 4:35 pm

The Pro Bowl players will be announced Friday night at 7 p.m. Arizona time during a special on NFL Network (and you’ll get the info here too, on azcardinals.com), but for now, the Cardinals hoping to go can only wait. Cornerback Patrick Peterson seems like a lock to make his Pro Bowl appearances three-for-three in his young career, and defensive end Calais Campbell is certainly deserving.

There are a couple of other deserving Cards too, and they might be the most intriguing storylines. One is special teamer Justin Bethel, who has had a fantastic season. So too has linebacker Karlos Dansby, who is seeking his first Pro Bowl bid in his 10th NFL season. Both are helped by the fact in the new Pro Bowl format in which conferences do not matter — all the choices from a position could conceivably come from just the NFC, which gives breathing room — but at this point, neither one is counting on anything.

“I’m kind of nervous, but I’ve done all I can do,” Bethel said. “Hopefully everyone saw (my play) and we will see what happens.”

It’s long been the Pro Bowl adage that a player ends up making the Pro Bowl a year after he deserves to go and at the end of a career, a year beyond he should have. Bethel knows such things, but he is hoping he showed enough as a rookie last season that this would be “the year after.”

“I was thinking about that last year, because at the end of the season I was playing at a high level,” Bethel said. “If it happens it happens. (Not making it) is not going to deter me from working harder.”

Dansby is in a slightly different spot. He wants to make the game, but he has made a lot of money and is confident in his play — and he also knows that Pro Bowl slots don’t always line up with the players that are most deserving.

“It’d be a great honor,” Dansby said. “But it ain’t going to crush me because my play speaks for itself. It always has. It’s just getting recognized now. Balled in the AFC too, different scheme, first time playing Mike linebacker (last season). This is my second year playing Mike. I’m having fun. I’m still learning the game from a different angle and I’m having fun. I can’t say that enough.”

— There are only a couple of hours left in this auction of Anquan Boldin’s game-worn jersey that December Sunday back in 2003 when he set the NFL record for receptions by a rookie in a season. If you’re up for trying for the jersey — with proceeds going to Cardinals Charities — click here.


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Fitz at Thanksgiving, over “mean” Floyd or Q

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2013 – 2:33 pm

Larry Fitzgerald knows what he is doing in front of the cameras. He’s made it an art form, and he’s very honest in admitted he’s not going to deliver bulletin board material. Then, again, he’s also really good at good-naturedly jabbing friends of his. So it went Thursday, when he was asked about Michael Floyd, and if he could see comparisons between Floyd and physical former teammate Anquan Boldin.

“I don’t like to compare my teammates,” Fitzgerald said. “Anquan is Anquan. Mike is Mike. Let’s put it like that. They both are really good players. I had a lot of quality time with Q earlier in my career and now later in my career with Mike.

“I see a lot of similarities in terms of the toughness and the meanness out of both those guys,” Fitzgerald added, and then you could see he really understood what he was saying. “They are both really mean dudes,” Fitz said with smile.

As opposed to your “niceness,” Fitz was asked?

“I’m a lot nicer than both of those guys,” Fitzgerald said to a chorus of laughs. “You’d like to have me at your Thanksgiving table much more than you would those two.”

FloydFitzBLOGUSE


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Friday before the Jaguars

Posted by Darren Urban on November 15, 2013 – 3:55 pm

It’s strange, and maybe because it’s because the Cardinals face the Jaguars so rarely, but each of the last three meetings between the teams – dating back to 2000, my first full year covering this team – is burned into my brain for a particular reason.

2000 – The Cardinals were manhandled in Jacksonville. The Jaguars scored on eight of 10 possessions and the final possession ate up the last 9-plus minutes of the clock (as the Jags traveled all of 31 yards. Hard to believe). Afterward, though, it was classic Pat Tillman, raging against a team that had folded in a season that featured the firing of Vince Tobin.

“In this league, you have to overcome injuries, problems, coaches getting fired,” Tillman spouted. “Nobody cares (about excuses). Don’t tell me about the pain, show me the baby. We’re not showing the baby right now, we’re just bitching about the pain.”

2005 – It was a nondescript game at Sun Devil Stadium later in the year – a seven-point loss when Kurt Warner was sacked and fumbled late – except for an angry Anquan Boldin, who had 10 catches and more than 100 yards but got so ticked at what he perceived as dirty play that he got two personal foul calls fighting cornerback Terry Cousin. That wasn’t the memorable part. The memorable part was Boldin writing a letter to the editor of both local newspapers apologizing for the penalties.

2009 – The NFC champion Cards were coming off a home upset loss to the Niners when they had to travel cross country in Week 2. The Cards blasted the Jaguars, in a game marked by Warner’s amazing NFL record, completing 92.3 percent of his passes (24 of 26) to earn another slot in the Hall of Fame.

We’ll see if this game ends up providing some kind of memory.

— Don’t talk trap game with the Cardinals. “No, no, no,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is a playoff game. There is no such thing as a trap game in the NFL.” As you might expect, the Cardinals were handing out plenty of compliments to the Jaguars this week. The hope is that they play with that focus.

— Then again, there is this analysis of the Jaguars.

— It’s not often when the “Friday before” post is actually posted from the flight out, but it is today (and will be again in a couple weeks, when the Cards go out on Friday before the Philly game.) Coach Bruce Arians, coaching out West for the first time in his career, said he talked to many people in the offseason about setting a schedule. The Cards don’t get in to the hotel until about 10 p.m., but Arians said he didn’t want to move up the schedule.

“We’ve been down this road with Tampa,” Arians said. “There are no excuses not to come out and play well.”

— How red-hot is Justin Bethel on special teams? Profootballfocus.com, which grades special teamers (among others), has never had a guy grade out the highest in two weeks of the same season, and Bethel has done it three times – including against Houston last week, in which Bethel had PFF’s highest special teams grade ever.

— The Jaguars, which won their first game of the season last week, hasn’t won back-to-back games since 2010.

— Going against the worst rushing defense in the league – in part there, I am sure, because so many teams have blown the Jags out and have run a lot to grind second-half clock – the Cards should run the ball effectively. They need to run it effectively.

— John Abraham seemed confident he wouldn’t be hampered much by his bad hamstring. He’s playing so well, the Cards have to hope he isn’t.

— There isn’t much to analyze about this game. The Cards have put themselves in good position to be 6-4. Now they just have to play like it.


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Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2013 – 4:19 pm

The last four times the Cardinals have gone to San Francisco, it didn’t go particularly well. Even the oldest of those visits, the 2009 Monday night game in a season when the Cards would win 10 and make the playoffs and Kurt Warner was the quarterback, the Cards melted into a mess of turnovers in a disappointing loss.

Yet that game was also the last time weren’t just playing out the string by the time they got to Candlestick. The Cards were in the middle of a division chase back then, and – even though we’re just five games into the season – the same holds for Sunday.

So begins the toughest two-game stretch of the season for the Cardinals, this weekend’s visit to San Fran, with the Seahawks awaiting a Thursday game in Arizona a few days after. Well, I suppose the back-to-back might not be the toughest alone, since the Cards have to play in Seattle and then home against the 49ers the final two games of the season.

(Yikes, oh ye schedule gods.)

But this week will determine the Cards’ spot in the pecking order. A split, and the Cards can still talk NFC West. Two losses, and it’s a lot tougher. (We won’t talk about sweeps yet. Let’s see what happens in Frisco first.) The NFC isn’t top-heavy this year so far. The Cards could be a third-place team and still make the playoffs. But if they can get into Candlestick and topple the opponent for the first time since 2008 – the Super Bowl-bound Cards opened the season with a 23-13 win in SF – well then, it’ll quickly get interesting.

— Andre Roberts said the offense has been simplified heading into the 49ers game, and that seems to fit what is expected to be mostly rock-em-sock-em. Bruce Arians said the Cardinals aren’t changing their offensive goals – “You find reasons why and why not and try to fix them,” Arians said of his offense – but it did sound from QB Carson Palmer that he’s going to do what it takes not to put the Cards in bad positions this weekend.

— Still, the Cards are going to need to score points. This lack of execution the Cards have had, the bugaboo that Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts and Rob Housler all mentioned in some way, shape or form this week, has to change. Quickly. That’s the only way you are beating a team like the Niners.

“We know what to do (offensively) but not why we are doing it and sometimes that lack of continuity shows up,” Arians said.

— Speaking of offense, Candlestick was the site of Michael Floyd’s best NFL game, grabbing a bunch of passes from Brian Hoyer in last year’s finale en route to eight catches for 166 yards and a score. Floyd hasn’t had more than five catches in a game yet this season, but he does have 301 yards and has played well.

— In three wins, the Cardinals’ defense has not allowed a point. The only second-half score against the Cards in those three games was a pick-6 Palmer threw against Detroit.

“I think it’s just about playing hard and guys settling down in the game,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “We just need to start faster than we have been starting.”

— Cardinals tight end Jim Dray knows 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Dray was at Stanford when Harbaugh came in and resuscitated a struggling football program. “It’s just a culture shock when he came to Stanford,” Dray said. “He completely changed the culture and the attitude. It really brings the team together. That’s the biggest thing, he brings the winning culture.”

— In Anquan Boldin’s first game in the NFL, he had 10 catches for 217 yards and exploded on to the NFL scene. A decade later, in his first game for the 49ers to open this season, Boldin had 13 catches for 208 yards, making a pair of impressive NFC West debuts.

“The biggest difference was we got the win this time,” said Boldin, whose muffed punt return helped Detroit beat the Cardinals way back when during Boldin’s first NFL game. “For me that’s all that matters. I’ve been through the whole putting-up-stats, breaking this record, doing this and that. My only goal right now is just to win and win championships.”

— Said Fitzgerald of his friend Boldin, “It’ll be weird to see him over there. This is probably only the second time in my career I’ve rooted against him … but we need this game more than they need it.”

Fitz has only played against Boldin one other time, a 2011 game when the Cards lost in Baltimore. Boldin had seven catches for 145 yards.

— And no, I don’t particularly believe Boldin when he says this is just another game. I don’t think the fire burns in him for this organization the way it once did, not now that he’s won his Super Bowl, but I’d be stunned if this didn’t mean something extra to him.

— Earlier this week, Arians said he’d talk to Colts coach Chuck Pagano, after the Colts handled the 49ers in San Francisco this season. Then again, the Niners shifted their game after that one and started running more. The Cards will have to stop the run, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

— I know Fitz said he loves Candlestick for the history — Jerry Rice played there, and Fitz has a fondest for the greatest receiver of all time, because he’d like to get there some day — but really, I’m not sure how many people are really going to miss it. I know I won’t. One more trip there.


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