SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball against the New York Giants at Candlestick Park on November 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

49ers Vs. Cardinals: San Francisco Forces Five Arizona Turnovers In 23-7 Victory

The San Francisco 49ers are 9-1 and sitting atop the NFC West after taking out their division rival Arizona Cardinals 23-7 at Candlestick Park. For more on the Niners head over to Niners Nation, SB Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog.

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NFL Fines: Dashon Goldson Will Likely Be Fined $25K For Fight With Early Doucet

There has been talk of a potential suspension for San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, following an incident during the game on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Goldson threw several punches at Arizona wide receiver Early Doucet (VIDEO), and was immediately ejected from the game after being assessed a penalty, giving the struggling Cardinals a first down. What the referees did not see was the fact that Doucet clearly punched Goldson first and should have been the one ejected.

However, that does not excuse Goldson's actions by any means whatsoever. In the NFL, retaliating is the same thing as starting a fight, and Jim Harbaugh noted as much in the postgame press conference. He did say that Goldson was remorseful and that he talked to the team about the incident postgame, though. Harbaugh also expressed his opinion that Doucet did, in fact, start the fight and that it should come into account when the league considers whether or not Goldson's actions should warrant any kind of a suspension.

It would be very surprising if he was suspended, though. There's been other fights lately - the Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan fight comes to mind - and those didn't result in a suspension. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears got into it a week ago, and there weren't even fighting fines issued for that scuffle that saw both sidelines spill onto the field. Fines were given, but all of them for unnecessary roughness and late hits, things of that nature. 

But Goldson is almost certainly looking at a fine. The league minimum for "fighting" is $25,000, and it'd be a shame if Doucet wasn't also fined $25,000. Because of the way the NFL structures their fines, they can fine a player multiple times for the same incident under different terms, so Goldson could also draw a $5000 fine for unnecessary roughness (the level he'd be expected to get with his fine history - of which there really isn't any). 

The dollar amounts and whether or not Doucet gets fined are still to be determined, but do expect Goldson to be assessed a fine. 


49ers Vs. Cardinals Recap By The Numbers: Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore Shine In Win

The San Francisco 49ers picked up another win on Sunday, defeating the Arizona Cardinals 23-7 to improve their record to 9-1.

The vaunted Niners defense was once again excellent, although Sunday's game was nearly a day off for them. They were so dominant that they only had to be on the field for the scant 15:44 that Arizona controlled the ball. San Francisco held Cardinals rushers to 80 yards and only allowed them to convert one out of nine third down attempts. Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith each recorded sacks.

On offense, it was another stellar game for receiver Michael Crabtree, who finished with 120 yards on seven catches. Vernon Davis, meanwhile, took his place in the record books with a touchdown reception, which puts him alone in first place on the all-time San Francisco tight end touchdown list. Davis had 67 yards on five catches.

David Akers was responsible for all scoring in the first half of the game with three field goals, from 22, 43 and 29 yards, respectively. He finished the day three-for-six on field goal attempts.

Frank Gore again led Niners rushers with 88 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Alex Smith had a solid game despite several miscues. He was 20-for-38 with 267 passing yards, 17 rushing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Smith's interception was the only 49ers turnover of the game, compared to five turnovers for the Cardinals.

To keep up with all things San Francisco 49ers, please visit Niners Nation.


49ers Vs. Cardinals Final Score: San Francisco Defense Dominant Again, Beats Arizona 23-7

The San Francisco 49ers rode their defense all game long, forcing Arizona Cardinals turnovers and a John Skelton benching in a pretty dominant 23-7 victory. It took them awhile to get going on offense, as David Akers had two field goals blocked and missed another one. Nevertheless, the 49ers led 9-0 at the half behind three more Akers attempts and blew it open with two touchdowns in the third quarter

The 49ers forced five turnovers--three interceptions from the Cardinals QB, and two fumbles as well. San Francisco turned three of those turnovers into two field goals and a touchdown. Arizona had 10 yards of offense in the first quarter, 47 in the first half and 65 yards overall through the first eight Cardinals drives. Skelton completed 31% of their passes and was replaced by Richard Bartel with the Niners up 23-0.

The Niners didn't have a great game offensively, but they did churn out the yards. Frank Gore put out 88 yards on 24 carries, Anthony Dixon managed 32 yards on seven carries, and Kendall Hunter also had 27 yards in support. Alex Smith completed only 52.6% of his passes, but did manage seven yards per attempt and 267 passing yards overall, including two touchdown connections to Vernon Davis and Kyle Williams on the two decisive third quarter drives.

To discuss the game with 49ers fans, head to Niners Nation. To discuss the game with Cardinals fans, check out Revenge of the Birds.


49ers Vs. Cardinals Score Update: Vernon Davis, Kyle Williams Light It Up, SF Leads 23-0 In Fourth

The 49ers, of course, receive the second half kickoff, and will start at the 16 yard line. Frank Gore takes the first carry of the half, and is stopped for no gain. Then it's Michael Crabtree catching a pass and picking up some impressive yards after the catch, making a couple players miss on his way to a 29 yard gain. After Gore picks up a yard or two, Crabtree gets a big screen pass and gets some more YAC, getting a first down. It's Gore on first down with a four yard dumpoff reception. Eventually, the team ends up with a 3rd and 1, and the referees call it inches, and the 49ers elect to go for it. Gore picks it up, but barely. After a couple runs, the 49ers face yet another third down, this one needing six yards. The 49ers pick it up and move inside the ten. On a second and eight, Smith hits Williams for the eight yards and nothing more, but it's good enough, and a David Akers extra point puts the 49ers up 16-0.

The kickoff goes to Stephens-Howling, who brings it out to the 20 yard line. I missed whether or not Arizona ran any plays up until it, but Skelton threw a terrible pass deep and Donte Whitner caught it no problem, getting the interception.

San Francisco takes over, and it's an instant 11 yard gain for Kyle Williams. A couple plays later, and the 49ers have the ball at 3rd and 2 on the 18-yard line, in Arizona territory. Smith lobs one up to Vernon Davis, a beautiful pass, and it's an 18 yard touchdown. After a David Akers extra point, the 49ers lead 23-0. 

Arizona came back on the field, and started to drive. Big receptions to Andre Roberts led to multiple first downs, and John Skelton had a little bit of swagger ... which safety Dashon Goldson took right from him with an interception. Yeah - that happened. Goldson dove and caught it pretty nice, and the 49ers took over.

Well, I happened to blink and miss the 49ers drive, but Andy Lee came out with an impressive punt. Aaaand, the Cardinals fumble the ball, which is recovered by NaVorro Bowman.  So the 49ers are set up with significantly better field position. Anthony Dixon picks up four yards on the rushing attempt. Smith goes deep to Crabtree on the next play, it's a great throw, and Patrick Peterson has to interfere with Crabtree to prevent a touchdown. 49ers get a first and seven to go for a score. Smith is hit big time on first down, and throws the ball away. It goes backwards, the referee calls it incomplete, and Ken Whisenhunt challenges for Arizona. It's confirmed - it's incomplete, and Anthony Dixon takes a handoff for a yard. At 3rd and 6, the third quarter comes to an end with the 49ers at the six yard line.

Smith shrugs off a sack, rolls out and ... throws an interception, with the 49ers leading 23-0.


VIDEO: Vernon Davis Sets 49ers Franchise Record For TE Touchdowns

It just took a couple halftime adjustments for the San Francisco 49ers to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals. They took a 9-0 lead into halftime, but significantly underwhelmed on offense, and had two of their field goals blocked, with one miss on top of that. Now, Alex Smith has thrown a pair of touchdowns and the 49ers lead 23-0 at the time of writing this, in the third quarter.

One of those touchdown passes was a beauty to tight end Vernon Davis, Smith's best throw of the game. It was a throw that Smith has tried a few times this game, but overthrew each time. He overthrew passes to Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards, and also one to Davis. But redemption came in the 18 yard touchdown reception that set a nice little record for Davis, who already is tied for the mark of most touchdowns for a tight end in the NFL in a single season.

Now he can say he ranks first in 49ers history in touchdowns for a tight end, with 34, passing the record set by Brent Jones. Below, a video of the touchdown ... also, Davis got hops.


49ers Vs. Cardinals Score Update: David Akers Adds Another Field Goal, SF Leads 9-0 At Half

The Cardinals are punting to start the second quarter, and the ball rolls to a top at the San Francisco 40 yard line. Alex Smith leads the 49ers onto the field with a singleback formation, and he hits tight end Vernon Davis for five yards over the middle. Frank Gore takes the second down handoff for four yards, but it looked like five. Either way, it brings up a 3rd and 1, and Smith goes for the quarterback sneak, getting the yard and a first down. They go with an empty backfield from the gun on the next play, and Smith hits Kyle Williams over the middle for a first down and then some. On the next play, it's a handoff to Gore, who picks up nine yards. Gore carries the ball again on second down, but it doesn't look like he gains anything. On third down, Smith fakes and then hits a wide open Michael Crabtree, for 12 yards. Smith would then go on to miss Crabtree with an overthrow in the back of the end zone. On second down, he hits him for a four-yard gain on a bubble screen, but can't complete the third down dumpoff to Frank Gore, and Akers will come out for his fifth field goal try. It's blocked - yet again. It's another line drive kick, the same he's been kicking all day, even in pregame warmups.

Arizona gets the ball at the 20-yard line. They get a big completion for a first down, 12 yards. Skelton throws to Fitzgerald and it's incomplete, and almost intercepted by NaVorro Bowman. A third down comes up, and Skelton overthrows his receiver. Chris Culliver almost picks it off, and they'll punt. Ted Ginn Jr. is brutalized by Stewart Bradley on the return - plus the 49ers are called for holding. They'll take over at the 14-yard line.

Frank Gore picks up 12 yards on the first play of the drive, and then he gets a few more on the next play, fitting through a gap that not many could have. Kyle Williams catches a ten-yard pass on second down, shrugging off a defender and likely earning himself some more snaps. Kendall Hunter takes the next run, picking up about five yards. Then, back to Hunter for a first-down reception and then some. Eventually, the 49ers end up with a 2nd down in which Gore gets close to the first down, but the ball gets a bad spot and Kendall Hunter can't pick up the first down on a third down run. San Francisco calls a timeout and it looks like they're going for it. 

Kyle Williams is the lone receiver for the 49ers on the play, and he catches it for big yardage and a first down, as the clock rolls down to the two minute warning. Smith throws an incompletion on first down, and Gore is brought down for a one-yard loss on third down. The 49ers take a timeout, and David Akers drills a 29-yard field goal. Jonathan Goodwin almost lets the kick get blocked. But it's good, and San Francisco takes a 9-0 lead with :56 left in the first half. The kick is brought out by LaRod Stephens-Howling and he's brought down right at the 20 yard line. 

Arizona completes a 16 yarder to Early Doucet, but are quickly faced with a 3rd and 2 after an incompletion. Skelton is pressured on third down, and throws an incompletion, bringing out the Cardinals punting unit. They punt, it falls, and the time runs out with the 49ers up 9-0 heading into the second half.


49ers Vs. Cardinals Score Update: David Akers Goes 2/4 On Field Goals, SF Leads 6-0 After One

The 49ers won the coin toss and elected to defer, as usual. They've yet to receive an opening kickoff. It goes through the endzone and John Skelton takes the field for Arizona, from an offset I-formation, and a pass to Andre Roberts is overthrown. Beanie Wells gets a short run, and then Carlos Rogers makes a great pass breakup on third down. Larry Fitzgerald was the target on third, and Rogers could have stopped him short with a tackle, but punched the ball out.

After a punt and penalty, the 49ers start at their own 19 yard line. Alex Smith throws incomplete to Braylon Edwards on first down, it was well defended. Frank Gore gets no yards on his first carry, and the 49ers faced an early third and ten. Smith took the snap, dropped back, had time, and found Micheal Crabtree deep on the left side for 38 yards. Gore gets three yards on the first down run, and the 49ers go with their first singleback formation. Edwards motions and runs across the middle of the field, Smith looks for him but the pass goes off his hands, incomplete. After a short run from Gore, it's Crabtree again, on the left side, converting the second third down.

San Francisco gets a couple yards, bringing up a 2nd and 6, but Bruce Miller is called for a false start and they set up with a 2nd and 11. Singleback formation, Smith drops back, and looks for either Delanie Walker or Edwards, but the pass is batted down at the line of scrimmage. Eventually, David Akers comes on for the 46-yard field goal attempt, but the Cardinals are able to take over at the 36-yard line, the spot of the kick, when Calais Campbell gets a hand up and blocks it. It was a line drive kick, something that Akers had been doing pregame to deal with the wind. Hurts them here.

Skelton comes back out and hands off from the I-formation, and Beanie Wells picks up eight yards. Then, on second down, Skelton throws it into double coverage. Tarell Brown breaks up the pass, and Patrick Willis catches it off of Brown, for an interception.

So it's San Francisco again, and Gore gets a couple yards. Then, with a fullhouse backfield, Davis motions out to the right and Smith hands off to Hunter on the left, who picks up a few yards. Third down sees a pass over the middle to Davis fall incomplete. Akers comes out again, this time for a 49 yard attempt. Unfortunately, it's wide right and he misses that one. 49ers could have a 6-0 lead at this point, but instead it's tied at zero.

Arizona gets the ball and the 49ers begin in the nickel, and LaRod Stephens-Howling picks up four yards on the first down run. Skelton with the play action on second down goes deep to Larry Fitzgerald, but the pass sails over his head and Fitz was well covered, regardless. The Cardinals are out to punt, are called for a false start and back it up. The punt sails to the six-yard line where Ginn fields it and breaks out to about the 35-yard line, but there was a flag very early on. Both teams are called for flags - both holding - the penalties offset. And they re-kick. The Cardinals are called for a facemask and Tramaine Brock avoids a third holding penalty. San Francisco takes over at the 37-yard line.

Alex Smith rolls out on first down and misses a wide open Walker. Then he scrambles for about three yards on the next play, bringing up a 3rd and 7. Smith hits Davis this time for a gain of eight yards and a first down. On the next play, it's Vernon Davis again, this one for a gain of 27 yards. Then, Gore gets a big rush and gets close. Bruce Miller gets a pass on second down and gets awfully close to a touchdown, but it's clear he steps out at the four-yard line. The 49ers call a timeout, and Davis comes back on the field - having left after his big reception with an apparent injury. On third down, Smith throws too high to Edwards, who got his hands on it and probably should have caught it, but again - it was high. Akers comes out and makes his third field goal attempt, from 22 yards back. San Francisco leads 3-0.

Akers kicks another through the end zone. On first down, Patrick Willis strips Wells, but the referees call him down. It looks like a fumble, though, and Jim Harbaugh challenges. The referees overturn it and call it a fumble, so San Francisco's ball just outside the red zone. 

Davis almost catches a huge first down pass, but he can't get both feet in. Gore picks up a yard on the next play, bringing up a 3rd and 9. Smith overthrows Edwards by a large margin, and Akers comes out for a 43-yard field goal attempt. It's good, and the 49ers lead 6-0.

Blake Costanzo makes a huge tackle at the 20-yard line on the Akers kickoff. Skelton comes out for the Cardinals and hands off to Wells, who is brought down by Patrick Willis after a couple yards. Going with the empty backfield this time, Skelton hits Fitzgerald for no gain. It's a catch that Fitzgerald had to leap for. On third down, Skelton looks left and can't anything, so he turns right and trips - Ahmad Brooks falls down, catches Skelton, and gets a third-down sack. They'll punt again, and the quarter comes to an end. 


49ers Vs. Cardinals Inactives: Frank Gore, Ray McDonald, Shawntae Spencer All Active For SF

The 49ers are set to get a game against the rival Cardinals started at Candlestick Park, and we've got some inactives for you. Of note for the 49ers is the fact that both Tarell Brown and Shawntae Spencer are active. Brown was injured and was limited in practice leading up to the game, while Spencer has been inactive for the past few weeks. He hasn't been injured, but he was before and that led to the coaches developing more confidence in other corners. It's likely a combination of Spencer being active in case Brown is limited and perhaps Spencer's experience and success against Cardinals receiver Larry FItzgerald.

For Arizona, the absence of quarterback Kevin Kolb was expected, but still noteworthy. John Skelton will make the start in his place, after doing well last week, he might have earned another start even in the event that Kolb was healthy to go on Sunday.

49ers Inactives

QB Scott Tolzien
WR Brett Swain
S Madieu Williams
FB Moran Norris
OL Daniel Kilgore
OL Mike Person
DL Ian Williams

Cardinals Inactives

TE Todd Heap
QB Kevin Kolb
LB Joey Porter
S Kerry Rhodes
TE Rob Housler
OL D'Anthony Batiste
WR Stephen Williams


49ers Vs. Cardinals Weather: Early Rain Will Likely Create Muddy Conditions

The San Francisco 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park Sunday afternoon and they could be looking at seriously muddy conditions at Bill Walsh Field. The Bay Area has been dealing with rain the last couple days and there was a downpour Sunday morning.

The rain tarps were removed a few hours before game-time, but also before the rain had stopped. The rain has since let up a bit and is expected to stop entirely by game-time. Even with no rain during the game, an hour or two of a downpour might lead to some nasty conditions on the ground. A muddy game slows things down considerably and makes this a slightly more intriguing game.

The 49ers power rushing attack should be in a decent position to succeed in muddy conditions, but slip-sliding could make it interesting. The Cardinals will be looking to get their ground game going with a gimpy Beanie Wells. It will be interesting to see how the rain impacts Wells.


Alex Smith Fantasy Projection: 49ers QB Looks To Overcome Rain

The San Francisco 49ers welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town in the 49ers first divisional matchup since the season opener. The weather has been a bit dreary in the Bay Area this weekend and it has been raining throughout Sunday morning. The rain is expected to stop by game-time, but conditions could be sloppy at Candlestick Park.

Alex Smith entered this weekend with a solid opportunity against a questionable Cardinals pass defense. The 49ers are significant favorites but it remains to be seen how much they'll open things up against Arizona. The opportunity is there, which makes Alex Smith an intriguing fantasy football option. If the 49ers open things up a bit, he could be in line for a very solid effort.

The folks at project a decent but not great performance of 13.28 points. That is the most likely result, but there is some decent upside. If you have Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger and need some fantasy help, Alex Smith is an intriguing little option.


Frank Gore Fantasy Projection: 49ers RB Expected To Play

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore enters Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals listed as questionable on the team's injury report. He has been dealing with a knee issue this week, which cost him most of the second half against the New York Giants. That followed an ankle injury that limited him in practice for much of last week.

Gore has been limited again this week, but is expected to start against the Arizona Cardinals. The question is how much playing time he will get. At this point, it really remains a toss-up. The 49ers have said they are not looking ahead to the coming short week and Thursday's showdown with the Baltimore Ravens, but if they take a sizable lead early, Frank Gore could find himself on the sideline at some point before the game ends.

Kendall Hunter is an able backup running back and could be looking at a decent amount of touches whatever Gore's status. The 49ers offense has been so unpredictable to this point that nothing would surprise me. Frank Gore will start, which means if you have him you need to get him in your lineup. If you have Gore AND Hunter, I really think you just have to stick with Gore and hope for the best. If you only have Hunter, he could be a solid flex option this week.

For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation. For more on fantasy football, check out Fake Teams.


49ers Vs. Cardinals: Time, TV Schedule, Radio And More

The San Francisco Giants play their second NFC West division game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The 49ers have won seven straight games while have also rebounded from a poor 1-6 start with a two-game winning streak. Arizona defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 21-17 in a road game last week and will hope to follow up with an upset of the 49ers this weekend.

Both teams enter this game with momentum and the 49ers can send a message to the rest of the NFC West with a strong performance in this game. San Francisco may have to play without running back Frank Gore, who is listed as questionable.

Following is pertinent TV and radio information for Sunday's game:

Game Date/Time: Sunday, November 20; 1:05 p.m. PT

Location: Candlestick Park; San Francisco, California

Records: Cardinals (3-6); 49ers (8-1)

TV: FOX. Announcers: Thom Brennaman (play-by-play); Brian Billick (color analyst); Laura Okmin (sideline reporter)

Radio: 107.7 FM- KNBR 680/1050 AM. Announcers: Ted Robinson (play-by-play); Eric Davis (color analyst)

Spanish Radio: KIQI 1010/KATD 990 AM. Announcers: Armando Botello, Juan Carlos Sierra, Matias Godinez and Melvin Moran

Betting Line: According to OddsShark, the 49ers are 10-point favorites.

Online Coverage: Check out Niners Nation for all of your 49ers news and insight prior to this game. Click though to Revenge of the Birds for more news on the Cardinals.


Chris Culliver Could Get Start If Tarell Brown Can't Play Against Cardinals

With Tarell Brown listed as questionable on Friday for the San Francisco 49ers comes a lot of uncertainty. San Francisco has been one of the few teams to do well against Larry FItzgerald specifically, and the 49ers could be in a position where rookie Chris Culliver is starting and on the field for every play, opposite Carlos Rogers. It's really debatable in regards to whether or not that's a good thing for the 49ers.

Culliver has mostly exceeded expectations since being drafted in the third round. Most 49ers fans hadn't even heard of the guy, which is exactly the opposite of what you want that early on in the draft. Still, he's come in and had some good games, seeing the field early and has moved into the nickel corner role. That being said, Culliver was picked on a lot in last week's game against the New York Giants.

The only reason Mario Manningham didn't have even more yards was because Eli Manning overthrew a couple of them. He had Culliver beat multiple times, and almost every time that Manning threw a bad pass, too. Is it really wise to have him on the field, likely ending up matched on Larry Fitzgerald a few times a game? Maybe not - but it might be the team's only option if Brown can't go on Sunday.

Brown will be a game time decision, and if he can't go, then Shawntae Spencer will likely be active. Spender had a career resurgence in 2009, having a stellar year, but played poorly in  2010. Sidelined by injuries at the beginning of 2011, he never really got any time to get familiar with the coaching staff, and has been inactive the past two games. Spencer has always played well against Fitzgerald, shutting him down for often than naught.

It's not yet known if the 49ers don't believe in Spencer or if they just trust the other guys more. Maybe Spencer has aged quite a bit over the last season and he's just lost a very big step. Whatever the case, it might be a smart idea to have  him in the lineup on Sunday if he's healthy. Culliver probably shouldn't spend much time covering Fitzgerald at all, or it won't matter which quarterback is throwing to him.


49ers Vs Cardinals Injury Report: Frank Gore, Ray McDonald Questionable

The 49ers head into this week's game against the Arizona Cardinals with a few injury concerns to track, namely to DT Ray McDonald and RB Frank Gore, both listed as questionable. Both are expected to play on Sunday, but if the 49ers get an early lead it's probable that Kendall Hunter will see time at running back and the Niners will look to get their injured players healed up. 

Another notable, and surprise injury is that of Tarell Brown, who hurt his knee in practice on Friday, was limited, and is now listed as questionable. Stay tuned for more details on that. 

Here are the final injury reports for Friday for both teams:

San Francisco 49ers:

QUESTIONABLE - CB Tarell Brown (knee), RB Frank Gore (knee), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring)

PROBABLE - LB Navorro Bowman (neck), WR Michael Crabtree (foot), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), WR Braylon Edwards (knee), CB Shawntae Spencer (toe)

Arizona Cardinals:

OUT - LB Joey Porter (knee), S Kerry Rhodes (foot)

QUESTIONABLE - CB Michael Adams (hamstring), T Jeremy Bridges (back), TE Todd Heap (hamstring), TE Rob Housler (groin), T Brandon Keith (knee), QB Kevin Kolb (toe), LB Paris Lenon (groin), RB Anthony Sherman (ankle), RB Chris Wells (knee)

PROBABLE - LB Stewart Bradley (ribs), KR LaRod Stephens-Howling (shoulder)

For more on this game, check out Niners Nation and Revenge Of The Birds.


Fantasy Football Sit/Start Projections, Week 11: Alex Smith's Chance To Shine?

The San Francisco 49ers welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town on Sunday looking to further lock in their division lead and solidify their chances for a first round bye. The Cardinals bring a struggling defense that has been abysmal against the run and pretty bad against the pass. It could open the door for some significant opportunities on the fantasy football front.

The big news for the 49ers has once again been the health of running back Frank Gore. He missed most of the second half last Sunday against the New York Giants and Kendall Hunter came on with a very solid effort. Gore missed Wednesday's practice but was back Thursday and expects to be starting on Sunday. If you are short a running back, Kendall Hunter is actually not the worst start in the world on Sunday. He isn't great, but not that bad.

The most interesting player this week is Alex Smith. He faces a Cardinals pass defense that has struggled for much of the season. They have shown some potential, but this provides Smith with a solid opportunity. Aside from Matt Schaub going down with an injury, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees are both on bye this week. If you have not found a decent backup, might I recommend Alex Smith?

Must Starts: Frank Gore (if active), Vernon Davis, 49ers D/ST, David Akers

Situational Starts: Michael Crabtree, Delanie Walker


49ers Vs. Cardinals: Scripting A Few Plays For San Francisco's First Drive

At this point, the Arizona Cardinals should be feeling a pretty sour taste in their mouth when they think of the San Francisco 49ers. Just a couple years ago, this team was at the top of the division with promising young stars, led by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was bestowed all the praise in the world, for taking advantage of a division that nobody else had to skill to.

Now, the tables have turned completely, and the Cardinals have been at or near the bottom of the NFC West for the entirety of the 2011 season. Jim Harbaugh is the mastermind guiding the 49ers to an 8-1 start and the second best record in the NFL. He's more than taken over the division, he's laid siege to the NFL with an efficient quarterback, strong rushing attack, a very shifty and unpredictable offense altogether, effectively guided by his team-first positive attitude. That's without even factoring in the defense, which ranks among the best in the league.

That isn't to say that the Cardinals are specifically infuriated over the 49ers, more of frustrated overall, with a particular emphasis on San Francisco. When they head to Candlestick Park for the first of two meetings against their rivals on Sunday, they could be feeling a number of ways - this writer is going to bet that Arizona will be somewhat obsessive when it comes to stopping Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman's offense.

If that's the case, there's an awful lot of deception and a number of ways for the 49ers to run things during the game. If Harbaugh came out and instructed quarterback Alex Smith to air it out, it would make sense. If he instead elected to go with a power running attack, it would also make sense. These kinds of things are always true when you're in the 49ers position (read as: atop your division and playing a game that one might even call "throwaway," if not for the playoff seeding and homefield advantage). 

So how about we do a little scripting of the first 49ers possession?

That very first drive can go a number of ways, but if I were Harbaugh, I'd start from the shotgun formation. They'd go with their standard shotgun formation when they want to run the ball, which they do often. Gore will be in the backfield to Smith's left, and a number of receivers, along with Vernon Davis will be at the line of scrimmage. Many teams will watch this and know that the 49ers have run it from this position a lot, but they've also passed it, too.

Leave it up to Alex Smith, here - but call a run play. Let's bank on Whisenhunt drawing from the game against the New York Giants that Harbaugh expects the Cardinals to be a stepping stone in passing yardage for his quarterback. Run the ball immediately from the shotgun on the first play of the game and see what happens. Keep Whisenhunt guessing.

Immediately bring Kendall Hunter onto the field, and stack it up on the left side, with Davis and Delanie Walker next to Joe Staley. Have Walker step back slightly, and move to the left a bit more, like he's getting some outside leverage to spring Hunter for a toss or a stretch handoff. Here, the 49ers can most definitely expected to toss the ball to Hunter and spring him outside, hoping to replicate some of that touchdown magic from the Giants game.

Nah - fake it. Fake it to Hunter in some way outside to the left, and kick it out any way you can. Smith loves to roll out to the right so much, let him do it, get Mike Iupati on a fast shift to try and get some guys out of the way just in case. 

The 49ers can do so many things at this point, and they'll be especially effective against a a desperate Cardinals unit. Desperation means they'll make a huge play here and there, but they'll ultimately leave themselves open and make more mistakes. Of course, this is an awful lot of assuming here, but the name of the game for San Francisco should be to score right away. I'm not going to go all John Madden on you and tell you the best way to win is to score more points, but the 49ers would be best served to get on the board first in this game against rivals.


49ers vs. Cardinals Injury Report: Frank Gore Continues To Make Progress

The San Francisco 49ers would like nothing more than to clinch the NFC West nice and early as they prepare for a deep playoff run. The team can greatly improve their chances this weekend when the Arizona Cardinals come to town. The Cards are riding high after pulling out a big road victory over Philadelphia and are fully aware that their season may ride on the outcome of Sunday's game.

Here is the injury report from Thursday's practice.


Limited participation: LB Navorro Bowman (neck), WR Michael Crabtree (foot), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), WR Braylon Edwards (knee), RB Frank Gore (knee), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring)

Full participation: CB Shawntae Spencer (toe)


Did not participate in practice: LB Joey Porter (knee), S Kerry Rhodes (foot)

Limited participation in practice: CB Michael Adams (hamstring), LB Stewart Bradley (ribs), T Jeremy Bridges (back), TE Todd Heap (hamstring), TE Rob Housler (groin), T Brandon Keith (knee), QB Kevin Kolb (toe), LB Paris Lenon (groin), RB Anthony Sherman (ankle), KR LaRod Stephens-Howling (shoulder), RB Chris Wells (knee)


The big name for San Francisco is obviously Frank Gore. The star running back announced earlier today that he fully expects to play this week. Gore also went into detail about how the leg was injured in the first place.

"They fell on me. Banged it. Hit the ground. Hyper extended my and that kind of shut down my whole leg. I couldn't really push off like I wanted to. I just wanted to be smart and Coach Rathman wanted me to be smart. I know we've got a long season ahead. I know we can be successful and I want to be there."

If he's healthy on Sunday afternoon, expect a big game on the ground for the 49ers.

For more on this game, check out Niners Nation and Revenge Of The Birds.


Frank Gore Injury Update: 49ers RB Will Practice, Will Play Vs. Cardinals

The San Francisco 49ers looked like they could have a potentially big injury when Frank Gore failed to practice yesterday. Gore has been suffering from a knee injury, and he had a very unproductive game against the New York Giants. So it wouldn't have been a huge surprise if Gore didn't suit up this weekend when his Niners play the Arizona Cardinals this week.

Turns out Gore will be fine. The Niners tailback talked to Mindi Bach of CSN Bay Area and she relayed these quotes.

#49ers Gore says he will practice today; missed Wed. practice not b/c of hyper-extended knee, but for rest
Nov 17 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Gore when asked if he will play Sunday: "Yeah, I'll play. I'll play good." (laughs) #49ers
Nov 17 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Gore coming back for the Niners will be big. It's likely that there'll be a lot of pressure directed against him to test how healthy he is and how productive he can be on the field. Gore remarked how the Giants stacked the box to dare Alex Smith to beat him (Smith kind of did beat him, but also kind of didn't). You can expect similar treatment much of the rest of this season.

To discuss Gore and the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.


Week 11 NFL Picks: 49ers Look To Close In On First Round Bye

The San Francisco 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals in week eleven looking to move a step closer to clinching the NFC West, and eventually a first round bye. The 49ers will be playing only their second divisional matchup after rolling through their non-division play to date with a 7-1 record. They have two more inter-conference matchups against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but otherwise are left with five divisional games.

If the 49ers can keep on winning, they will be able to lock up a first round bye in December. They hold a game and a half lead over the New Orleans Saints and a two-game lead over the New York Giants, which means they are in the driver's seat. Nonetheless, a few losses by their conference-mates would certainly help matters. Here is a rundown of games with some significance to the 49ers.

Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams: The 49ers are closing in on the division title but it is still worth keeping an eye on the results that could help close the deal a little quicker. The Seahawks are tied with the Cardinals, so a 49ers win and a Rams win would give the 49ers a six game lead with six games to go and a chance to clinch in week twelve with a win over Baltimore. Count this as a vote for Steven Jackson. PICK: Rams

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants: The loss to the 49ers leaves the Giants with only a single game lead over the Dallas Cowboys. This week's game becomes a must-win for the Giants just to maintain their division lead, let alone consider first round bye options. The Giants are two games back, but it's really like three games since the 49ers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. With Michael Vick dealing with broken ribs and the Eagles personifying Team Turmoil, this is not a difficult pick at this point. PICK: Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers: The Packers remain a game up on the 49ers for the top seed in the NFC. That seems close, but given how the Packers are playing it is oh so far. They have a tough matchup against the Bucs, but as they say, do not pick against the streak. PICK: Packers


49ers Vs. Cardinals Injury Report: Frank Gore, Beanie Wells Fail To Practice On Wednesday

The San Francisco 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals this weekend in the 49ers' second division game of the year. Both squads face injury questions in the backfield as starting running backs Frank Gore and Beanie Wells struggle to practice.

Neither Gore or Wells practiced on Wednesday. Wells is still listed as probable for Sunday's game, but Gore's status appears to be a little more uncertain. Gore missed the second half of last week's game against the New York Giants with a knee injury that continues to plague him. The full extent of Gore's status likely won't be determined until later this week.

49ers receivers Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards were both limited on Wednesday, but both figure to be on the field on Sunday. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb was limited as well and could miss his third straight game, giving second-year quarterback John Skelton his third straight start and a chance to move to 3-0 this season as a starter.

Following is a full look at the injury reports for both teams on Wednesday:

San Francisco 49ers Injury Report

OUT: RB Frank Gore (knee), DT Justin Smith (not injury related)

LIMITED: LB Navarro Bowman (neck), WR Michael Crabtree (foot), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), WR Bryalon Edwards (knee), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring)

FULL: CB Shawntae Spencer (toe)

Arizona Cardinals Injury Report

OUT: TE Todd Heap (hamstring), TE Rob Housler (groin), LB Joey Porter (knee), S Kerry Rhodes (foot), RB Beanie Wells (knee)

LIMITED: CB Michael Adams (hamstring), LB Stewart Bradley (ribs), T Brandon Keith (knee), QB Kevin Kolb (knee), LB Paris Lenon (groin), RB Anthony Sherman (ankle), KR LaRod Stephens-Howling (shoulder)

FULL: none

For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation. For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.


Frank Gore Injury Report: 49ers RB Not Practicing During Media Section

Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers isn't looking too good for returning this week against the Arizona Cardinals. Or is he?

According to various media members at Niners practice, Gore wasn't practicing during this Wednesday's open media session, which would leave you with the impression that the Niners tailback is being held out for precautionary reasons to not rush him back. That doesn't necessarily mean he won't practice today, because there is a closed section where Gore could indeed suit up and get going. Perhaps Harbaugh is practicing gamesmanship here and trying to make the Cardinals think he's more banged up than he really is.

Regardless, the 49ers do have decent backup running back options if needed. Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon will likely have to step up here, and Alex Smith could throw more screens and short plays to try and pick up decent yards. But the Niners aren't a complete team if Gore is out.

Star defensive end Justin Smith also sat out. Highly unlikely that he sits out this weekend.

To discuss Gore and the 49ers, hit up Niners Nation.


New Look 49ers Take On 'Rival' Cardinals

Over the past couple seasons, the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals have combined for some solid matchups. Even when one of the two teams is streaking and the other is slumping, the familiarity between the two has kept the games close and interesting. The players know each other well, but there's some new wrinkles this season, mostly for the 49ers.

When the 49ers made the switch to Mike Singletary, the Cardinals still played the 49ers relatively close because, well, Singletary wasn't going to revamp anything when it comes to serious gameplanning. But now the 49ers have Jim Harbaugh, and for the Cardinals, this will be an entirely different team. Sure, they still have to cover Vernon Davis and Frank Gore will be the guy to bring down on every play, but the offense in particular functions so differently now.

In short, it's really hard to say whether or not much can be gained from recent years. The NFL really tried to get these two teams to cultivate some kind of rivalry over the last couple of years, but with the 49ers sitting with a five game lead in the NFC West, it's hard to imagine the teams really getting into it without the added significant of the division title up for grabs. With such different situations, a different coach for San Francisco and some new players here and there, it's not easy to draw any comparisons to the last couple seasons.

Regardless, the 49ers are favored in this game, as they should be. They're winning, beating really good teams, and generally looking like they're going to be the second seed in the NFC. The Cardinals aren't out of things yet, and will certainly be playing hard, so it's still a trap game. Just don't expect any budding rivalries from this one.


49ers Face Third-Easiest Remaining Schedule Of All NFL Teams

The San Francisco 49ers have had a wonderful start to the 2011 NFL season, jumping out to an 8-1 record while building up a seven-game winning streak. That streak might not end anytime soon, based on an ESPN report stating that the 49ers have the third-easiest remaining schedule of all NFL teams.

The report shows that the combined winning percentage of San Francisco's remaining opponents is .406. The 49ers have five games left against struggling NFC West division rivals (two games against the 3-6 Arizona Cardinals, two games against the 2-7 St. Louis Rams and one game against the 3-6 Seattle Seahawks). San Francisco also plays two games against top AFC North teams Pittsburgh (7-3) and Baltimore (6-3).

Add it all up and the 49ers have a good chance of continuing their winning ways through the end of the regular season. With only two games left against teams with winning records, San Francisco has a chance to clinch the NFC West while jockeying for playoff positioning. The undefeated Packers currently lead the NFC and should be favorites to retain the NFC's top seed, but the 49ers have the talent and schedule to keep the race interesting in the coming weeks.


49ers Vs. Cardinals TV Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick Get The Call For FOX

FOX Sports announced their announcer pairings for this Sunday's week eleven contests and the San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Cardinals contest will feature the number three crew of Thom Brenneman and Brian Billick. The number one FOX crew (Buck/Aikman/Oliver) will be handling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers and the number two crew (Albert/Moose/Goose) will get the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins.

The 49ers had Buck/Aikman/Oliver in San Francisco for the first time since the 2002 playoffs. They've had the Albert/Moose/Goose number two crew several times this season and had Billick and Brenneman earlier this season. Brian Billick is always interesting for 49ers games because he got his start under Bill Walsh. While Billick sometimes is a little too smart for his own good, he knows a lot about football and has an entertaining way about him.

The assignments for announcers are published on a week-to-week basis given the changing flow of storylines around the league. As long as the 49ers keep playing well they will remain in the top three announcer crews for much of the rest of the season.


Frank Gore Injury: 49ers RB Plans To Play Against Cardinals, But Has Strong Supporting Cast

The news on Monday was that San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore only had a bruised knee and wouldn't need to get an MRI done, following his exit from Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Gore suffered the injury in the first half and looked fine walking around on the sidelines, and Kendall Hunter took over in his place. Gore should be good to go to get back to practice soon and should be fine for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

But if he's still feeling pain - even a little bit - he probably shouldn't go. Gore had a lingering ankle injury coming into the Giants game, and it showed early on. He didn't get zero yards off of six carries because of a bruised knee, he had that statline because he wasn't ready altogether. The injuries were clearly still with him and the team probably shouldn't have started him.

More than that, Hunter came in and rushed for 40 yards on six carries, including a touchdown that proved to be crucial as the 49ers got the win by a margin of seven points. The coaches have a lot of faith in Hunter, and third stringer Anthony Dixon even got a couple carries against the Giants. On top of all of that, quarterback Alex Smith stepped up and took control of the game, doing something people have been doubting him of for years.

It's also worth noting that the team is playing the Arizona Cardinals, who have struggled this year, and have a questionable quarterback situation. The 49ers are 8-1 and five games up in the NFC West, and while it's true that they'll be paying attention to playoff seeding and every win counts, it's not necessary to give Gore all of the carries he normally would, especially with a short week coming up and Thursday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens.

Gore will likely play on Sunday, but you can fully expect him to share some carries with Hunter and possibly Dixon. Alex Smith also might get another game of throwing the ball a lot to try and increase his confidence heading into the showdown with Baltimore on Thanksgiving.


49ers Vs. Cardinals Odds: San Francisco Sits As Heavy Favorite

The San Francisco 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals in only their first divisional game since facing the Seattle Seahawks in the season-opener. The 49ers have run out to a huge five game lead in the division and are now looking to pile on wins to try and secure a first round bye and possibly home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs if the Packers can lose a game.

As would be expected, the 49ers are heavy favorites against the Cardinals. They opened as ten point favorites, but the line has come down a half point, which is a little surprising. Although the NFC West has had some awful teams in recent memory, the division does produce some quality contests within the division, even when one team is running away with it.

My guess is folks think something like that will happen, particularly with the 49ers coming off a huge emotional win over the New York Giants. Add in a pretty big game against the Baltimore Ravens, coached by Jim Harbaugh's brother, and this has all the makings of a trap game. You could suggest this is yet another huge test for Jim Harbaugh as he navigates his rookie season as a head coach in the NFL.

If I was a betting man I'd go with the 49ers to cover. Thus far the 49ers have shown an impressive ability to maintain their composure no matter the circumstances, and I think it can continue against the Cardinals in week eleven.


49ers Vs. Cardinals NFL Preview: No Rivalry To Speak Of, But Potential Trap Game For San Francisco

The San Francisco 49ers are 8-1 and sitting atop the NFC West division. They play their second game against the division on Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals come to town. For more on the game and the team in general, go to Niners Nation, SB Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog.

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