Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2011 – 5:19 pm

I’ll be honest: I didn’t think the 49ers would do this. I didn’t think they could keep the same quarterback and win; I didn’t think they could bring in a brand-new coaching staff and win. I’m not sure just how they are, or how much it says about Jim Harbaugh (or what it says about Mike Singletary for that matter).

In some ways, it mirrors the Cardinals when Ken Whisenhunt came aboard. Obviously, the Cards didn’t start 8-1 in Whiz’s first season, but Whisenhunt, like Harbaugh, took essentially the same players Denny Green had and won with them.

Where the 49ers go will be interesting; they don’t have as good of a quarterback as the Cards had, but overall they have a better defense. And, given the way the last couple games have gone, I am very, very curious to see how the Cards match up.

As for other stuff to consider:

— I don’t know why I found the need to notice this, but Larry Fitzgerald made some unbelievable catches at practice Friday. One-handed, over the head, in traffic. A lot of them. No, it’s not surprising. No, it’s not out of the ordinary, unless we are talking about sheer volume. I know Fitz said the other day he didn’t necessarily feel he was in a zone in Philadelphia, but man, he sure looks like he’s there right now.

— If you haven’t had a chance to read my piece on linebacker Daryl Washington … well … why not? Regardless, it’s clear Washington has surged ahead as one of the key components of this defense. His speed makes a difference. Heck, so too does the speed of Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield. I am sure there are still some bumpy times ahead for this D (although, if they can deal with the Niners’ running game, maybe not this weekend)  but given the flashes from the linebackers, from Calais Campbell, from Patrick Peterson and yes, even A.J. Jefferson, there is hope.

— As for an assessment of the defense by coordinator Ray Horton in the Philadelphia game: “The results obviously were an ‘A’ but getting there we were a ‘C,’ ” Horton said. “We left a lot of plays out there. Missed tackles dropped interceptions, called-back interceptions, penalties. We are a work in progress, but to hold such an explosive offense to half their production was a good start.”

— The Cardinals have dealt with a lot of bad field position the past two games, although “it seems like we have been fighting that quite a bit this year,” Whisenhunt said. The Cards’ average start in Philadelphia was Arizona’s own 18-yard line. Against the Rams, the Cards were trapped back far enough that QB John Skelton was swarmed twice for safeties. It speaks to the sputtering offense in part; while Skelton has led some great late drives, the Cards did have six drives that ended in three plays or less. Now comes a game against a team with great special teams. Punter Andy Lee has been awesome (averaging better than 50 yards a punt).

— I think the Levi Brown conversation has been hashed out enough that everyone knows it by heart. But the other side of that is the other side of the line. If Brown doesn’t return next year, does right tackle Brandon Keith? He hasn’t played consistently, but Whisenhunt said he has played better and believe if Keith can just get healthy, the Cards might have something.

The problem is he isn’t healthy and has rarely been healthy. He tore his meniscus in Week One of 2010 and played with it up until his hamstring gave out midway through the season, ending his season. His knee hasn’t totally rallied; he has had to come out a few times because of knee issues; Keith said if he tweaks it the wrong way “it feels like the whole leg is on fire.”

“It is frustrating, because you don’t like to come out,” Keith said. “People on the outside want to know, ‘Why is he out?’ People are saying, ‘If he is hurt, why is he playing?’ I’m actually playing better, as crazy as that sounds. The messed up part you just hate it. (if I get hit), I’m not going to do anyone any good on one leg.”

— He was tamed last week, but the accolades continue for Peterson nationally. This, from Bill Barnwell of, noting Peterson’s three punt returns for touchdowns: “There are only 33 players in NFL history who have run back more than three punts for touchdowns during their entire career. Peterson’s tied for 34th on the all-time list after nine games. That’s just freakish.”

Adds Barnwell, “(Devin) Hester is having a monster season and is building a Hall of Fame résumé as a return man, but if we were looking for someone to compete with him over the next few years, we found that man in Patrick Peterson.”

— The 49ers are going to be ready for Beanie Wells. So Skelton better be ready for the Niners. He has to be more efficient early, complete more passes.

— Will we see Adrian Wilson vs. Vernon Davis? That used to be a heavyweight battle. I’m not sure it will be a matchup anymore, although the Cards have to watch the Niners’ tight ends. This is Harbaugh football, after all.

— Any chance the Niners overlook the Cards, since they have to play Baltimore Thanksgiving night, in a Harbaugh v Harbaugh game?

Probably not.

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46 Responses to “Friday before the Niners”

  1. By ross on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    I don’t think even Alex Smith thought he could do it.

  2. By bob-O on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    IM DYING TO SEE THE CARDINALS BRAWL AMD BALL. LAST SUNDAY THEY WERE MEAN!!!! GET MEAN DARKSIDE!!!! …time for some pushup and hitting the bag!!

  3. By AndyStandsUp on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    I still think the Cards have a decent shot at winning this game.

    Of course, I also thought they’d finish 10-6 with Kolb being a decisive X factor. Instead, we’ll probably go 6-10 with Kevin being a divisive Astro.

  4. By jerry on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    With Kolb limited in practice, Is Kolb healthy enough to he the backup qb for the 49er game or will Bartel be stepping into that position for the time being? If Bartel, has he been doing well in practice?

  5. By Darren Urban on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    Jerry –

    I think Skelton will start with Bartel the backup. I don’t think Kolb is healthy enough to go yet.

  6. By Nick Pepe on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    I would love to see the same script as last week. Attacking and hitting the QB, and not allowing the big plays. Loved the fact that they fed Beanie all game, despite his Avg yard per carry not being what he would like (I think it was under 3.0).

    Not sure, despite their record, that SF has more talent. But you can’t discount their record, 8-1 is 8-1 no matter how you look at it. But I think we can keep them under 20 points. If we put up 21, it’s a “W”.

    If D can stuff SF’s offensive deep, they could outkick their coverage on punts which could be dangerous, although they may be wise enough to kick away from PP.

    On a lighter note, I have to ask: Darren, where does the Hotel DuPont rank among the hotels the team has stayed in? And how did you enjoy Iron Hill?

    Not sure anything could top the weekend wife and I had last weekend, but a win over the Niners would be sweet as sugar.

    And remember we ain’t dead yet!!

    Nick Pepe
    Lifetime Member
    Proud Card fan, proud Delawarean !

  7. By ozcard on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    Flying with my son from Australia straight to Candlestick park. Well via LAX and SF airports. Gonna be a real long day just getting there and didn’t foresee playing a team on a 7 game win streak when I booked the tickets several months ago. However after the Cards have shown some life in the last two games I’m holding out hope of a low scoring close game with Fitz making yet another game winning catch. Will be wearing a cards jacket and cap so I expect to be copping a bit of abuse but its too far to come and not get into the spirit of it!

  8. By jerry on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    Since Kolb has been limited to practice, is he being considered as the backup or has Bartel retained that position for the meantime? If Bartel has, how has he been doing in practice this week?

  9. By Phoenixraven1 on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    I hate the whiners! Gouge them boys!

  10. By Phoenixraven1 on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    Is Heap going to play? We need him badly!

  11. By SkeletonistheMAN on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    Darren: what is going on with Stephen Williams interms of his development. It seemed that he was a good free agent pick when he joined the cards. Now, I don’t hear or see him as a progressive player, in my opinion. He is behind DeMarco in the depth chart. I don’t see him on the filde more often. Darren, how is his work ethic and determination to be good from your observation?

  12. By Darren Urban on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    SkeletonistheMAN –

    RE: S Williams

    I think it is a little surprising he has stagnated. Maybe he did get comfortable. I don’t know.

  13. By joe again on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply


    I wrote a pre-season post saying the Rams or Cards would win this division. No way did I see the 9ers at 8-1.

    Okay, so here goes again.

    To get a team to the promised land, you need a special QB. The pedigree doesnt matter, becuz he could be a 6th round draft choice, or a guy bagging groceries, or some skinny armed dude like Joe Montana. There are guys with plenty of skill that never make it. It takes that special ‘it’ factor.

    I think Kevin Kolb could someday be a really fine QB. But between Kolb and Skelton, who do you think has the chance to turn into something not just fine, but really special? Who has the potential to be that very elite QB everybody seeks?

    I’m not saying Skelton is that guy, of course, but I do think you can see a ceiling for Kolb, while with Skelton there’s no lid yet. In his short playing time, he’s already got a 4th down for 25 yards and another 4th down for 30, both in game winning drives. Makes you wonder.

    Yeah, Skelton’s numbers are not great, but in John Elway’s first year, he had a completion rate of just 47%. The only number for ‘it’ is in the win column.

  14. By BIG RED on Nov 18, 2011 | Reply

    Cedric Hopkins you said IT right “BIG JOHN SKELTON” deserves to be the starter. No butts about it.

  15. By SkeltonBeliever19 on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Skeltons numbers may not be great, but you can’t base it off completions all the time. Heres why…same with Tim Tebow, whos far less accurate than John Skelton, but all that matters is he is keeping Denver in games, and is a winner. He went 2-8 54 yards and still won. John and Tebow are winners. No matter which way you look at it.

  16. By nodavis2000 on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    I think if we stop the run, then we got this game. I don’t see SF beating us with their passing game. It’s worse than ours. Special teams is definitely our advantage, although their punter is doing really good. Two things and we get this win:
    1. Stop their freaking run game. We contained Rice pretty well. Although, Jackson did run on us for a pretty game.
    2. Quick passes for Big John Skelton. I don’t trust Brown or Keith with this D. Their D HAS been playing really well. I know Skelton’s tough, but if he gets hurt, I think we in trouble.


  17. By SteveDCO on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    This game will say a lot about where this team really is.

    We have played two bad teams and had 4th quarter rallies to win.

    I’ll be watching a few things early…
    – Can the OTs stop the pass rush of SF
    – Can Acho, Schofield, Haggens get any type of pressure on Smith
    – Can CC,DD and DW hold Gore to under 100 yds
    – Can A-Dub run with Vernon Davis or will we see the pattern from last year where good TEs light him up

  18. By GW on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    The pressure is on the 49er’s they are now being considered as one of the elite teams which is understandable 8-1 BUT they are playing divisional rivals and i think the cards will win this game with big skelt,fitz,beanie and the new physical def./schemes i believe the cards are going to have the biggest upset this week. SKELTON AND FIZT ARE GOING TO HAVE A MONSTER GAMES.

  19. By cards62 on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Darren of course watches Fitz a lot more than I do, but like Darren I see our boy Fitz being in the zone. I sure hope 49ers cover him one on one and big John just put the ball up high.

    I hate the Niners! I hate the Niners! I hate the Niners!

    I am very excited for this game to see if our team has actaully improved over the last couple of weeks. I wish Beanie and Housler or Heap were close to 100%.
    I would like to see if Housler would help Skelton look better, and for 2 straight games Skelton really has not had much of a running game to get him in 2nd and 6 or better. I expected LSH to have a better year this year.

    I think defense and offensive coaching is our keys to victories. No way we win without an excellent defensive effort, and 49ers defensive front 7 will take care of our OL so we need a lot of quick pass plays, with some draws, and a few screens.

    Darren wrote on our OT situation again and my vote is neither one is back as a tackle next year, but as I said before, Levi Brown I would try at G and I think if he will accept it that he will be pro bowl material. I really hate dumping a number 5 overall pick after his rookie contract, but I would rather dump him than see him back at tackle next year. No way either of these guys are starting tackles in the NFL.

    Go Cards beat the 49ers for 3 in a row!

  20. By wnycardfan on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    You may have answered this before, but I couldn’t find it, how is Beanie? Is he 100% or still limping a bit? I think, if there is ANY chance we win this weekend, its only if Beanie is running like he did before he got hurt.

  21. By Darren Urban on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Wnycardfan –

    RE: Beanie health

    He isnt 100 percent and I’d think he won’t be the rest of the season. That said, he is doing much better than he was.

  22. By ross on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Bold prediction of the week. Beanie gets over 100 yards rushing and two TDs.

  23. By TucsonTim on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Sometimes good teams look past weaker opponets. I hope so.

  24. By dre 1368 on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    i think sf is up for a huge let down there going to get killed. the giants are not that good of a team the only good team in the nfl is the packers with that said. were going to play alot of zone and man on the outside just to keep the tight end in check there going to try to run on us but the front is going to handle there own. watch for screens and dump passes cause d wash is going to like fools up he’s a beast . big john good luck quick passes slow the pressure and a couple of deep ones to roberts he the fast player . just to sett up fitz on the 4th quarter . run beanie run no more chester he to slow, smith hit the hole don’t go to the outside hit them in the mouth. GOOOO CARDS

  25. By rojobird on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Call me crazy but I would sure like to see PP run the ball in a coulple of plays just too see what happens specially since 9rs would expect that… Darren Any chance Whiz uses PP in the offense..??? 🙂

  26. By Darren Urban on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Rojobird –

    RE: PP on offense

    He already said he might.

  27. By rojobird on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Oh Wait…dont tell no one… I forgot he is our secret weapon… HEHEHE:) GO CARDS BEAT SOME 9rs butt and throw them off their high Horse…

    Cards 20 49RS 17

  28. By james on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    49ers own the cards and they will continue to do so Sunday .The Real Dream Team is in Frisco and the the Cards get a first hand look @1:00p.m. tomorrow. To qoute Bart Scott of the Jets “Can’t Wait”.

  29. By james on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    “Who’s Got It Better Than Us?…….NOOOOOBODY”.Go 9ERS!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. By Dave on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Get off the bandwagon and back to reality. There are plenty of teams that can beat y’all, the Cards being one of them. If by chance the niners make it to the playoffs y’all are going to get eliminated week one of the post season.

  31. By cardsalltheway on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    What is wrong with Beanie, is it a bone/thigh bruise? He nearly ran over a couple guys last week so I expect the same this week and an improvement on hitting the holes so he doesn’t have so many 1-2 yard gains.

  32. By Darren Urban on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    cardsalltheway —

    RE: Beanie injury

    It is his knee. Not sure if he has any damage that will need surgery eventually, but he is still managing swelling. I am guessing it will be something he has to deal with the rest of the season on some level.

  33. By rio on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    niner fans, finally something to cheer about about 15 years of nothing, the most dismal place in California San Franciso it is just a bunch of freaks.

  34. By cardfancolorado on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    I hope that the coaches look at Stanfords play selection because that is all the whiners are doing they have been playing a college play book all season just like the donkeys here in Denver. That is why Alex Smith looks decent, the NFL is too complicated for that little college boy. If it was not for the whiners defense I think they would not have good record, their defense puts them in short field advantage. If no mistakes by the CARDS they have a great chance to win. Oh and little james get off our website

  35. By dieselbomb on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Hoping PP has an award-winning game. But also hope everyone dials-up their best game against the 49ers. Would love to be there in person, but must settle for TV coverage.

    Don’t expect anything spectacular, but a win would be awesome. On the surface, it appears the 9ers have what it takes; but they also have Smith who has made it a career of being less than advertised. Would love to see the Cards D deliver a number of well-timed sacks. It’s only been a week, but I say AJ is over-due for a second Pick.

    Most of all we’ve already had too many important people out hurt – I’m hoping we can go toe-to-toe without other key injuries.

    We only need to win by a point.

  36. By dieselbomb on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    I think we need to Run effectively against them to open up the passing. Heard their secondary is the weakest part of their D. If so an effective Run game will open that up even more to make the targets easier for Skelton in the mid-range passes. They batted down a the most key short pass attempt last week. A little protection and a good Run game will give our offense short/mid pass depths which require more arc and won’t be as easy to disrupt (except by Sack).

    Problem is Ball Possession issues …. they’ve been quite good at takeaways, so the Runs need to be sure.

    Hard to assess speed comparisons on key match-ups, though.

  37. By Rich on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Hey James……I lived in San Francisco for 25 years. No one who knows anything about the City would ever use the term “Frisco”. You’re a wannabe.

  38. By Scott H on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    Um…can I ask, what has Todd Heap done here this season to make anyone say we need him badly??? Did I miss a few games, or something???

    If there is a way to winning this game, then it needs to start with being able to keep Beanie heavily involved for the whole 60 minutes. It worked very nicely in Philly. Even though the 49ers stop the run better than anyone, they have to be able to keep running the ball all the way through.

    And why do people have to take the angle that maybe the 49ers will overlook the game for the Cardinals to have a chance? Don’t people want to feel like their team can go in and make a game of it no matter what??? I know I sure do.

  39. By Javi on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    so darren the cardinals will obviously not get andrew luck this draft i want the cardinals to draft a wr like Justin Blackmon do you think thats a possibility??

  40. By Darren Urban on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    Javi —

    RE: Blackmon

    Never say never.

  41. By georgiebird on Nov 19, 2011 | Reply

    How can you talk about the recent Cards vs 49ers rivalry without mentioning the stellar play of Josh McCown? I think he played three of his best career games against the 9ers. While most Cardinals (including Warner) have underperformed in this series, McCown looked like a franchise QB.great.

  42. By Darren Urban on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: McCown

    I love Josh. But my biggest Niner-McCown memory is his backward pass to L.J. Shelton in his own end zone in 2003.

  43. By Eric on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    I believe James has been drinking the Blue Kool Aid. Dream Team? Your going to get crushed quick in the Playoffs. Alex Smith is not and never will be a quarterback to win anything that matters. Youve been pretty lucky so far but it’s not far from crashing. Hell, we may even beat you. Keep you BS on your Whiners Blog. THIS IS A CARDS FAN BLOG LOSER!

  44. By TucsonTim on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    Does any other team in the NFL have 3 first round picks starting in the OL?

  45. By sunday on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    Not only we will beat 9ners this could be their ticket to bad second half of their season just like they are 8 and 1 they could finish 1 and 6.we still in this thing beginning today.All we got do do beat these fakes today,second time around plus the rest of the division which is possible.Its how you finish 9ners don’t know dat they just happy to have some success untill today when Big Red give em rude awakening by keeping them where they needed to be in the first place.last time I check rice and montana don’t play anymore.

  46. By scott023 on Nov 22, 2011 | Reply

    Darren, you are a real piece of work, yes you hide it well, I guess it is all the way you say it. That sf used the same players as whiz did. The qb changed it not whiz, when warener left so did our wins. The whiz is still here, as the losses stack up. S.F. used the same players and it is easy to see the coach was the only change. I guess as long as you can sling it, people believe it.

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