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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Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2013 – 10:26 pm

It was, in a lot of ways, seconds from the perfect quarter for the Cardinals. They had withstood two early Carson Palmer interceptions and the defense somehow allowed almost nothing in stoning the 49ers right where they were before two measly field goals, They had withstood 171 yards receiving in the first half from tight end Vernon Davis.

(Another tight end. Truly an Achilles heel this season.)

But they were down just eight at the half, and they stopped the Niners on a three-and-out when Tyrann Mathieu pulled down the much bigger Colin Kaepernick on a run. Then came a nine-play TD drive capped by a Michael Floyd 10-yard scoring catch. Then came another three-and-out.  And the Cards embarked on another long drive, surely to end with points and a lead and after 11 plays … Fitz lost the fumble.

Now, after the Fitz fumble, the 49ers were still stuck at their own 11. Another three-and-out – and at that point, it’s not like the defense was tired – and the Cards could have overcome. But it didn’t play out that way. Frankly, if you would have said before Sunday the Cards would have four turnovers, I would have expected a major blowout. Is it progress? Not really. As Bruce Arians said, close means nothing. (I’m paraphrasing.) But if the Cards can bottle that third quarter – most of it, anyway – that’d be progress.

— Of Palmer’s first six passes, two were incomplete (one of those being nearly intercepted), two were caught for two and three yards, respectively, and two were intercepted. An awful start. It seemed like a chance for Drew Stanton at some point, and indeed, after the second pick, Stanton took off the baseball cap he usually wears on the sideline and put on his helmet.

But Palmer steadied himself. After the second interception, Palmer completed 23-of-35 passes for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. That’s a passer rating of 110.8. The Cards are lucky the poor start didn’t bury them. But you see Palmer calmly talking to Tom Moore after the second pick and realize, Palmer truly is able to move past mistakes quickly.

— Scary moment for defensive end Calais Campbell, although it looks like he will be OK. I was stunned when the crowd at Candlestick started the Wave while Campbell was being put on a stretcher. Clearly, it wasn’t everyone in the stands, but it was more than just a few. It was nice to see so many 49ers players and others in the organization talk about how dumb it was. Because it was.

— Fitz had a very good game, but we’ll see if his right hamstring can hold up for a Thursday game. He was moving slowly after the game.

— Vernon Davis ended up with eight catches for 180 yards, again with 171 of those yards in the first half. The Cards had a few different players on him in the first half – linebacker Karlos Dansby, cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Yeremiah Bell among them.

“Vernon is a tough matchup,” Bell said. “You’re going to win some and you are going to lose some.”

— Andre Ellington another very good game. Explosive 15-yard touchdown run. Averaged eight yards on seven rushes, got 36 yards on five catches. He’s become a major weapon, although I guess I could stop saying that.

— Brittan Golden was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad this week in place of Kerry Taylor. Wondered what he had showed. Uh yeah, apparently it was speed. Lots of it. He looks like that take-the-top-off-the-defense guy that Taylor couldn’t be and like none of the other receivers are.

“It was great to get the first catch,” said Golden, whose 53-yard bomb set up Ellington’s TD run. “It sucks that we lost. I know everyone when we walked out, we felt we could win the game. With the situation, it’s a little bittersweet.”

— After the Floyd touchdown, the Cardinals went for two to try and tie it. There was about eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Cards ran the same pitch and reverse-field pass play by Patrick Peterson. His pass was eventually incomplete.

“At that point and time it was the time to do it,” Arians said. “The play was open. Patrick just didn’t see it soon enough.”

Fitzgerald was open initially but Peterson didn’t throw the pass. The miss also left the Cards down nine after the 49ers’ long fourth-quarter TD drive.

— OK. It’s late, it’s a short week, and there’s lot to do. That’s a wrap for tonight.


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Fitzgerald active for Niners game

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2013 – 12:02 pm

After a lot of speculation pre-game about whether Larry Fitzgerald would be able to play on his bad hamstring, Fitzgerald is indeed active today against the 49ers. How much he can do remains to be seen, but it was going to take a lot to have Fitz not play in such an important game. The inactive list thus remains fairly normal:

— QB Ryan Lindley

— RB Ryan Williams

— LB Kevin Minter

— LB Kenny Demens

— T Bobby Massie

— TE D.C. Jefferson

— DE Ronald Talley

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