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 Grantland.com, 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?
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, Brandon Keith, Daryl Washington, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton
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